Minnesota DNR News

Minnesota Wildlife


Minnesota DNR News


Aug. 17, 2023

More information:
Contact the DNR Information Center
by email or call 888-646-6367.

In This Issue

Minnesota DNR adds new entertainment, presentations to 2023 State Fair lineup

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ building and surrounding grounds at the Minnesota State Fair (which runs from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4) will feature new musicians, presentations and activities in addition to popular attractions from previous years.

“Every year, I look forward to connecting with people at the Great Minnesota Get Together as they visit the DNR fish pond, climb the fire tower, ask questions, and share their passion for our state’s unique natural resources,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “Visiting the DNR at the state fair is an interactive and fun way to find out more about outdoor recreation experiences and conservation efforts in Minnesota. DNR staff and I are eager to see you there!”

The Minnesota DNR’s iconic State Fair log building opened 89 years ago in 1934, and its park-like location provides fairgoers with a unique opportunity to experience the outdoors among State Fair carnival rides and food stands.

Some of the activities visitors can enjoy at the Minnesota DNR building and surrounding grounds include:

  • Visiting an outdoor fish pond and listening to a talk about Minnesota fish
  • Asking DNR staff questions
  • Learning about outdoor recreation opportunities
  • Enjoying music or a presentation at an outdoor stage
  • Taking a picture in front of giant butterfly wings or in a giant hiking boot

The Minnesota DNR’s building and surrounding grounds are located at the corner of Carnes Ave. and Nelson St. in Falcon Heights. The building is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily during the fair.

What’s new in 2023?

Parks and Trails Careers: Aug. 24 at 11 a.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • Several staff with the Minnesota DNR Parks and Trails Division will share their unique and interesting careers within the Minnesota state parks and trails system.

Parks and Trails Trivia: Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • At 1 p.m., children can test their natural resources knowledge by participating in a Minnesota state parks and trails trivia challenge. A trivia challenge for adults will happen at 3 p.m. on the stage and via Facebook Live.

Smokey Bear Sing-Along: Aug. 25 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • Sing and dance with Smokey Bear and his friends during this family-friendly event. Children will have fun and learn about fire safety and wildfire prevention.

Wildland Fire Careers, Aug. 25 at 1 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • The audience will hear from some of the Minnesota DNR wildland fire professionals in-person or online via Facebook live to learn about the wide array of opportunities, possible career paths, and challenges, and why a job in wildfire is important.

Mountain Biking in Minnesota: Aug. 29 at 11 a.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • The Minnesota Cycling Association will provide information and demonstrations on how to start mountain biking, one of the fastest growing sports in Minnesota.

Outdoor Skills Fun and Games: Aug. 29 at 1 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • The hosts of the Minnesota DNR’s Outdoor Skills and Stewardship program will engage the audience in fun and interactive games to test participants’ outdoor skills and knowledge.

Mississippi Speed Record: Aug. 29 at 3 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • Scott Miller will tell the story of his four-man paddling team’s epic adventure from Lake Itasca to river mile marker zero south of New Orleans. The trip set the new world record for the fastest paddle down the Mississippi River at 16 days, 20 hours and 16 minutes.

Marv Gohman & Kaatwalk: Aug. 30-31 at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • This high-energy band will feature instrumental sounds from violin, banjo, harmonica, piano, mandolin, and guitars.

The Raptor Center: Aug. 30 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • The Raptor Center, a world-renowned wildlife rehabilitation and education facility, will return to the State Fair to educate the audience about owls, falcons, hawks, eagles, and more.

Marvelous Monarchs: Aug. 31 at 11 a.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • Monarch Joint Venture will share information about monarchs, conservation efforts and ways individuals can help this iconic species recover from population decline.

What’s the Buzz About Pollinators?: Aug. 31 at 1 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • Experts from the Environmental Quality Board and the Minnesota DNR will share important facts and tips about pollinators and their habitats.

