Minnesota Outdoors Logo


Minnesota Outdoors

Star Tribune

After 20 years, Alice the Great Horned Owl is retiring

She educated the masses about birds, appeared on shows like Animal Planet, inspired festivals around the world, and even helped change Minnesota law to protect her species.

Alice the Great Horned Owl, synonymous with the International Owl Center in Houston, Minn., is retiring.

There is a party in her honor, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. Gifts? Bring cardboard egg cartons; she loves to shred them.

Center executive director Karla Bloem said there has been “a huge reaction” to Alice’s retirement after 20 years as the center’s ambassador bird -- a role she has had since she was 1 ½.

“After 20 years, Alice is an institution unto herself with her fan base and major accomplishments,” wrote Bloem in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “Tens of thousands have met her from TV, newspaper, radio, books, etc. She is anything but an ‘average’ education bird. She has honestly changed the world.”

Karla Kinstler, then-director of the Houston Nature Center, and her mascot Alice petitioned for the species’ protection in Minnesota, and a bill was signed in 2005 removing the great horned owl from the “unprotected” list.

Bloem said the “owl staff” now consists of four birds:

-Uhu, a Eurasian eagle-owl, who is the next oldest at 6

-Ruby, 4, a great horned owl (“and taking over for Alice,” Bloem said)

-Piper, 2,  a barn owl

-JR, a newly acquired eastern screech owl from Illinois, who is 5 ½ months

The retirement party includes a program about Alice’s life and impact. As for Alice’s attendance, she’ll be visible via security camera from her secured room.

Find more details about Saturday’s event at internationalowlcenter.org.

Gains noted in Mille Lacs walleye population

Mille Lacs walleye anglers will be allowed a limit of one walleye this winter, similar to last season, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today.

The regulation goes into effect Dec. 1 with no bait restrictions. To keep a walleye it must measure 21-23 inches long or exceed 28 inches. The allotment breaks from yet another summer on Mille Lacs when any walleyes caught by state-licensed anglers had to be returned to the water.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the winter regulation flows from encouraging research that shows some increases in the Mille Lacs walleye population. The abundance of walleye 14 inches and longer in the lake recently was estimated at 727,000 fish, up significantly from population estimates in 2013 and 2014 when walleye stocks were measured at around 250,000 fish.

The DNR's annual fall gill net assessment showed that the total pounds of mature walleye sampled  increased significantly from 18.9 pounds per net last year to 27.7 pounds per net this year, mostly due to an increase in mature females, the DNR said. Some year classes remain below normal or average, the agency reported.

For several years running, the summer harvest on Mille Lacs has been under tight restrictions and periodic closures. The annual harvest is governed by quotas set each year in a co-management system with eight Chippewa bands in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Over time we want to let anglers keep more fish, but it is critical that population assessments continue to show surviving and self-sustaining year classes of walleye,” said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries chief. “Opening up additional harvest too fast or too soon could jeopardize the population increases we’re seeing.”