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NDGNF Weekly Newsletter for January

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Snow-Covered Ice can be Dangerous

Heavy snowfall that blanketed much of the state New Year’s weekend has North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials cautioning outdoor recreationists about snow-covered ice.

Nancy Boldt, water safety coordinator, said the lack of wind allowed snow to accumulate and cover many lakes with up to a foot of snow. “This can be dangerous because you can’t see cracked, weak and open water areas.” In addition, she said, “All the snow can prevent solid ice formation in the future.”

Tim Larson, district game warden at Turtle Lake, said three vehicles have already fallen through the ice at Lake Audubon this winter, and he is concerned about other lakes in his district. “There is a lot of snow on the ice, and people just don’t know what the ice conditions are underneath,” Larson said. “For example, on Crooked Lake there is only 4-6 inches of ice in some areas, and that is now covered by 10 inches of snow. Even though the snow is starting to settle, people need to exercise extreme caution, especially on the southern portion of the lake.”

Boldt says it is important for people to check ice thickness, and to stay away from cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signify thinner ice, and ice that forms around partially submerged objects, such as trees, brush, embankments or structures.

Hunters Asked to Participate in Survey

North Dakota hunters receiving harvest questionnaires are encouraged to complete the surveys and return them to the state Game and Fish Department.

Because of recent expanded hunting opportunities, such as spring light goose seasons and multiple deer tags, hunters are more likely to receive harvest questionnaires for more than one season, said Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist. “We understand that some hunters may receive several surveys in a given year, but we still need folks to fill out and return all questionnaires that are sent to them,” he said.

Small game and waterfowl questionnaires are being mailed to randomly selected North Dakota hunters, said Jerry Gulke, Game and Fish Department data processing coordinator. “Hunters can return the form, or fill it out online at the web address printed on the survey form,” he added. “It only takes a minute and doesn’t cost anything to be completed.”

The survey is used to estimate the number of hunters, amount of hunting activity, and the size of the harvest for a variety of small game and waterfowl species.

It is important hunters complete and promptly return the survey, Gulke said, even if they did not hunt or were unsuccessful. “The more surveys we have returned, the better our estimates become, which translates into better management,” he said.

Surveys that are mailed to hunters should not be confused with the Harvest Information Program registration that is required for migratory game bird hunters, Szymanski said. HIP registration is a federal survey and does not provide the more detailed information that is needed from questionnaires that are mailed to hunters.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Program Schedules Winter Workshops

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program has scheduled one-day winter workshops Feb. 3 at Buffalo Lodge Lake near Granville, and Feb. 23, 24 and 25 at Lake Metigoshe State Park, Bottineau.

The Buffalo Lodge Lake class is geared toward ice fishing and darkhouse spearfishing. “This will be an opportunity to learn about pike and see them in their natural habitat,” said Nancy Boldt, BOW coordinator. All equipment will be provided.

Lake Metigoshe offers a variety of classes. A class on dog sledding is available all three days with a limit of six participants per session. Basic snowshoeing and winter tracking, winter ecology and cross-country skiing, and darkhouse spearfishing is available Feb. 24, with each class limited to 12-15 students. Darkhouse spearfishing will occur on an area lake. “On Sunday, if enough interest, we will again offer cross-country skiing, as well as ice fishing on Lake Metigoshe,” Boldt said.

Women interested in the workshops should register immediately due to limited space available. The cost is $40 for one class or $60 for two classes. Pre-registration with payment is required. Equipment and snacks will be provided.

Information and registration forms can be obtained by contacting Nancy Boldt, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095; 701-328-6312; or email [email protected]

Registration forms are also available on the Game and Fish HSOforum, gf.nd.gov, by accessing the education tab, and clicking on “formal and informal education.”

Hunting and Fishing Legislation on Game and Fish HSOforum

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will once again track hunting and fishing issues during the 2007 legislative session.

Interested outdoor enthusiasts can follow proposed outdoors-related bills by logging onto the Game and Fish Department HSOforum, gf.nd.gov.

