Farmland wildlife

A wildlife biologists searches for telemetry signal as dawn breaks over the prairieThe Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Group is responsible for conducting wildlife research, monitoring populations and providing guidance to wildlife managers and administrators to make informed decisions about species occupying 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. Conducts research which evaluates management practices and programs;
  4. Develops techniques needed to monitor and manage wildlife populations and their habitats; and
  5. Provides technical assistance and information to other DNR staff and the public.

The group focuses research and monitoring projects primarily on ungulates such as deer and elk and upland game such as pheasants and turkeys. Staff frequently collaborate with other DNR wildlife research groups; the U.S. Geological Survey; several colleges and universities; and other agency partners to investigate a broad array of research topics relevant to the farmland zone. Seasonal temporary employees and graduate students are sometimes recruited to help accomplish this work.

Recently completed and ongoing projects


  • A infared image of a deer taken from a trail cameraAnnual deer population modeling efforts to inform annual deer season setting efforts
  • Multiple projects or surveys related to the deer population modeling efforts are geared towards updating or recalibrating parameters used in this model. These include:
    • Road-based distance sampling surveys to estimate densities of white-tailed deer in the farmland zone
    • Annual deer hunter observation survey to obtain additional trend information on white-tailed deer (and other wildlife)
    • A feasibility study using camera traps to derive density estimates for white-tailed deer (and other wildlife) in northern Minnesota
  • White-tailed deer fawn survival, habitat use, and movement in the farmland zone using drones and expandable GPS-collars
    • Survival rate information from this project will also be used to update parameters used in the population model
  • Assessing the exposure of free-ranging white-tailed deer to neonicotinoid insecticides in Minnesota
  • Movement and seasonal habitat use of elk in northwest Minnesota

Upland game

  • Wildlife research biologists collar a hen pheasantAugust Roadside Survey: An annual survey to obtain regional and statewide population trend information for species including ring-necked pheasant, gray partridge, cottontail, white-tailed jackrabbit, and mourning dove
  • Investigating the environmentally relevant exposure of grassland wildlife to drift from insecticides commonly used to treat soybean aphid infestations
  • Pheasant habitat selection and demography in prairie reconstructions in southwest Minnesota
  • Assessing the contribution of harvest mortality to overall mortality rates of gray and fox squirrels on public lands in southeast Minnesota
  • A feasibility study to assess the use of removal models using hunter effort, efficiency, and harvest information to estimate and track trends in male wild turkey abundance
  • An evaluation of management techniques for establishing forbs in existing grassland reconstructions dominated by warm-season grasses

The Farmland Wildlife Populations and Research Center is adjacent to the W.R. Taylor Memorial Wildlife Management Area and is located 5 miles south and 2 miles west of Madelia, and 1/2 mile south of STH 60 on Watonwan County Road 109. The facility is open to the public when staff are present.


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

Back to top