June 2005





It has been six years since storms caused serious damage to more than 400,000 acres of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Is there still a fire danger?

The fire danger still exists and will continue to be a concern until the blowdown wood is completely decomposed. Part of the problem is that many of the trees that were broken or knocked over rest off of the ground. This means normal decomposition is not occurring as fast as it would have if the downed trees were lying on the forest floor. Prescribed burns done since the blowdown have helped protect areas with large concentrations of people, such as the Gunflint Trail. These burns also reduce the availability of fuels, so that if a fire did ignite, it would not have a continuous fuel source, which was available immediately after the blowdown. Original estimates indicated that some fire danger would exist in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for 10 to 15 years.

Jean Bergerson, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center information officer


Travelers are starting to notice a lot of turtles crossing the roads lately. What is going on?

Female turtles are beginning their annual trek from their wetland habitats to preferred nesting sites along sandy riverbanks and road embankments, in fields and, in some cases, even lawns. The most common turtles travelers see on the roadways are snapping turtles, painted turtles and the state-threatened Blanding's turtle. Female Blanding's turtles are especially active in late afternoon and at dusk. They are also known to travel up to a mile from water to reach their nesting sites. Watch for turtles crossing roads near wetlands, lakes and ponds during the next few weeks, and slow down and allow them to continue crossing in the direction they are heading. Later this fall, be on the lookout for baby turtles returning to their wetland habitats. By ensuring a safe passage for turtles, travelers will help protect future turtle generations.

Nancy Huonder, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program


Now that the spring burn restrictions have been lifted, are landowners able to freely burn their brush piles?

Landowners are free to burn their brush pile throughout the year when restrictions or burning bans are not in place. However, before a debris pile can be burned, landowners must obtain a free burning permit; permits are required when the ground is snow free. These permits are available from state fire wardens and DNR Forestry offices. Landowners are always encouraged to use alternatives to burning such as stacking brush in places where it can be left as shelter for wildlife. Other alternatives include composting or chipping, and using the chips for landscaping.

Jean Bergerson, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center Information Officer


Bird feeding and birdwatching have fast become two of the most popular recreational activities. Where should property owners put up bird feeders and how should they be arranged?

More than 30 different bird species come to feeders to feast on a variety of foods ranging from sunflower seeds to suet and mealworms to sugar water. Birds attracted to a backyard feeder depend on both the types of food offered and feeder used. When arranging feeders, property owners should identify the locations from where they wish to watch birds, such as near a back porch or kitchen or bedroom window. However, it is especially important that feeders be kept at least 10 feet from conifers, brush piles or leafy shrubs to prevent ambush of birds by cats or raptors; ground feeders should be protected by wire mesh fencing. In addition to proper placement, property owners should provide water throughout Minnesota's four seasons and keep feeder stations clean and sanitary to help minimize the threat and spread of diseases. Additional information about birds and bird feeding can be found in a DNR publication "Wild About Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide." It is available for purchase through most major bookstores and Minnesota's Bookstore.

Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor