DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr addressing conservation officer recruits.
The next 12 weeks of work at Camp Ripley will produce the newest Department of Natural Resources corps of conservation officers.
Twelve candidates have begun the DNR Enforcement Conservation Officer Academy at Ripley, chosen from among 800 applicants.
Fish and wildlife laws, rules of evidence, patrol procedures, search and rescue, and fish and wildlife investigation are among subjects to be taught — and learned.
Sixteen weeks of field training with veteran conservation officers will follow before the new officers receive assignments.
“Conservation officers are the face of the department, so it’s important to project a positive, professional image,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner.
Landwehr described an officer's occupation as not a job, but a lifestyle. The work will at times interfere with family time, and can sometimes be dangerous, the commissioner said.
The DNR has 25 of its 155 conservation officer field stations empty.
“Work hard, do your best and make us proud,” DNR enforcement director Jim Konrad told the recruits.
Actual sales of Minnesota hunting and fishing licenses rose in recent years, but only fractionally, in significant variance with survey results of nationwide hunting and fishing participation announced Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation found hunters nationwide increased by 9 percent while anglers grew by 11 percent, compared to results from a 2006 survey.
But the actual number of hunters in Minnesota rose only a fraction of 1 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources data.
In 2006, the number of certified paid hunters in the state was 578,244. In 2010 — the most recent year data are available — the number is 579,752, an increase of 1,508, or less than 1 percent.
During the same period, the number of certified paid anglers rose in Minnesota from 1,478,193 to 1,492,529, an increase of 14,336 or about 1 percent.
The total number of licenses, tags, permits and stamps actually sold by the DNR between 2006 and 2009 (the most recent available) actually declined for both hunting and fishing.
The certified numbers submitted by states to the Fish and Wildlife Service are used to determine the amount of federal fish and wildlife funds returned to the states.
The information released by Salazar, by comparison, is based on a national survey.
Reversing declines of decline, hunter and angler numbers nationwide increased significantly over the past five years, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday.
“Seeing more people fishing, hunting, and getting outdoors is great news for America’s economy and conservation heritage,” Salazar said in a statement. “Outdoor recreation and tourism are huge economic engines for local communities and the country, so it is vital that we continue to support policies and investments that help Americans get outside, learn to fish, or go hunting. That is why, through President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, we have been focused on helping Americans rediscover the joys of casting a line, passing along family hunting traditions, and protecting the places they love.”
Hunter numbers across the country rose by 9 percent while anglers grew 11 percent, according to preliminary findings of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
Salazar said almost 38 percent of Americans participated in wildlife-related recreation last year, a jump of 2.6 million participants from the previous survey in 2006. They spent $145 billion — 1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product — on equipment, and outings, as well as licenses, tags and land leasing and ownership.
• In 2011, 13.7 million people — 6 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older — hunted. They spent $34 billion, an average of $2,484 per hunter.
• More than 33 million people 16 and older fished last year, spending $41.8 billion, about $1,262 per angler.
• More than 71 million people watched wildlife in 2011, spending $55 billion.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted the survey every five years since 1955.
“State agencies, hunters and anglers are the key funders of fish and wildlife conservation through their license and gear purchases,” said Jonathan Gassett, Commissioner of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “An increase in participation and expenditure rates means that agencies can continue to restore and improve habitat and fish and wildlife species, bring more youth into the outdoors and provide even greater access to recreational activities.”
Similar reports will follow in coming months detailing state hunter and angler participation numbers and other information.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing enhanced hunting opportunities on 16 national wildlife refuges in 14 states, including waterfowl hunting in Minnesota at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
At Minnesota Valley, migratory bird hunting areas will be expanded, as will areas for upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
For hunting regulations on the refuge, go here.
Notice of the proposal was published in the Federal Register July 11. The public has until August 10, to comment. See the proposed rule and instructions on where to submit comments here. Or visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/huntFishRegs.html.
Other proposed refuge hunting changes are:
• Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, MO: Expansion of areas for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, IN: Expansion of the refuge’s big game hunting area. The refuge is also open to upland game hunting and sport fishing.
• Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, RI: Addition of deer to the refuge’s big game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, GA: Addition of migratory bird hunting and upland game hunting; expansion of area for big game hunting and addition of wild turkey to big game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, TN: Expansion of area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, ID: Expansion of area for big game hunting. The refuge is also open to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and sport fishing.
• Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX: Addition of turkey to species in big game hunting. The refuge is also open to migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and sport fishing.
