Despite heavy publicity, more enforcement and threats of stiffer fines, the percentage of Minnesota boaters violating aquatic invasive species laws this spring has increased over last year.
Conservation officers have checked 7,957 boaters so far this spring and have written 193 criminal citations, 463 civil citations and 975 warnings for aquatic invasive species violations.
That's a 20.4 percent noncompliance rate. Last year, officers reported an 18 percent noncompliance rate.
"It's discouraging, and it surprises me,'' said Phil Meier of the Department of Natural Resources enforcement division.
The laws are intended to stop the spread of zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, Asian carp and other invaders, and the state has intensified its enforcement efforts this spring. But many boaters apparently are forgetting or ignoring requirements to drain bilges and livewells, transport boats without drain plugs and clean weeds off trailers.
"I think most of them are aware of it, it's just not built into their routine yet,'' Meier said.
Fines for violators double beginning July 1, and the DNR plans to begin random roadside stops soon to check for invasive species violations.
Turkey harvest results
Minnesota's spring turkey harvest was up, but the number of hunting licenses sold was down 7 percent -- a puzzling trend considering the good hunting forecast.
Hunters bagged 11,324, the third-highest harvest on record and a 12 percent increase over last year. Though good, it was below the record 13,468 birds killed in 2010 or the 12,392 taken in 2009.
The DNR sold 42,563 licenses this spring, down from 45,923 last year and 52,169 in 2010.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's spring turkey harvest of 42,612 is a 6 percent increase from last year. License sales of 201,984 were down 4 percent from last year.
DNR job changes
As DNR invasive species supervisor for the past five years, Luke Skinner has been at the forefront of the state's battle to slow the spread of zebra mussels, Asian carp and other foreign critters. Now Skinner, a 22-year DNR veteran, has been promoted to deputy director of Parks and Trails. It's a temporary move, but those job shifts often become permanent. Skinner is taking the position held by Forrest Boe, who was promoted to forestry director last winter. Ann Pierce, an ecologist in the invasive species unit, has assumed Skinner's old job.
Did you know?
• Minnesota has sold 530,562 fishing licenses, up more than 57,000 -- or 12 percent -- from the same period last year. Sales also are 11,000 above the 10-year average.
• And then there was the couple caught fishing near Pequot Lakes with husband-wife combination licenses -- even through they had been divorced for nine years. "When asked why ... they responded that although they didn't get along well enough to stay married, they did get along well enough to continue to fish together,'' reported conservation officer Tim Collette, who cited the ex-husband and seized the licenses.
• Conservation officer Mark Fredin of Aurora received a call of an extremely aggressive doe that came into a yard and attacked a black Lab. The reason, he reported, was the doe's newborn fawn was nearby in the woods.