Hunters encouraged to collect spruce grouse feathers for genetics study

Spruce grouse hunters in northern Minnesota’s boreal forests are being asked to voluntarily submit feather samples for a genetics research project being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in partnership with the University of Minnesota. 

“Hunters who enjoy pursuing these birds are critical to the success of this project and our work to conserve this species,” said Charlotte Roy, DNR grouse research scientist. “Data collection for this project is simple and can be a fun science activity to engage hunters of all ages.”

The study will use grouse genetics to form a baseline of data to establish how spruce grouse currently use the landscape and to identify changes in habitat connectivity over time. When habitat becomes fragmented and a species loses connectivity to its former range, the species can form smaller distinct genetic groups over time.

Spruce grouse are a climate-sensitive species that rely on boreal forest habitats containing black spruce, jack pine and tamarack – all of which are expected to shift northward on the landscape as temperatures increase.

Hunters who would like to assist with the project should collect three to five large wing or tail feathers along with the GPS coordinates of the harvest location. The feathers, GPS coordinates and the hunter’s name and telephone number should be mailed to: Grouse Research, DNR regional headquarters, 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744. Harvest locations will not be made public. Hunters should mail samples from each bird in a separate envelope and not mix feather samples from multiple birds.

This research project is funded by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources with dollars from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Surveys show hunters have harvested between 7,081 and 19,130 spruce grouse each year over the last 11 years. More information about spruce grouse management can be found on the hunting grouse page of the DNR website.

Minnesota DNR invites deer hunters to share their wildlife observations this season

An online questionnaire will make it easier for Minnesota deer hunters to report wildlife they see during their hunts this year.

“This is a simple, direct way for hunters to share their observations of deer and also broaden our knowledge about other Minnesota species,” said Eric Michel, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research scientist. “We’re really encouraging hunters to participate in the online questionnaire. The results will help us compare what hunters see to population estimates that are a baseline for managing wildlife.”

Using a mobile device or desktop computer, hunters can enter information on the DNR website about wildlife they see each day of hunting, including deer, turkeys, bears, fishers and other species. They’ll also be able to report specific information about any deer they harvest, including antler size.

Hunters are encouraged to fill out a report after each hunt even if they don’t see any deer that day. The questionnaire will be available when archery deer season begins Saturday, Sept. 19, and remain open through the end of the year.

“Deer hunters tend to be out in the woods sitting still when animals are most active at dusk and dawn. That makes them likely to see undisturbed wildlife,” Michel said.

Data from the observation survey will provide a helpful comparison to the DNR’s population estimates for various species.

This new questionnaire expands on a survey the DNR has made available to bow hunters for the past three years. In that survey, 1,412 bow hunters responded in 2017, 1,691 responded in 2018 and 2,180 responded last year. Now, the DNR is aiming to increase participation by allowing all deer hunters to participate.

The DNR developed the bow hunter survey following a 2016 report from the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor requesting more checks of the population model used to estimate deer populations for each deer permit area. The observation surveys are a way to compare hunter-provided data with DNR population estimates.

“Our deer population model gives us good numbers, but we still like to check those against what hunters and wildlife managers are seeing on the ground. It’s another way to add confidence to the whole system,” Michel said.

The DNR has deer population goals for areas throughout the state and the public has regular opportunities to provide input. Each year, wildlife managers use deer population estimates to figure out what level of deer harvest will move a local deer population closer to goal. The DNR then sets hunting regulations using past hunter participation and success rates, with the aim of harvest at a level that moves the population toward goal.

The DNR will report results from hunters’ observations in an annual research summary online. Previous bow hunter survey results are available on the
DNR website.                                        

Fish and Wildlife Almanac

Winner chosen for waterfowl stamp contest


Freeport artist Scot Storm won the Minnesota waterfowl stamp contest with a painting of greater scaup in flight. The winner was selected on Thursday, Sept. 10. Second place was Thomas Miller of Kilkenny; third place was Kurt Kegler of Mankato, out of 11 eligible submissions. The waterfowl stamp can be purchased in combination with a hunting license, or as a collectable. Visit mndnr.gov/stamps for more information about habitat stamps and contest guidelines.

As archery season opens, a reminder for those in CWD zones


With Minnesota’s archery deer season opening Saturday, Sept. 19, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters to check if they're hunting in a CWD management or control zone. In these areas, hunters are encouraged to get their deer tested for chronic wasting disease. CWD sampling is voluntary for the 2020 season. This will allow hunters to submit samples from their deer at unstaffed sampling stations that facilitate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunters also need to know that mandatory carcass movement restrictions are in effect for all CWD management and control zones, in southeastern Minnesota, north-central Minnesota and the south-metro area. Whole carcasses cannot leave these zones until a “not detected” test result is received, but the meat or quarters may leave these zones prior to receiving a test result. More information is available at mndnr.gov/cwd.

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