Bald eagle watching events take off in January

MADISON - Bald eagle lovers can watch up to three rehabilitated eagles released to the wild, see other eagles perching or soaring above the Wisconsin River, and view eagles up close indoors during live raptor shows as the 33rd annual Bald Eagle Watching Days lands Jan. 18-19 in Sauk Prairie.
The event, the longest running eagle watching extravaganza in the state, kicks off Wisconsin's eagle watching season.
Other known events are set for Fox Valley communities on Jan. 26, in Prairie du Chien on Feb. 22-23, and in Ferryville on March 2. More information on these events and general eagle watching tips area available by searching the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website,, for bald eagle watching.
"We just received news that up to three rehabilitated eagles would be ready for release that week of our event and feel honored that our event has been chosen to assist with the releases," says Gene Unger, president of the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council, lead event sponsor.
"Marge Gibson and Raptor Education Group Inc. staff do amazing work nursing these eagles back to health and people will always remember seeing Marge return these birds to the wild."
Brochures and other materials do not list the eagle release - they were printed in December before the availability of eagles for release was confirmed Jan. 5 - but the live eagle release is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at VFW Park in Prairie du Sac.
Other highlights of the event include free guided bus tours to popular eagle viewing sites all day Jan. 19, live raptor shows beginning at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Jan. 19, featuring educational birds and trainers from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee, and many more presenters and family friendly activities. Find full details on the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council website at

Eagle watching days are here
The DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program, NHC for short, co-hosts Bald Eagle Watching Days in Sauk Prairie with the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council, the Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce, the Tripp Heritage Museum, Bird City Wisconsin, and Raptor Education Group, Inc.
The NHC program also will have booths at some of the other events, says Sumner Matteson, a DNR avian ecologist who has long been a part of Bald Eagle Watching Days.
"Bald Eagle Days events celebrate the importance of the bird's remarkable recovery and afford excellent opportunities to view our nation's symbol along the shores of the Wisconsin, Fox and Mississippi rivers," he says. "Come join us!"
Bald eagle populations in Wisconsin have grown from the 108 occupied nests counted during the first aerial survey in 1973 to a record high 1,695 nests in 2018, affording fantastic viewing opportunities as eagles from northern Wisconsin, Canada, northern Michigan and Minnesota move south in search of open waters. Seeking fish, a main food source, the raptors typically congregate along open water areas below dams along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers, where their growing presence has turned the sites into birdwatching destinations and inspired many community events.

Colder weather prompts more eagles to event sites
A warm start to 2019 and open water still on many larger southern lakes means eagles are dispersed across Wisconsin now, but Matteson says that colder weather forecast for mid-January will likely freeze many remaining lakes and bring more eagles to traditional roost sites along the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Fox rivers.
"When you have a lot of lakes and rivers still open, the eagles become more dispersed on the landscape. There isn't that necessity to congregate below dams or other open water areas to find food because the eagles can feed on carrion in the fields," he says.
Matteson advises that the best time to see eagles will be in the early morning (7:30-10 a.m.) as they come down from their roost sites to feed along the river and late in the day, like an hour before dusk, as they return to their roosts.
When viewing eagles, whether at these events or on your own, please take care not to disturb them. Do not venture so close that you cause them to fly off, and please stay in your car unless you are at a staffed viewing site, Matteson says.
"Eagles are stressed at this time of the year and they need their energy to keep warm through the long winter night," he says. "So please enjoy them respectfully and carefully and they'll continue to amaze us for years to come."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Minnesota DNR hires new big game program leader

Minnesota’s new big game program supervisor will be Barbara Keller, an experienced wildlife researcher and manager who begins Feb. 1 overseeing the state’s deer, elk and moose populations with the Department of Natural Resources.
“Barbara has a strong background in all aspects of managing deer, moose and elk populations, which will be an asset here in Minnesota,” said Paul Telander, wildlife section chief. “We had an exceptional pool of candidates for this position and are looking forward to the skills and experience Barbara will bring to Minnesota’s big game program.”
Keller has over 12 years of experience in wildlife management, research and diseases. Since 2016, she was the cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, where she oversaw management of Missouri white-tailed deer and elk populations, including the chronic wasting disease program. Keller also set statewide deer regulations and helped supervise the development of regulations for what will be the state’s first elk hunting season.
The primary responsibilities of the big game program supervisor are to manage deer and elk populations and harvest seasons, and to work with groups and individuals interested in big game management to address the expectations of a diverse public.
“I’m excited to join the DNR and get to work on all aspects of deer, elk and moose management,” Keller said. “I’m especially looking forward to implementing the white-tailed deer management plan.”
Keller attended Northland College in Wisconsin and received a bachelor of science degree in natural resource management, has a master’s degree in wildlife science from New Mexico State University, and a doctorate degree from the University of Missouri in wildlife science. Her research includes studies on bighorn sheep behavior in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; on bison, pronghorn, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer populations in Custer State Park in South Dakota; and on a restored elk population in the Missouri Ozarks.
Keller enjoys deer and turkey hunting, hiking, paddling and fishing.
Keller takes over for Erik Thorson, who had accepted a temporary assignment to oversee the agency’s while-tailed deer and other big game programs.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

