The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.
Q: White-nose syndrome has decimated many bat populations in the eastern United States. Is it having an impact on Minnesota’s bats?
A: White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease that was first observed in New York during the winter of 2006 - 2007. It has since spread across parts of the U.S. and Canada, killing nearly 7 million bats. The disease is often characterized by white fungal growth on the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats and is associated with abnormal behavior, such as flying outside hibernacula during the winter. This causes the bats to use up their stored fat reserves, and as a result they often freeze or starve to death. Minnesota DNR staff biologists conducted surveys during winter 2012 for White-nose syndrome and the disease was not detected. Surveillance will continue this winter.
How you can help Minnesota’s bats.
While the disease appears to only affect bats, the fungus may be transmitted by humans and their gear when they visit affected caves. To avoid possible spread of WNS, observe all cave and mine closures and do not enter caves or mines where bats hibernate. People who have visited caves in states known to have populations of bats with WNS, should decontaminate clothing, footwear and gear.
More information is available on the Minnesota DNR’s White-nose syndrome website www.mndnr.gov/wns.
-Christi Spak, animal survey specialist – Minnesota Biological Survey
Q: Now is the time of year when Minnesota residents can contribute to the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund. What is this money used for and how does it help wildlife?
A: Donations made to this fund are used by the DNR's Nongame Wildlife program for a number of statewide efforts to help protect and manage the state's "nongame" wildlife species. Nongame wildlife species includes more than 700 kinds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies and selected invertebrates that are not traditionally hunted or harvested. This also includes conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species.
Specifically, the species that have benefited from these efforts are bald eagles, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, eastern bluebirds, Blanding's turtles, bats, timber rattlesnakes, great blue herons and other colonial water birds like egrets and grebes. The money also helps with land acquisition and easements to protect habitat, manage prairies, forests and wetlands, create buffer zones along lakeshores, assist private landowners and local governments with habitat management, and fund educational programs.
Contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund can be made on the 2012 Minnesota tax form, or online at www.mndnr.gov/eco/nongame/checkoff.html. These donations are extremely important as a foundation for management of nongame wildlife because the donations are also matched with funds from conservation license plates and from federal state wildlife grants for nongame wildlife.
- Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor
Q: Do I still need an open burning permit for my brush pile even though it is winter?
A: The snow and cold of a Minnesota winter generally make this time of the year a better and safer time to burn brush piles. When there is less than three inches of snow cover, open burning permits are required by law. In communities that regulate open burning, permits are generally required year-round regardless of the weather conditions.
Property owners should contact local DNR Forestry offices to ask about the need for a permit before burning any brush pile. For more information about burning permits, go to www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/questions.html.
- Steve Simmer, DNR fire administrative supervisor