Minnesotans love their fishing -- but they also love their loons.
An image of a pair of loons was the top vote-getter among eight potential new images for Department of Natural Resources "critical habitat'' license plates, according to results of a nonbinding online DNR poll that drew nearly 30,000 responses.
DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Campion will decide which four of the eight plates will be offered to motorists later this year. The four will be in addition to the current loon and deer designs, which will be retained as long as they continue to sell. The loon plate, introduced in 2002, outsells the deer plate 3 to 1.
Officials have said the results of the poll, which began March 10 and closed Monday, are advisory, and the agencies could use other factors to determine which four plates to offer.
That decision is expected to be announced Friday at the Minneapolis Auto Show, said the DNR's Lori Naumann.
But, she said, "The flood [in northwestern Minnesota] might throw a wrench into that plan.'' Officials may not want to promote the license plate selections while a disaster is unfolding.
Motorists who purchase the plates contribute at least $30 to the Reinvest in Minnesota program. Those dollars are matched with private donations of cash or land. The plates produced more than $25 million toward the purchase of 7,700 acres of critical habitat and have helped fund nongame research and surveys, habitat enhancement and educational programs.
LOONS collected 19,487 total votes.
TWO ANGLERS silhouetted in a boat, 17,844 votes.
LADY-SLIPPER was No. 3, with 13,919 votes.
WALLEYE, which collected 13,267 votes.
Rounding out the vote at No. 5 was a wood duck, with 13,074 votes; at No. 6 a whitetail buck, with 12,964 votes; at No. 7 a flushing pheasant, with 12,214 votes and No. 8 a black-capped chickadee, with 11,682 votes.