May 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.





Safety is always a concern when out on the water fishing or just enjoying one of Minnesota's thousands of lakes and rivers. With the 2011 fishing season upon us, what do boaters need to remember about early season boating?

When getting ready for opener, many people give more thought to what kind of sandwiches they should pack for lunch than they do about boating safety. It is important for people to remember that early in the season, although the air temperature may be 70 degrees, most of the bodies of water are still in the mid-40s. Even the strongest swimmer who falls overboard can become quickly incapacitated by the sudden gasp for air called cold water shock and inhale water. This means it is especially important to make sure everyone not only has a lifejacket but also wears one. Make sure navigation lights are all in proper working order, and be sure use them between sunset and sunrise. Also, be sure the boat registration decal is current and check air pressure on trailer tires, pack a spare and make sure the axle bearings are freshly greased. Finally, it is a good idea to leave the alcohol at home. Many of the boating accidents that result in injury, or worse, are the result of intoxicated boaters.

- Tim Smalley, DNR boat and water safety specialist


Loons are nesting now and, as a result, can be especially vulnerable at this time of the year. What should anglers and boaters know as they take to the lakes?

Loons began nesting in early May. Like many wildlife, loons are very sensitive to disturbance. Boats, including personal watercraft, canoes, and kayaks, passing too closely to a nest may cause the adults to leave the nest and expose the eggs to predators like raccoons, crows, and gulls. The two most traumatic times of the year for loons are Memorial Day weekend, when the adults are sitting on their nests, and the Fourth of July weekend, when the adults are with their young. Boaters can help the long-term survival of Minnesota's state bird by avoiding nesting sites and looking out for loons while out fishing or boating.

Minnesota’s loon population is about 12,000 and appears stable.

- Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor


When buying firewood for fireplaces or campfires, people may be asked how many cords of wood they need. What is a cord?

A cord is the standard measure for a stack of wood, bark and air eight feet long by four feet wide by four feet high, or 128 cubic feet. Because the long logs are too big to fit in a fireplace or fire pit, sellers may offer cords already cut and split. The legal standard for a cord of cut, split and ranked wood is 120 cubic feet, since the smaller pieces of wood are stacked tightly together, and contain less air space than a stack of logs. Woodpiles of differing sizes commonly have different names in the firewood business, such as: rick cord, face cord, fireplace cord or short cord. For example, if someone buys a rick cord or fireplace cord, he or she is often buying a unit of wood only one-third the amount of wood found in a full-size cord. To determine the volume of wood in a stack, multiply the dimensions – width by height by length – and compare that to the 120 cubic feet for a full, split and stacked cord. This will give you a good estimate of how the seller's unit of wood measures against a full cord.

- Keith Jacobson, DNR forest utilization and marketing program coordinator


It is recommended that public and private landowners refrain from mowing in roadside ditches until Aug. 1. Why?

Roadside ditches, which make up approximately half-million acres of the state’s total land area, are highly productive nesting sites for more than 40 kinds of birds and animals. These are species that nest on the ground or in low vegetative cover. Wildlife that nests in these areas includes pheasants, gray partridge, rabbits, waterfowl and songbirds. Because each species has its own nesting habits – when and how many times per year they rear young – this habitat type receives continuous use from spring until late summer.

Unfortunately, thousands of nest and nest sites are destroyed annually in southern and western Minnesota due to mowing, off-highway vehicle traffic, agriculture encroachment and blanket spraying. These disturbances can occur at any time, but they have the most impact during the month of June when hens are on the nest raising young.

Planting native vegetation would help alleviate nest disturbances because a ditch would not need to be hayed until crops are harvested at the end of the nesting season. Native plants, once established, reduce the presence of weeds and are better suited for producing wildlife.

For more information about roadside wildlife habitat and the DNR’s Roadsides for Wildlife program go to


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