Hunters, trappers and wildlife watchers in Polk, Red Lake, Pennington, and parts of Marshall and Beltrami counties benefit from the management, habitat, and oversight work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Thief River Falls area wildlife staff. In July 2021, the Thief River Falls and Crookston area wildlife offices merged to form the new Thief River Falls area with a satellite office located in Erskine.
Area Supervisor Doug Franke and a full-time staff of three assistant wildlife managers (two located in the Erskine office) oversee an area that includes 2.70 million acres of public and private land. This includes 80 Wildlife Management Areas totaling more than 99,000 acres, one state waterfowl refuge, two state game refuges, and one migratory bird feeding and resting area. Franke and his staff also help coordinate wildlife management on more than 32,600 acres of state forest-administered lands.
This work area is known for excellent hunting, trapping, and wildlife viewing opportunities, including prairie chicken, sharp-tailed grouse, Sandhill crane, wild turkey, woodcock, waterfowl, ruffed grouse, bear, deer, and a variety of furbearing species.
- What we do
At work for you
Prairie chicken on a booming ground, also known as a lek, in Polk County Minnesota.
- Planning annual controlled burns on over 4,500 acres of WMAs to rejuvenate prairie and brush land habitats for prairie grouse, deer, bear and many other open landscape species. In 2019, wildlife crews successfully conducted nine burns totaling 3,570 acres on nine WMAs.
- Mechanically treating (shearing or mowing) brush land habitat to improve winter deer yard habitat, breeding and wintering habitat for sharp-tailed grouse and maintaining young habitat for many other wildlife species.
- Enhancing 75 to 100 acres of non-native grasslands each year on various WMAs to improve nesting and brood rearing habitat for many grassland nesting birds.
- Managing six wetland impoundments covering 6,375 acres for duck and goose production and public hunting opportunities.
- Monitoring invasive plants and noxious weeds and taking steps to eliminate them through mowing, burning, or chemical treatments. Approximately 500 acres were treated in 2021.
- Administering 13 cooperative farming agreements and haying leases covering 720 acres and managing three grazing leases on 1,300 acres. Food plots for wildlife are arranged within the cooperative farming agreements and vary year to year depending on the crops planted, location and objectives. Grazing leases facilitate management of grasslands and wetlands using conservation grazing in cooperation with local ranchers.
- Conducting annual wildlife surveys including prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse drumming, frog and toad calling, August roadside, predator scent station, woodcock, aerial elk and deer, and small mammal.
- Respond to nuisance wildlife calls including bear, elk, deer, goose, and crane depredations on crops and stored animal forage.
- Maintaining user facilities including 105 parking lots, nine campgrounds, 15 gates, 50 miles walking trails, eight pedestrian bridges, and over 600 miles of WMA perimeter signs.
- Participating in public outreach events including guest lecturing, field trips and leading labs at local universities; working with outdoors and conservation organizations to improve habitat; staffing a wildlife booth at the Polk County Fair; serving and advising numerous non-profit groups; maintaining a prairie chicken viewing blind for public use; and responding to various local requests for DNR staff such as youth days, environmental field days, hunter education and safety classes and job shadows.