Animals of the Mississippi, Sept. 2 at 1 and 3 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center will talk about the amazing animals that call Minnesota home, including amphibians and reptiles. The audience will get a chance to meet animals that live near the St. Croix River.

South 40 Band: Sept. 3 at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., DNR Volunteer Outdoor Stage

  • South 40 is a country and variety band that regularly performs throughout Minnesota.

New daily activities and attractions include: a Nature Store in the Minnesota state parks and trails center, an augmented reality sandbox for kids of all ages to learn about Minnesota’s landscapes and geography, raptor displays and flying demonstrations, a partner booth from the Minnesota Historical Society and a Keep It Clean fish house trailer. For more information and to find a complete schedule of DNR attractions and activities at the fair, visit the Minnesota DNR website (mndnr.gov/StateFair).


16 new Minnesota DNR conservation officers graduate from academy, begin field training

A group of the new Conservation Officer Academy graduates in front of a helicopter

Photo credit: Minnesota DNR

Sixteen people who trained for months to become Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers took a step to achieving their goal earlier this week when they graduated from the 22nd Conservation Officer Academy. With 16 weeks at the academy behind them, they’ll spend the next several months training throughout the state with experienced conservation officers.

The new officers will complete field training and be in their assigned stations in early December.

The new officers have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. They’ve worked in sheriffs’ offices and police departments in Minnesota, and some have served our nation and state as veterans. Others joined the Minnesota DNR through the CO Prep program, which provides a pathway for people with at least a two-year degree to become a conservation officer.

“We have a proud, 136-year tradition of serving on behalf of Minnesota’s people and natural resources,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “We’re excited for these new officers to join the CO ranks and continue the important work of ensuring future generations of Minnesotans have the same opportunities we have today.”

The Conservation Officer Academy prepares new officers to occupy vital roles in the communities they serve. During the academy, recruits are trained in all aspects of being a conservation officer and learn from experienced officers and other experts on a wide variety of topics, including education/outreach, fish and wildlife laws, patrol procedures and environmental enforcement. Cadets are tested each week and put through practical scenarios that reflect what they’ll encounter in the field. During the field training portion of their preparation, cadets work throughout the state with experienced officers before they head to permanent stations.

The graduates were chosen from hundreds of applicants and underwent rigorous examinations, psychological profiles and background checks before beginning at the academy.



July 17, 2023

For more information:
Contact the DNR Information Center
by email or call 888-646-6367.

In This Issue

DNR Fish and Wildlife Almanac

A weekly list of news briefs about fish, wildlife, and habitat management.

Apply through Aug. 18 for special youth deer hunts

Hunters can apply for special youth deer hunt permits through Friday, Aug. 18. The number of permits for each hunt is limited. Individual hunts will be held in several state parks, and in the Rydell National Wildlife Refuge, on various dates in the fall. Adults must accompany youth during these hunts. These firearms hunts are for youth ages 12-15 at the time of the hunt.

Youth archery hunters in Sand Prairie Wildlife Management Area in Sherburne County can be ages 10-17.

Special youth deer hunts are different from the statewide youth deer season, which takes place Oct. 19-22 and does not require an application. More information is available on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/hunting/deer/special-deer-hunts.html).

In most instances, hunters may only possess and use nontoxic ammunition when participating in a special hunt in a Minnesota state park; however, nontoxic ammunition requirements do not apply to youth special hunts in the shotgun-use area if hunters remove all parts of harvested deer, including the entrails.

Nontoxic ammunition includes steel, copper-plated, nickel-plated, zinc-plated and other projectiles made from a nontoxic material approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A full list is available in the Code of Federal Regulations (ecfr.gov) and can be found by typing “hunting methods” in the search box and clicking “What hunting methods are illegal?”

Applications open for prairie chicken hunt lottery

Hunters can apply through Friday, Aug. 18, to be chosen for one of 125 permits for the 2023 Minnesota prairie chicken hunting season. The nine-day prairie chicken season begins Saturday, Sept. 23, and is open to Minnesota residents only. The hunt takes place in northwestern Minnesota from St. Hilaire south to Breckenridge. Hunters can find details about the season on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/hunting/prairiechicken).

