May 2008

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.






It was so dry in parts of Minnesota last year. How do we stand this spring in terms of moisture?

Last year at this time, large sections of north central and northeastern Minnesota were in the grip of an extreme drought. An exceptionally dry 2006 growing season and a snow-sparse 2007-2007 winter led to very low lake and stream levels and an explosive wildfire situation in northern Minnesota. During a two-week period in early to mid-May 2007, the Ham Lake Fire burned tens of thousands of acres near the Gunflint Trail. The early season dryness set the stage for a summer drought that would eventually impact most of the state of Minnesota.

The situation is dramatically different this year. Very wet late-summer and autumn weather in 2007, along with significant rain and snow in April 2008, has doused most drought concerns. Lake levels have rebounded, stream flows are at or above historical averages, and soil moisture is adequate to surplus. As is nearly always the case in the early spring, some wildfire potential is present, but nothing of the magnitude observed last year. Lingering drought impacts remain in sections of northwestern and west central Minnesota, but those impacts are not of great concern at this time.

- Greg Spoden, DNR climatologist, Division of Waters


Snakes occasionally can be spotted sunning themselves on driveways. Should property owners be concerned?

The most numerous snake in Minnesota is the common garter snake, which is harmless. The appearance of unwanted snakes is usually due to cracks or holes in concrete structures. These spaces provide warm places for the snake to spend the winter. When spring returns, the snakes reappear outside. Since snakes cannot regulate their own body temperature, they rely on their surroundings, such as rocks or concrete, to warm their bodies. If the presence of these snakes is a concern for homeowners, a few simple solutions are to fill the holes or cracks in the concrete; make their yards unattractive to snakes by removing yard or other debris piles and keeping shrubs and trees trimmed, and the grass mowed; and eliminate what snakes eat – mice.

- Lori Naumann, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program


How does the late ice-out on Minnesota's lakes impact boating safety during this year's fishing opener?

Below normal water temperatures cause "cold water shock" when someone falls overboard or a boat capsizes in an icy lake or river. Cold water shock causes an involuntary gasp as the victim's head is plunged underwater, so the victim inhales water instead of air. Unless the person is wearing a life vest, drowning is a probable outcome.

- Timothy M. Smalley, Minnesota DNR boating education program administrator


DNR Question of the Week Archive