News release: Minnesota DNR invites public comment on fish and cormorant population management alternatives at Pelican Lake

July 28, 2023

Public meeting planned for Aug. 17 in Ashby

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on fish and cormorant population management alternatives at Pelican Lake in Grant County. A public review and comment period will be open until 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31.

The Minnesota DNR will hold a public meeting to provide information about the alternatives under consideration and receive input. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 at Destiny Fitness, 28854 State Highway 78, Ashby.

The Minnesota DNR’s current preferred alternative would employ lethal measures to remove a portion of the growing double-crested cormorant population on Egret Island that has led to adverse impacts to the Pelican Lake walleye fishery. The Minnesota DNR will be assessing several alternatives including revising fish management goals, increasing survey efforts to increase understanding of the system, and lethal control of adult cormorants before making a final decision.

A 2021 fisheries survey indicates that the Egret Island cormorant population is limiting survival of young (one- and two-year-old) walleyes that are key to producing older age fish.

Prior to implementing any lethal control measures, the Minnesota DNR would first need to obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, because cormorants are federally-protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Any management activity must minimize disruption to other bird species nesting nearby, which are also protected by state and federal laws. Control measures would be completed by U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in early spring. The need for future permits and associated lethal control would be determined by monitoring Pelican Lake bird and fish population levels.

Egret Island was gifted to the Minnesota DNR Scientific and Natural Areas Program in 2007 and has been managed as a bird sanctuary. In addition to supporting one of the largest colonies of breeding cormorants in Minnesota, the island also provides nesting habitat for the American white pelican, great blue heron and several other colonial waterbird species. It is closed to the public from April 1 to July 15 each year to protect nesting birds.

Comments can be submitted in person at the public meeting, on the Engage with DNR webpage, or via mail to DNR Northwest Region Office, 2115 Birchmont Beach Road NE, Bemidji, MN 56601. All comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31.

Additional background, data, and details about the alternative assessment completed to date can be found on the Engage with DNR webpage. Information on Egret Island is available on the Minnesota DNR website.

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