CWD in Houston County prompts additional late-season deer hunts

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is offering additional late-season deer hunts in southeastern Minnesota following the discovery of chronic wasting disease in a wild deer taken in Houston County.
Residents and nonresidents can participate in the hunts from Friday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Jan. 27, and Friday, Feb. 1, through Sunday, Feb. 3, in deer permit area 346. The DNR will collect samples from deer shot during the two special hunts to help determine the extent of disease in that area. Hunters must bring all deer to a DNR-staffed check station to be tested for CWD.
“Gathering samples from this larger range will give us a better idea of whether additional wild deer in the area have been infected with CWD,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.
The special hunt boundary encompasses both the spot where a hunter harvested a CWD-positive wild deer and the farmed cervid facility in Winona County 9 miles away, where farmed deer tested positive for CWD in December 2017, Cornicelli said.
To collect samples around the positive deer, the DNR will issue landowner deer shooting permits to individuals within 2 miles of that location.
The Houston County CWD-positive deer, an adult male, was taken during the opening weekend of the 2018 3B firearms deer season. The presumptive-positive test results were announced on Dec. 5, and the disease was confirmed about a week later.

Sample collection
During the upcoming special hunts, DNR biologists will collect samples to better understand if the adult male was an outlier or indicative of a larger outbreak.
“Adult male deer travel long distances, and we don’t know the origin of this deer, so it is important to collect samples over a broad geographic area to get a better picture of CWD in this particular area,” Cornicelli said.
The DNR will use data collected from the special hunts to help inform the extent of disease and potential season changes for next year. The DNR also will issue limited landowner shooting permits to collect additional samples.
For hunters who would like to donate their harvests from the special hunt, the DNR has partnered with the Bluffland Whitetails Association to coordinate donations of deer to those in need. Additional details about the Share the Harvest program are available at
Hunters must plan ahead and should check the DNR’s website at for complete details about the special hunts, hunt rules and considerations, station locations for registration and CWD sampling, a map of the hunt area, and information about the DNR’s efforts to keep Minnesota wild deer healthy.
Private land makes up most of the area within the hunt area and hunters must have landowner permission to hunt that land. Public lands open during the regular season are open during the special hunts. Interactive maps providing details about public lands also will be available on the DNR’s website.

Public meeting scheduled in Winona
The DNR, which responds to and manages CWD in wild deer, and Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH), which regulates farmed deer and elk, will conduct a CWD public information meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in the Tau Center Rotunda at Winona State University, 511 Hilbert St. Seating capacity is limited to 250. Bluffland Whitetails Association plans to stream the event on its Facebook page.
DNR officials will discuss their management response to CWD found in farmed deer in Winona County and a wild deer in Houston County. BAH representatives will provide an overview of state statutes and rules regarding farmed deer, review key aspects of the Farmed Cervidae Program, and give a brief summary of Minnesota’s CWD-positive farmed deer herds since 2002. Participants also will have an opportunity to ask questions of both agencies.

Additional CWD information
CWD test results, including locations of positive test results and statistics, are available on the DNR website at Any additional deer harvested during current and upcoming 2018-2019 deer seasons in the disease management zone that test positive for CWD will be reported on this CWD results web page. The DNR will directly notify any hunter who harvests a deer that tests positive.
Complete information about CWD for current and upcoming hunting seasons is online at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR invites public to apply for new deer advisory committee

Minnesotans interested in being more actively involved in deer management can apply to serve on a Deer Advisory Committee that will help foster dialogue between the public and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“We’re following through on the commitment we made this past summer in our statewide deer management plan, which calls for us to form this committee,” said Paul Telander, wildlife section chief. “Committee members will play an important role in representing the breadth of deer management issues and discussing them with the DNR.”
The committee will be responsible for informing and advising the DNR about deer management issues, policies and programs.
The DNR wildlife section chief will appoint members to the committee for three-year terms. Membership on the committee will include representation from hunting organizations; unaffiliated hunting interests; non-hunting deer management values; and interests including agriculture, forestry, conservation, environmental, public health, local governments and others. The DNR also will coordinate with tribal representatives and partner agencies with knowledge about deer issues.
Previously, the DNR worked with a 20-member Deer Management Plan Advisory Committee that provided input and gave recommendations that helped in forming the statewide deer management plan. That committee finished its work after release of the plan in July 2018.
Anyone interested in applying for a seat on the new committee have through Friday, Feb. 8, to submit applications. Information about the committee structure, functions, expectations of appointed members, and how to apply are available on the DNR website at or by calling 651-259-5204.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Shakopee resident wins turkey stamp contest