Minnesota Twins offer free hats

Anyone with a 2023 Minnesota fishing or hunting license can receive a free special edition orange Minnesota Twins logo cap and a ticket discount from the Minnesota Twins, through a partnership between the Twins and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Upcoming DNR Days at Twins games this season are:

  • Sunday, July 23 vs. Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 19 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 6:10 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 9 vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m.

Promotion details, instructions for purchasing tickets, and information on buying a fishing or hunting license, are available on the Minnesota DNR Days webpage (mndnr.gov/twins). Tickets must be purchased ahead of time using a special DNR link (twins.com/dnr) to receive this offer.

DNR webinars cover falconry, frogs and toads

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites people interested in wildlife and outdoor skills to check out the summer program schedule for the Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Series.

In a webinar on Wednesday, July 19, Matt Lasch will discuss falconry and how to hunt with these amazing birds. The presentation will include a brief history of falconry, steps to becoming a falconer, birds typically used in falconry, and the training and hunting process. Lasch will also briefly cover how falconers have been critical in several conservation and restoration efforts.

In a webinar on Wednesday, July 26, Mags Edwards, DNR frog and toad research program coordinator, will discuss why frogs and toads are unlikely ambassadors for environmental conservation. Edwards will also share tips to identify different frog and toad species, and how people can go “herping” with a purpose to help the DNR collect information about frogs and toads in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Series webinars are free and offered year-round, though registration is required. Visit the Outdoor Skills and Stewardship webpage of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/discover) for the registration portal, more information about upcoming webinars and recordings of past webinars.


Minnesota DNR expands all-terrain track chair program

All-terrain track chairs expand access to state parks for visitors with mobility disabilities

A woman in an all-terrain track chair navigates the chair through a green forest

Photo credit: Minnesota DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is expanding its all-terrain track chair program by bringing the adaptive mobility devices to eight additional state parks.

The DNR launched the program in 2022 with five all-terrain track chairs. By Aug. 1, 2023, there will be 13 chairs available at state parks throughout the state. The battery-powered chairs enable visitors with mobility disabilities to explore trails and other areas within state parks that can’t be accessed using a regular wheelchair.

“Like all our public lands and waters, Minnesota state parks are for everyone to enjoy,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “I’m thrilled that current efforts and future investments will allow more people to enjoy the outdoor spaces that make our state a great place to live, work, and play. These track chairs represent the type of investment DNR will make over the next several years thanks to historic legislative funding for our Get out MORE (Modernize Outdoor Recreation Experiences) initiative, which aims to ensure Minnesotans of all abilities and interests enjoy world-class outdoor experiences.”

Track chairs will be newly available this summer at Blue Mounds, Father Hennepin, Fort Snelling, Frontenac, Itasca, Lake Carlos, McCarthy Beach and Split Rock Lighthouse state parks. These eight parks join the parks that got chairs in 2022 – Camden, Crow Wing, Lake Bemidji, Maplewood and Myre-Big Island. Parks were selected based on a number of factors, including the presence of trails suitable for track chair use, availability of storage space and charging outlets near a trailhead, and the desire to locate track chairs broadly throughout the state.

“The research is clear: spending time in nature provides significant health and wellness benefits for people,” said DNR Parks and Trails Director Ann Pierce. “Investing in adaptive equipment like the all-terrain track chairs helps the DNR connect more Minnesotans with the outdoors by providing experiences they may not have without a track chair.”

Visitors can call a park with a track chair ahead of time to reserve that chair. There is no cost to use an all-terrain track chair, but visitors will need a state park vehicle permit. Minnesota residents who qualify for disability parking can get a reduced rate year-round vehicle permit for $12. To learn more, visit the Minnesota DNR’s state park permit webpage (mndnr.gov/permit).