During the 2005 session, 33 of 58 bills affecting the department made it through the house and senate and were signed into law.

Tentative 2007 Season Opening Dates Announced

To help North Dakota hunters prepare for hunting seasons in 2007, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department annually provides its best estimate for opening dates for the coming year.

Dates become official when approved by governor’s proclamation. Tentative opening dates for 2007 include:

Season

Opening Dates

Spring Crow

March 17

Spring Turkey

April 14

Paddlefish Snagging

May 1

Fall Crow

August 11

Deer & Pronghorn Bow

August 31

Mourning Dove, Early Canada Goose

September 1

Sharptail, Hun, Ruffed Grouse, Squirrel

September 8

Youth Deer

September 14

Sandhill Crane

September 15

Ducks, Goose, Swan

September 29

Pronghorn Gun

October 5

Pheasant, Fall Turkey

October 13

Mink, Muskrat, Weasel Trapping

October 20

Deer Gun

November 9

Deer Muzzleloader

November 30

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Game and Fish Launches Weekly Webcast

North Dakota Outdoors Online is now online at the State Game and Fish Department’s HSOforum at www.gf.nd.gov. (Click here to go directly to webcast http://www.gf.nd.gov/ndoutdoors/webcast.html)

Outdoors Online is a weekly video news broadcast available exclusively on the Internet. The program is hosted and produced by Tom Jensen and Mike Anderson, the Game and Fish Department’s national award-winning video team.

The webcast will focus on current news and issues that appeal to people who hunt, fish, trap and enjoy North Dakota’s outdoors. Each week Jensen will host a studio guest, and also keep viewers up-to-date on what they need to know to better enjoy their outdoor activities. Guest for the first program is Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand.

“This is a great way for us to connect with people who use the Internet to get much of their outdoor information,” said Craig Bihrle, Game and Fish Department communications supervisor. “The content will be relevant and fresh and available when viewers have time to watch.”

The Game and Fish Department also produces a weekly video feature called “North Dakota Outdoors,” that is broadcast on 11 different television stations in the state. Outdoors Online will complement the broadcast feature, Bihrle added, because the format allows for more in-depth analysis of events and issues.

A new program will be posted to the Game and Fish Department’s HSOforum each Thursday. Each weekly webcast will run approximately 10 minutes.

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Birds Test Negative for Avian Influenza

- Nonresident Any-Deer Bow Licenses Issued March 1

Birds Test Negative for Avian Influenza

North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists completed avian influenza testing in wild birds this past fall as part of a nationwide surveillance program designed to provide early detection of highly pathogenic strains in North America.

Biologists sampled 941 birds in 35 North Dakota counties from late July through early November. As expected, none of the birds tested positive for highly pathogenic strains, said Mike Szymanski, migratory game bird biologist. Likewise, ongoing surveillance in other states and countries has not detected highly pathogenic avian influenza in North America.

There are 144 strains of avian influenza designated as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic. The strains scientists were looking to uncover in 2006 were highly pathogenic H5 or H7 strains. “Different strains of avian influenza actually are fairly common in wild birds, especially waterfowl,” Szymanski said. “Just like in people, birds carry various influenza viruses, and they always will.”

There is no conclusive evidence that wild birds can move the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus over great distances. However, Alaska is thought to be the most likely migratory pathway for entry into the United States if infected wild birds can move the virus from continents where H5N1 occurs. Therefore, the department focused sampling on species that were likely to have Alaskan or Siberian connections, and species most likely to mix with them. Species of primary sampling focus were tundra swans, lesser sandhill cranes, pintails, and several species of shorebirds. Other birds sampled were mallards, wigeon, gadwall, green-winged teal, shovelers and scaup.

“Hunters were very cooperative in letting department biologists sample their birds,” Szymanski said. “We also thank swan hunters for calling biologists to schedule sampling, and also for those who stopped at designated offices to have their birds sampled.”

Szymanski said the agency really only fell short of the testing quota on one species – swans – but were also a couple of samples short for cranes. However, given the difficulty in getting samples for these species, and that a strong cold front pushed most birds out of the state by Halloween, the program was deemed successful.

