Farmland wildlife


The Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group is responsible for providing information needed to manage major wildlife species in Minnesota's farmland zone which comprises all or parts of 74 counties and totals almost 49,000 square miles. To accomplish this responsibility, the group (1) coordinates and interprets population surveys; (2) conducts research which provides wildlife management information; (3) develops techniques needed to monitor and manipulate wildlife populations, manage critical wildlife habitats, and reduce or prevent wildlife damage; (4) evaluate management practices and programs; and (5) provides technical assistance and information to other DNR staff and the public.


The August Roadside Wildlife Counts give reliable population trend information for six species (ring-necked pheasant, gray partridge, cottontail, white-tailed jackrabbit, mourning dove, and white-tailed deer) as well as status information for four additional species (fox, sandhill crane, skunk, squirrel).

Managing Minnesota's productive farmland deer populations requires information from several annual surveys. Reproduction is determined from examining over 300 does during the months of February through May. The age and sex composition of the deer harvest is collected by biologists at selected registration stations. And, car-killed deer information is summarized from peace officers and highway maintenance reports. All this information is combined with the registered deer harvest in a population model developed by the staff. Modelling results project deer densities and desired antlerless permit numbers for each of the 84 quota areas in the farmland zone.

Keeping track of Minnesota's expanding wild turkey population requires the assistance of deer hunters. Every other fall randomly selected deer hunters with antlerless permits are asked to report the number of wild turkeys they observe while deer hunting. These reports provide us with information on population fluctuations and range expansion.

In addition to wildlife population surveys, we are periodically involved with opinion and input surveys. Such surveys may determine the amount of crop damage farmers are experiencing or the hunting season scenarios most acceptable to hunters. All this information assists in establishing wildlife population goals and determining where additional surveys or research are required.

Research, Program Evaluation and Technical Assistance

The staff is presently involved in several timely research and evaluation projects. One field project, using radio telemetry, is attempting to determine deer population dynamics and movements in the vicinity of the Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area. This information will be used to determine the potential impacts of late fall and early winter harvest of deer by American Indians allowed under the resolution of the 1837 Treaty court case. With this information, American Indians and DNR will be able to adjust harvesting regulations so that the area's deer populations will not be negatively impacted.

Deer populations in urban areas present the need for unique management strategies. Over the last several years, we have evaluated the effectiveness, costs, and acceptability of several hunting strategies (e.g., sharp shooting, trap and shot, special hunts). Presently, a field study is using radio marked deer to better understand the population dynamics and movement of deer in an urban landscape. All this information should help perpetuate deer in our urban areas while reducing, to an acceptable level, problems caused by deer.

Our recently re-established wild turkey population (1970) passed the northern limits of its historical range. To better manage this highly prized species, we have been researching how the wild turkey both physiologically and behaviorally accommodates severe winter weather. We have found with adequate food and shelter, wild turkeys can handle almost any Minnesota winter. Recent studies have determined the energy requirements to survive in -40oF temperatures. Presently, we are studying how wild turkeys select roost sites that minimize impacts of winter weather conditions.

Since 1986, Minnesota's Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) program and USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have been paying landowners to stop cropping highly erodible and wet acres and re-establish grasslands and wetlands. This has resulted in providing almost 2 million acres of two critically needed wildlife habitat components. Our staff is measuring the response of selected wildlife populations (pheasant, meadowlark, gray partridge) to the habitat created by these programs. Results are providing critical information in designing environmentally sound land retirement programs for the future.

Considerable staff effort goes into providing technical assistance to other DNR staff and the public on a wide variety of wildlife issues. Recent emphasis has been the use of repellents, fencing and special hunting season strategies to reduce wildlife damage, particularly deer. Through field evaluation of new products and special hunts, field demonstrations, workshops, and techniques manuals, we have increased the ability of our wildlife management staff and the public to successfully address wildlife damage problems.

The Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Center is located 5 miles south and 2 miles west of Madelia, and 1/2 miles south of STH 60 on Watonwan County Road 109; watch for the sign. The facility is open weekdays from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. The area is being managed as a wildlife management area as well as a facility to house the research staff. For additional information, please write or email.


Nicole Davros, PhD
Group Leader
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research
35365 800th Ave
Madelia, MN 56062-9744
Phone: 507-578-8916
Email: [email protected]