In addition to the 13 state parks offering all-terrain track chairs, McCarthy Beach State Park offers an adaptive beach chair, which enables visitors with disabilities to enjoy a one-of-a-kind swimming beach experience within a state park setting. McCarthy Beach also offers a beach mat, which goes over the sandy beach and helps people with mobility disabilities get to the waterfront.

For more information, including phone numbers for the state parks offering track chairs and other adaptive equipment, visit the Minnesota DNR’s track chair webpage (mndnr.gov/state_parks/track-chairs.html).


Minnesota DNR, Minnesota Zoo reintroduce Dakota skipper butterflies to Glacial Lakes State Park

A Dakota skipper perched on the bloom of a flower

Photo credit: Minnesota DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Zoo recently released hundreds of Dakota skipper butterflies back to the prairie at Glacial Lakes State Park.

“Dakota skippers were once common at Glacial Lakes State Park, but we haven’t seen them at the park since 2005,” said Cindy Lueth, DNR Parks and Trails northwest regional resource management supervisor. “Many hours and a variety of tools have been used to prepare the native landscape for the Dakota skipper reintroduction. We are thrilled to welcome back this endangered butterfly.”

Once common throughout much of Minnesota’s native tallgrass prairie, Dakota skippers have since vanished from nearly all sites in the state. It is now listed as an endangered species in Minnesota and threatened in the U.S.

The Dakota skipper can only survive in native prairie habitat and does not inhabit non-native grasslands, weedy roadsides, tame hay land or other habitats that are not remnant native prairie. Today, approximately 1% of native prairie remains in the state.

The Minnesota DNR’s Parks and Trails resource crew in the northwest region has been enhancing remnant native prairie sites at Glacial Lakes State Park for the reintroduction effort since 2018. Park staff harvested and planted seed from native prairie vegetation and hand-planted thousands of narrow-leaved purple coneflower, a preferred nectar source of the skipper. The crew removed more than 250 acres of woody vegetation, conducted prescribed burns and has now introduced grazing as one of the tools used to manage prairie habitat for the butterfly.

The Minnesota Zoo, the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy developed a unique conservation research partnership to help save the Dakota skipper and other Minnesota endangered prairie butterflies. Funding has been provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources and the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund.

“Helping these butterflies return to our prairies supports not only other wildlife but our quality of life,” said Dr. Erik Runquist, butterfly biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. “Our hope is to continue to build on successes and re-establish populations throughout the region.”

The Minnesota Zoo’s Pollinator Conservation Initiative (mnzoo.org/conservation/minnesota/saving-minnesotas-prairie-butterfly-heritage/) created the world’s first rearing and breeding programs for Dakota skipper (and Poweshiek skipperling) to help save those butterfly species from extinction.

The zoo rears hundreds of Dakota skippers annually in its facility, then releases and monitors those individuals to help re‐establish lost populations. Zoo biologists also study wild populations of prairie butterflies and their habitats to assess their status and the threats they face.

“The initiative began in 2012 and has conducted ground-breaking work over the past several years to secure a future for our state’s most imperiled pollinator species,” said Cale Nordmeyer, butterfly conservation specialist at the Minnesota Zoo. “Along with our partners, we are doing vital work for some of the most endangered butterfly species in the world.”

Glacial Lakes State Park was established in 1963 to preserve the rolling prairies of the area, the comparatively pristine condition of the land, and its rich prairie flora. It is home to 69 different species of animals designated as those of Greatest Conservation Need — most are associated with the prairie habitat.

Learn more about this project on the Minnesota DNR website (mndnr.gov/state_parks/dakota-skipper-reintroduction.html) and more about the Dakota skipper at the USFWS website (fws.gov/species/dakota-skipper-hesperia-dacotae).


June 21, 2023

For more information:
Contact the DNR Information Center
by email or call 888-646-6367.

