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Odd as it sounds, drought is helping rejuvenate wetlands

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH
  • Star Tribune
  • October 23, 2012 - 8:45 PM

Sloughs and shallow lakes across southern Minnesota are bone-dry, evidence of the continued drought.

And while the lack of water won't help waterfowl hunters this fall, it should boost the quality of those basins when water returns.

"It consolidates the bottom soils and aerates them, helping to expose seeds when the water does come back,'' said Ray Norrgard, Department of Natural Resources wetland management program leader. "It also guarantees there won't be any fish in them next spring.''

Rough fish stir up shallow lakes, reducing vegetation growth.

The basins need to go through drought cycles to rejuvenate vegetation.

"In the long run, this has been a positive thing,'' Norrgard said. "We have been in a wetter-than-normal cycle since 1993, and the basins have been way too deep to have good quality.''

The question is, when will those basins refill?

Meanwhile, the dry lakebeds and the vegetation that has sprouted should provide pheasants with some excellent winter cover -- and hunting opportunities, Norrgard said.

"Cattails are absolutely the best winter cover for pheasants, if they don't fill in with snow,'' he said.

Did you know?

• State pheasant and duck stamp sales continues to be up. The DNR has sold 85,181 duck stamps, 300 more than this time last year. And it has sold 75,609 pheasant stamps, almost 3,100 more than 2011.

• The DNR is urging the state's 500,000 firearms deer hunters to buy their licenses early to avoid long lines and possible computer issues. The season begins Nov. 3.

• Deer hunters should be sighting in their rifles now, because it becomes illegal to do so five days before deer season unless you are at a permitted target range.

• Conservation officer Anthony Bermel of the Babbitt-Ely area helped a trapper release a wolf accidentally caught last week in a foothold trap.

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