It was a year with important outdoor news — loss of wildlife habitat, invasive species proliferating, moose disappearing, pheasant and ruffed grouse populations dropping. But our outdoor pages also introduced readers to fascinating people whose stories help make Minnesota special. Here are five of my favorites from 2013, with links to read the full stories at www.startribune.com/outdoors.
• Don Sauter of Arlington was among the many Minnesota conservationists who work quietly but resolutely — often with little thanks and no glory — trying to make this state a better place for wildlife. Sauter, 59, died suddenly last January, and hundreds turned out at the Arlington school gym to say farewell.
• Hugh Becker was a modest, frugal man whose passion for fishing and the outdoors ran so deep he left his entire $3 million estate primarily to benefit fish and anglers. His remarkable life spanned baseball fields at the University of Minnesota, to battlefields in the South Pacific in World War II, to his efforts to bolster fish and wildlife conservation in Minnesota.
• Peggy Callahan is a sparkplug, with boundless energy and enthusiasm for wild critters. Founder and executive director of the Wildlife Science Center near Forest Lake, Callahan, 51, usually is outdoors, knee-deep in wolves, black bears, mountain lions and other wild animals that are studied and displayed at her center.
• From afar, the little white house doesn’t look like a traditional northern Minnesota deer camp. But step inside and everything from the knotty-pine walls to the mounted deer heads to the chandelier made from antlers tells you this is a unique place. “It’s not your typical underwear-hanging-from-the-rafters deer shack,’’ said Darrold Persson, 61, of Hibbing.
• The bond between hunter and hunting dog can be a strong one, as Tom Foster of Hudson can attest. Foster, 72, saved the life of his springer spaniel, Sparkey, with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation this fall after his dog fell into a water-filled hole and nearly drowned. “I just wanted to save my dog,’’ he said. “He’s really special.’’