• Saddle Mountain (Hanford Reach) National Wildlife Refuge, WA: Expansion of area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. Addition of chukar (a member of the pheasant family) to upland game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Julia Butler Hanson Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer, OR: Expansion of area for migratory bird hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, TN: Expansion of area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, RI: Addition of deer to species for big game hunting program. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MT: Expansion of area for migratory bird hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
• Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, LA: Expansion of area for migratory bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is open to sport fishing.
• Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, SC: Expansion of area for big game hunting. Add woodcock to species for migratory bird hunting. The refuge is also open to upland game hunting and sport fishing.
• William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, OR: Expansion of area for big game hunting. The refuge is also open to sport fishing.
While definitions of hunting categories vary by refuge and state, the service says, migratory bird hunting generally includes ducks and geese. Upland game hunting may cover such animals as game birds, rabbit, squirrel, opossum and coyote. Big game hunting may include such animals as wild turkey, deer and feral hogs.
For many years , Wisconsin deer hunters have complained about whitetail management in their state. This doesn't make them unique: Deer hunters always want more and bigger animals in their sights — like the two Wisconsin bucks above, killed during a recent November season.
Oddly, a politician turned the complaints into a political issue, promising that, should he be elected, he'd have the state's DNR studied, or investigated, or reviewed, to determine whether the agency was competent, and if so, whether it was pursuing deer management correctly in the Badger State.
Gov. Scott Walker's campaign promise came true today, Tuesday, with a report issued by Dr. James Kroll ("Dr. Deer'') that Wisconsin DNR Commissioner Cathy Stepp says will take time to digest.
So it will — it's fairly exhaustive.
Meanwhile, here's the report's Executive Summary.
The full report can be found here.
1. Limit the use of SAK/accounting style models to monitoring deer population size and trends at the state and regional levels.
2. Do away with population goals and population estimates at the DMU level. 3. Replace the current DMU population goal definition of comparing the deer population estimate with the desired population goal for the DMU with a simplified goal statement of increase, stabilize or decrease population
density. 4. Develop a set of metrics to monitor progress towards the DMU goal of
increasing, stabilizing, or decreasing population density. 5. Reduce the number of DMUs and combine the Farmland regions. 6. Revise the Wisconsin Deer Management Plan.
Hunting Regulations, Seasons and Bag Limits
1. Simplify the regulatory process by setting antlerless harvest goals, harvest regulations and antlerless permit quotas on a 3-5 year cycle.
2. Base Antlerless Permit Quotas on DMU historical demand. 3. Increase the cost of all antlerless tags for Regular and Herd Control Units to
$12. 4. Consider charging a fee for antlerless tags in the CWD Zone. 5. Establish a public lands antlerless permit system. 6. Limit antlerless deer harvest in Regular and Herd Control Zones. 7. Establish a Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless permit
8. Re-evaluate the effectiveness of the October antlerless seasons in the CWD Zone.
9. Maintain the current buck limit of one buck per Deer Gun License (may be used in muzzleloader season) and one buck per Archery Deer License.
10. Maintain the Bonus Buck Regulation in CWD Zone. 11.Resolve the cross-bow season issue through the public involvement
process. 12. Resolve the baiting and feeding issue outside CWD affected areas. 13. Put the fun back into hunting by simplifying seasons, bag limits and youth
Predator Studies and Management
1. Continue to conduct research on the impacts of predators on the deer herd. 2. Involve the public as much as practical with field-based research projects. 3. Revise the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan to include updated information
and provide current public attitudes to guide management decisions through
the early years of this post-delisting era. 4. Establish a wolf population management program to limit/decrease wolf-
5. Geospatial studies of predator distribution and densities, especially for wolves, should be encouraged and developed to assess long-term trends and issues.
Chronic Wasting Disease
1. We believe it is time to consider a more passive approach to CWD in the DMZ.
2. There is a clear need for a new sampling protocol for CWD in Wisconsin, one that gives a true picture of the progress of the disease; but more importantly, one designed to detect spread.
3. Dealing with wildlife diseases is not unlike responding to wild fires, and response plan should be developed on this model, focusing on early detection of “break outs” and citizen involvement (active approach).
4. We recommend implementation of a statewide DMAP program; and, nowhere is such a program needed more than in the DMZ.
5. There is a need to provide more information about concerns for humans contracting a CWD variant.
6. The time required to receive CWD test results from hunter-killed animals must be decreased to a few days.
7. An annual meeting of DMAP cooperators would be an excellent venue for reporting on various aspects of CWD, in addition to the topics discussed earlier. This would greatly enhance public awareness and WDNR credibility.
8. WDNR should work closely (through the local biologist) with the Conservation Congress in developing goals and strategies at the county level. we feel use of human dimensions research to anticipate, rather than reacting to issues as they arise would be very effective.
9. We feel use of human dimensions research to anticipate, rather than reacting to issues as they arise would be very effective.
10. Charlotte the Deer should become the “Smokey Bear” of CWD in Wisconsin, serving as the centerpiece for a public education program developed with stakeholder organizations such as QDMA, Whitetails of Wisconsin and Whitetails Unlimited.
Harvest Data, Herd Health and Productivity
1. Involving the public in data collection produces many benefits, including buy-in on management and harvest strategies and cost-efficiencies of data collection.
2. Each field biologist should be required to organize and conduct at least one field necropsy study each year, conducted along with cooperators and volunteers during late winter.
3. Training should be provided to biologists and technicians to standardize methodologies and educate them on deer anatomy and basic physiology. 4. An annual report should be prepared for each DMU and Region summarizing
these studies and a Powerpoint/video presentation developed for annual DMAP workshops and public presentations.
1. As both part of DMAP activities and public lands management, local biologists/technicians should be required to conduct annual range evaluations to assess habitat health and condition. Foresters also should be involved in these activities, public and private.
2. Training programs should be developed for state and private resource managers to standardize habitat/range assessment methodologies.
3. There is a need for modernizing the GIS and GPS capabilities of Wisconsin’s agencies.
4. A statewide geospatial information system, similar to that used in Texas, should be developed which provides seamless support to all state resource managers across agencies, which also supports economic development, emergency planning and response, and a host of citizen services.
5. Form a Young Forest Initiative Task Force.
6. Funding for these activities should arise from fees assessed by stakeholders and landowners using these data and services, as well as grants and contracts for various state agency activities.
7. The WDNR adopt an advocacy role in dealing with the National Forests of Wisconsin to encourage sustainable forest management, especially for early and mid-successional species (game and non-game).
1. Implement a Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP). 2. Each DMAP cooperator should receive an annual report summarizing
current data and trend data over years to monitor progress toward goals. 3. Develop a public lands antlerless permit system. 4. In addition to providing hunting opportunities, the impacts of deer
depredation on agricultural crops, forest regeneration and biodiversity, deer/vehicle collisions, the special significance of deer to the Ojibwe people and other factors also must be considered in management of Wisconsin’s white-tailed deer resources. This will include strict adherence to all agreements with the Voight Intertribal Task Force (GLIFWC), the tribes serving as “co-managers’ where appropriate.
5. Expand public education/outreach efforts to serve landowners whose goals include management for white-tailed deer and other wildlife species.
DNR Research and Technical Publications
1. We strongly suggest establishment of a research steering committee, with representation from user groups, stakeholders and regional WDNR biologists, and Tribal representatives.
2. A significant effort should be developed in Human Dimensions research. Wisconsin is blessed with two excellent researchers (Holsman at UW-SP and Petchenik in house), and a plan for long-term monitoring of trends and issues should be developed between them.
3. We are concerned about long-term contracts for research services. There need to be milestones and project evaluations.
4. Projects should involve the public whenever practical.
5. There is a need for a long-term research plan (developed through 1), based on needs assessments, and prioritized for funding.
6. Synergies with other agencies and greater cooperative efforts, particularly with those in forestry and geospatial disciplines, would help leverage funding and strengthen projects.
7. Research projects should be of an applied nature, rather than basic research with clearly defined application to the needs for managing Wisconsin’s deer and habitat resources.
8. Project results should be extended to the public through media, workshops and field days, as part of the DMAP program and regional stakeholder conferences.
9. In the long-term, we recommend developing a wildlife disease unit to: 1) respond quickly to CWD outbreaks; 2) monitor health and disease of other wildlife species; and, 2) train and support local biologists/technicians in conducting annual herd health surveys.
1. We feel the Conservation Congress must have a more active role in deer management decision-making at the local level.
1. We strongly suggest addition of a Deer Management Assistance Coordinator, a highly qualified individual with the following characteristics: 1) considerable experience with DMAP or related programs; 2) well- respected in both the scientific and public communities; 3) highly skilled communicator; and, 4) highly motivated to work with the public.
2. We also recommend development of a “boots-on-the-ground” culture in the WDNR; and, job descriptions of field biologists be adjusted accordingly.