In This Issue

DNR Fish and Wildlife Almanac

A weekly list of news briefs about fish, wildlife, and habitat management.

Minimize conflicts with bears this summer

In the absence of human-created attractions, bears rely on small, scattered patches of natural foods: specific types of young green vegetation in spring, certain species of ants and ant pupae in June, berries in summer, and nuts in fall. But if bears can get access to concentrated, high-calorie, easily accessible foods around people’s homes and campsites, they are quickly enticed away from their natural food sources.

It is important to secure anything that a bear would consider food. Don’t condition bears to associate homes or campsites with an easy meal by leaving out unsecured garbage, birdseed or pet food. Learn more about how to reduce property damage, and the chance of human-bear conflicts, on the DNR website (mndnr.gov/livingwith_wildlife/bears) and BearWise online resources (bearwise.org).

DNR webinars cover off-highway vehicles, reconnecting fish populations

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites people interested in fish, wildlife and outdoor skills to check out the summer program schedule for the Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Series. Live webinar presentations at noon on Wednesdays the next two weeks feature discussions about off-highway vehicles and reconnecting fish populations.

The first webinar is Wednesday, June 21. Joe Unger, OHV program consultant, will discuss where to go, how to stay safe and other helpful information to know while exploring Minnesota’s public OHV trails.

The second webinar is Wednesday, June 28. Over thousands of years, fish populations in Minnesota’s rivers have adopted annual migrations to spawn, feed and overwinter in critical habitats. Since the mid-1800s, humans have impacted watersheds and changed river systems using dams, culverts and other barriers that restricted fish movements and led to the loss of some species in many parts of the state. Jon Lore, DNR natural resource specialist, will talk about the impact of these barriers and how DNR efforts to remove or change them has led to great success in restoring Minnesota’s native fish populations.

The Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship Series webinars are offered year-round and are free, though registration is required. Visit the Outdoor Skills and Stewardship webpage of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/discover) for the registration portal, more information about upcoming webinars and recordings of past webinars.


DNR accepting comments on environmental impact statement for Grindstone River Dam removal project

Public meeting also scheduled

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting comments through July 26 on a draft Environmental Impact Statement for a proposal to remove the Grindstone River Dam in Hinckley.

The DNR proposes to remove the dam, which is in poor condition, and restore connectivity to the river channel. This would result in the permanent removal of the 26.6-acre Grindstone Reservoir, which is a public water basin.

Removing the dam would mitigate a safety hazard, remove a barrier to the upstream and downstream movement of fish and other wildlife in the river, and allow for natural sediment transport and greater habitat diversity. The draft EIS evaluates the proposed project and alternatives, and addresses their potential environmental effects.

A copy of the draft EIS is available on the project webpage of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/input/environmentalreview/grindstone). The draft EIS is also available for public review at the Hinckley Public Library, 106 1st St. Southeast, Hinckley. A hard copy may be requested by calling 651-259-5122. The draft EIS was published in the Thursday, June 15 Environmental Quality Board Monitor (eqb.state.mn.us/eqb-monitor-volume-47-number-25).

Comments must be submitted no later than 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 26.

  • Mailed comments should be sent to the attention of Becky Horton, EAW project manager, Environmental Policy and Review Unit, Ecological and Water Resources Division, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road N, St. Paul, MN 55155.
  • Email comments should be sent to [email protected] with “Grindstone EIS” in the subject line.

The DNR will host a public informational meeting and comment opportunity from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 12 at the Hinckley Community Room, 106 1st St. Southeast, Hinckley. The meeting will include details about the project and the EIS process, followed by a public comment session.

Comments received will inform the EIS process. The DNR will respond to comments when it issues the final EIS. The most helpful comments are those that directly address the content of the draft EIS documents and offer specific suggestions on the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.

People who submit comments will receive a copy of the final EIS and responses to comments. Because all comments and related information are part of the public record for this environmental review, commenters’ names and email or postal addresses will also be published and publicly available as they appear in the materials they submit.