Although highly pathogenic avian influenza hasn’t been found in North America, hunters should always follow common sense guidelines when handling wild game.

· Do not harvest or handle game that appears to be sick.

· Do not eat or drink while cleaning game.

· Wash hands and utensils thoroughly.

· Cook game to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

· Wear rubber or latex gloves when cleaning game.

Nonresident Any-Deer Bow Licenses Issued March 1

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will have 1,147 any-deer bow licenses available to nonresidents in 2007, down from 1,155 issued in 2006.

The number of nonresident any-deer bow licenses available is 15 percent of the previous year’s mule deer gun license allocation. The Game and Fish Department issued 7,650 mule deer licenses in the 2006 deer gun lottery.

The Department will begin issuing any-deer bow licenses March 1. All applications received on or before March 1, 2007, will be treated equally. If more applications are received than there are licenses, each application will be assigned a number. Numbers will be drawn to issue the licenses. Applicants who request to apply together as a party will receive one number. Additional numbers will be drawn to establish a waiting list. If returned licenses become available, these applicants will be offered the licenses.

If licenses remain after March 1, these will be issued daily on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Game and Fish Conducts Bald Eagle Survey

The 21st annual mid-winter bald eagle survey was conducted Jan. 12 along an aerial survey route of the Missouri River stretching from Bismarck to the Garrison Dam. Altogether, 43 bald eagles – 30 adults and 13 immature – and one golden eagle were counted.

Each winter biologists nationwide conduct similar surveys to estimate the number of bald eagles wintering in the lower 48 states, said Patrick T. Isakson, nongame biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “Each state completes the survey as close to the target date as possible to make certain that birds are not counted twice,” he said.

The number of bald eagles wintering in the state depends on the amount of open water and availability of prey – fish and waterfowl. This year’s figure is above-average in North Dakota, Isakson said, but down significantly from last year’s record of 75. “Most were counted in the Washburn area and along the Garrison Dam, where a large number of ducks and geese are using open water,” he said.

Eagles are relatively easy to spot as they prefer to perch in large cottonwood trees along the river. Adult bald eagles have a white head and tail and a dark brown body, while immature bald eagles are brown with irregular white plumage. Golden eagles have a gold cap on their head.

Watch for the Watchable Wildlife Checkoff on State Tax Form

State Game and Fish Department outreach biologist Nathaniel Umphrey reminds North Dakota taxpayers to look for the Watchable Wildlife checkoff on the state tax form.

The 2006 state income tax form gives wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to support nongame wildlife like songbirds and birds of prey, while at the same time contributing to programs that help everyone enjoy all wildlife.

The checkoff – whether you are receiving a refund or having to pay in – is an easy way to voluntarily contribute to sustain this long‑standing program. In addition, direct donations to the program are accepted any time of year.

To learn more about Watchable Wildlife Program activities, or to request the 2007 poster, contact the department at 328-6300; or email [email protected]

Game Wardens Association to Give Scholarship

The North Dakota Game Wardens Association has two $300 scholarships available for graduating seniors entering college in fall 2007 who enroll in fisheries or wildlife management with an emphasis on law enforcement.

Applicants must be North Dakota residents and have maintained a 3.25 grade point average. The scholarship will be awarded to the student upon proof of enrollment in college.

Applications are available by contacting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at 328-6604; or email [email protected] Applications must be postmarked no later than May 1, 2007.

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Spring Turkey Season Set, Applications Available

North Dakota’s wild turkey population remains on a positive trend in 2007, allowing the state Game and Fish Department to make available a record number of spring hunting licenses for the fourth consecutive year, according to Stan Kohn, upland game bird biologist.

“Turkeys occupy all areas of the state containing good habitat,” Kohn said. “In many instances, they are even found in areas with marginal turkey habitat, but are surviving in good numbers in secondary cover.”