Shakopee artist Mark Thone won the 2020 Minnesota turkey stamp contest.
Judges selected the painting from among 12 submissions for the annual contest that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sponsors.
The DNR will feature Thone’s painting on the 2020 turkey stamp. He also has won the Minnesota contest for the 2018 migratory waterfowl stamp.
Judges selected three entries to advance as finalists at the contest on Dec. 20, at DNR headquarters in St. Paul. Other finalists were Stephen Hamrick, second place; and Sam Larsen, third place.
The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work. The 2020 turkey stamp will be available for sale March 1, 2020.
The 1996 Minnesota Legislature authorized the turkey stamp at the request of turkey hunters. The DNR uses stamp revenue for wild turkey management and research, and incorporates the cost of a turkey stamp into the price of the hunting license – no additional purchase is required. A pictorial turkey stamp costs 75 cents and can be purchased with or without a turkey hunting license.
Turkey hunting licenses are free for youth 12 years old and younger; $5 for ages 13 through 17; and $26 for hunters 18 and older. More information on turkey hunting is available at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Military veterans employment event set Jan. 8 at Minnesota DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is hosting its second annual Veteran Employment information event, Tuesday, Jan. 8, at DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road N., St. Paul, MN 55101.
Space is limited and pre-registration is required to attend the free event. Veterans can register for a time slot between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. by going to
Veterans will receive a welcome packet with additional information when registration is confirmed.
Many veterans want to work in a natural resources environment, and many military skills translate into DNR positions.
“If you’ve served in the military, you probably have a lot of experience in many of our professional areas,” said Don Matthys, DNR management resources regional supervisor and U.S. Army retired.
At the event, veterans will have the opportunity to talk to DNR staff, including those who work in the areas of fisheries and wildlife, information technology, GIS and mapping, forestry, enforcement, engineering and more. It’s a chance to find out from those who work it every day about the different job responsibilities, education requirements and how military work experience translates.
Attendees will have the option to meet with current DNR employees who are also military veterans, and learn resume tips for translating military skills and experience to better match position qualifications.
“I can’t imagine a more military friendly employer,” said John Peterson, DNR emergency manager who is serving in the Minnesota National Guard. “The DNR has always been incredibly supportive of my service in the National Guard.”
Human resources staff will provide information on how to apply for DNR jobs, set up job searches and receive job posting notifications.
Veterans will also be on hand to answer questions about how to successfully juggle military and civilian commitments. Information on DNR veteran support resources will also be available.
Similar veteran employment informational events will be held in Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Mankato this year.
The DNR is Yellow Ribbon Company – a veteran friendly employer.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Join walkers during First Day Hike at a Minnesota state park

First Day Hikes will take place at numerous Minnesota state parks on Tuesday, Jan. 1, as part of a nationwide effort to connect people with the outdoors.
Spearheaded by the America’s State Parks (ASP) organization, individuals, families and groups in all 50 states will take guided walks that vary in distance and vigor. ASP reported that last year, more than 33,000 people welcomed the new year by taking one of the 1,180 guided hikes that covered 70,500 miles.
The naturalists leading the First Day Hikes at Wild River and Jay Cooke state parks are planning First Day Snowshoe Hikes, provided there is enough snow by Jan. 1. Afton State Park in Hastings is combining its First Day Hike with its annual Christmas Bird Count, which challenges participants to walk, bird watch and count all at the same time. Note that registration is required for some First Day Hikes, particularly those with a limited number of snowshoes available.
The hikes are free, but a vehicle permit ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit) is required to enter Minnesota state parks.
Hikers are advised to wear boots and layers, such as a non-cotton shirt under a sweater plus a jacket, hat and mittens. As hikers get moving and warm up, they may want to shed some of those layers, so the hike leaders advise bringing a light backpack where they can stash those items, along with a water bottle, a snack, binoculars and a camera.
Park naturalists encourage anyone unable to attend a guided hike to get out with their friends and families on New Year’s Day for their own self-guided hike. Recommended routes can be found online using the Parks and Trails Division’s HikeFinder.
For a complete schedule of the First Day Hikes at Minnesota state parks, including directions to the parks and whether advance registration is needed, visit or contact the DNR Information Center at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR