Study: Grouse can survive West Nile

A study of ruffed grouse in Minnesota and Wisconsin shows the birds can survive the West Nile virus, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

Samples of birds harvested in 2018 revealed that about 13% of Minnesota grouse and 29% of those in Wisconsin showed exposure to the virus.

"The study tells us that some birds that have been exposed to West Nile virus are surviving — both juvenile and adults — and they are not sick when harvested in the fall," said Charlotte Roy, the DNR's grouse project leader. "But this study does not tell us about birds that may have died from the disease over the summer."

Sample collection is continuing during the 2019 season. Hunters can submit samples by collecting blood on filter paper strips within 30 minutes of harvest, hearts, and a few feathers for sex and age determination, and providing harvest location information. A shotgun and a guided hunt are being offered as prizes in a drawing for hunters who submit samples correctly.

Call DNR area offices for more information.



Groundbreaking on Hwy. 14 expansion

A ceremonial groundbreaking will be held Friday for a $108 million Hwy. 14 expansion between Dodge Center and Owatonna.

The project, by Shafer Contracting of Shafer, Minn., will expand a 12.5-mile stretch of the highway from two to four lanes and complete a continuous four-lane road between Interstate Hwy. 35 and Rochester.

The first full construction season will begin in spring of 2020 and the project will finish by 2022.

Ceremonial shovels will be on hand at 2 p.m. Friday at the cul-de-sac at 2300 SE. 54th Ave. in Claremont, east of Owatonna. The public is invited.


Aitkin County

Grant awarded for rural broadband

Aitkin County has been awarded a $2 million Community Connect Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for rural broadband.

The Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative will construct a network with fiber lines to 235 establishments in Rice River and Spalding townships, including on tribal land and facilities of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The new network is expected to support service at levels up to 1 gigabit per second. Officials expect it will help economic development, health and education.

Pam Louwagie