A total of 6,935 spring turkey licenses are available, an increase of 510 from last year. Seventeen units have more licenses available than last year, while only two – units 19 (Grant County) and 53 (Williams and Divide counties) – have fewer. Unit 21 (most of Hettinger and Adams counties), closed during last fall’s turkey season, will be closed this spring due to lack of birds in the unit.

Hunters can apply online, or print out an application to mail, at the department HSOforum, gf.nd.gov. Lottery and gratis applications are also available at Game and Fish Department offices, county auditors and license vendors. Prospective hunters can also apply by calling 800-406-6409. A $4 service charge is added with this feature.

Applications for the spring season must be postmarked no later than Feb. 14. Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply. The spring turkey season is open from April 14 through May 20.

Spring Light Goose Season Opens Feb. 17

North Dakota’s spring light goose season is only a couple of weeks away, but hunters shouldn’t expect geese to be in the state opening day, according to Mike Johnson, waterfowl biologist with the state Game and Fish Department.

The hunting season opens Feb. 17. Weather and availability of food and open water dictate when snow geese arrive in the state, Johnson said. “Conditions may not be conducive for geese to be here on opening day,” he said, “but we want to make sure the season is open when birds arrive.”

Residents can hunt during the spring season with a 2006-07 hunting license. Otherwise, hunters will need to purchase either a 2007-08 combination license; or a small game, and general game and habitat license. Licenses at this time are available only from the Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office, the department’s HSOforum at gf.nd.gov, or by calling 800-406-6409.

Nonresidents need a 2007 spring light goose season license. The cost is $50 and the license is good statewide. Nonresidents who hunt the spring season remain eligible to buy a full 14-day fall season license.

A federal duck stamp is not required of either residents or nonresidents for the spring season.

Hunters must register with the Harvest Information Program before venturing out into the field. Those purchasing a license are able to register with HIP at that time. Otherwise, hunters should call 888-634-4798. The HIP number is good for the fall season as well, so spring hunters should save it to record on their fall license.

The spring season is only open to light geese – snows, blues, and Ross’s. Species identification is important because white-fronted and Canada geese travel with light geese. The season is closed to whitefronts, Canada geese, swans and all other migratory birds.

The statewide season is open through May 6. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. There is no daily bag or possession limit. Electronic and recorded calls as well as shotguns capable of holding more than three shells may be used to take light geese during this season.

There are no waterfowl rest areas designated for the spring season. While the rest areas are not in effect, private land within these areas may be posted closed to hunting.

Nontoxic shot is required for hunting all light geese statewide. Driving off established roads and trails is strongly discouraged during this hunt because of the likelihood of soft, muddy conditions, and winter wheat that is planted across the state. To maintain positive landowner/hunter relations, hunters are advised to seek permission before hunting on private lands or attempting any off-road travel during this season.

All regular hunting season regulations not addressed above apply to the spring season. For more information on regulations refer to the 2006 North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Guide.

Wildlife Wednesdays Begin Mid February

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will host a series of wildlife and conservation related talks on Wednesday nights beginning Feb. 14.

The popular presentations are held in the department’s Bismarck office, begin at 7 p.m. and last about 90 minutes. For more information call the department’s outreach section at 328-6615.

Feb. 14 – Farming with Wildlife – Learn what it takes for wildlife to survive in North Dakota’s farmlands.

Feb. 21 – Predator Calling – John Paulson, education coordinator for the North Dakota Fur Trappers Association, conducts a seminar on how to call and hunt these elusive creatures.

Feb. 28 – Reading Maps – Learn how to read various types of maps, compasses, and global positioning systems that will help you locate places to hunt and fish.

March 28 – Mountain Lions in North Dakota – Game and Fish furbearer biologist Dorothy Fecske will present a historical and present-day account of mountain lions in North Dakota.

April 4 – Trapping – Jeremy Duckwitz, wildlife services specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will provide a historical and biological perspective on trapping furbearers in the Northern Plains.

April 11 – Making Spinners – Learn from the experts how to make your own fishing lures. A good activity for beginners and die-hard anglers. Kids are encouraged to attend. Supplies will be provided.

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