June 2011

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.





A number of bird species call Minnesota home or pass through every fall and spring. Where can a person go to watch these birds in action?

More than 437 species of birds have been documented in Minnesota. Of those, more than 300 are either resident or migrant birds that are expected to be seen annually in appropriate habitat.

Based on the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, Minnesota is ranked 13 out of 50 states in the total number of people participating in bird and wildlife watching. Based on population, the state is ranked fourth – tied with Iowa and Wyoming.

Birdwatching can be done nearly anywhere, but some great places include Blue Mounds State Park in the southwest, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in the northwest, Sax-Zim Bog (St. Louis County) in the northeast and Frontenac State Park in the southeast.

With the help of famed ornithologist Bob Janssen, Jerry Bonkoski and others, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducted inventories of birds in most state parks and state recreation areas in the early 2,000s. These bird checklists, currently available for 70 Minnesota state parks and state recreation areas, can be picked up at park offices or downloaded from the DNR’s website at www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/birdchecklists.html.

- Ed Quinn, DNR Parks and Trails resource management coordinator


The reports of wildfires in Minnesota this spring seems to be lower this year. How does this spring compare to the same time period a year ago?

Yes, fortunately the number of wildfires in Minnesota so far in 2011 is well below average. This year, through May, Minnesota had 652 fires for 5545 acres. The cool, wet spring has led to fewer wildfires than average.

Last year at the end of May, there were 1,744 fires in Minnesota, for 31,401 acres.

Over the last 10 years (2001-2010) the average number of fires from Jan. 1 through the end of May was 1,863 fires, for 53,374 acres.

Keep in mind, more than three-quarters of the wildfires in Minnesota are caused by people. Only two percent are due to lightening strikes.

If you burn a debris pile (permit required) or have a campfire, clear combustible material from around the fire area, make sure you have a hose or other water source available, watch the fire at all times, and make sure the fire is out before you leave – cold to the touch.

-Ron Stoffel, DNR wildfire suppression supervisor


It's that time of year when turtles are trying to cross the road. Why? Is there anything we can do to help them cross safely?

The turtles we see crossing roads are typically painted and snapping turtles. Both species spend most of their time in lakes, ponds and wetlands, but lay their eggs in nests dug in dry, sandy and warm soils. Since many roads are built skirting water bodies, our roads often separate a turtle's home from its nesting area. If the turtle can find the right type of soil near their home water body, they’ll use it. However, they may often travel great distances to find a suitable nesting spot. And so, a turtle may have to cross the road to get to the other side to lay its eggs. If you see a turtle crossing the road, you can help it cross safely. Watch for traffic. Pick up the turtle by the back of its shell – never pick up a turtle by its tail – and move the turtle in the direction it is heading. The painted and snapping turtles laid their clutch of eggs in June.

Should the eggs survive predation, they are expected to hatch in late August, which means there’ll be even more turtles – quarter-sized hatchlings – crossing the road again, trying to get home.

-- Richard Baker, DNR zoologist



DNR Question of the Week Archive