Bird of a different feather to present

If you’ve been paying attention to the Outdoors Notes, and really, why wouldn’t you? You might have made plans to attend the Duluth Audubon Society’s meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday to see a presentation by Carrol Henderson, Minnesota DNR nongame wildlife supervisor, on “Birds of Brazil.”

But that bird has flown the coop, so to speak. But fear not! In place of Henderson, freelance writer Sue Leaf will present “A Love Affair with Birds,” about the life of T.S. Roberts, known in some circles as the father of Minnesota ornithology.

Eh? is sure you’ll all flock to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, 835 W. College St., to see this program, which will take place at the same time and is free and open to all.

Balsam bough-nanza

Did you ever wonder where all those Christmas wreaths come from? Well, the Northland’s forest is the easy answer. In Minnesota alone, about 1,700 tons of balsam boughs are harvested each autumn, usually by cutting lower branches to let the tree keep growing.

At about 400 wreaths per ton, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, that’s 680,000 wreaths! Most of those boughs are harvested in northern Minnesota public and private lands, with Itasca, St. Louis, Aitkin and Cass counties leading the way. There are an estimated $30 million in balsam boughs sold each holiday season and that doesn’t include the sale of 9 million pine cones and other decorative items, like pine swags and spruce tree tops.

Bough harvesters generally pay a small fee each year to harvest on public lands.

Now you know.

Pesky critters beware

Are varmints picking at your cabbage patch? Are deer deforesting your yard? Are you finding it’s not so nice to play host to mice?

The Carlton County Extension Community Connect Program will present “Managing Wildlife in Your Yard and Farm.”

The program will feature Chris Balzer of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. His presentation will focus on deterring nuisance animals and attracting favorable wildlife.

Admission for the event is $5. It will be held at the Carlton County Transportation building, 1630 County Rd. 61, Carlton.

For more information, call the Carlton County Extension office at (218) 384-3511.

Free wheelin’ Labor Day weekend

On Labor Day weekend, Minnesota will host its first “Free Wheeling Weekend,” making it free to ride on state and grant-in-aid trails for two days, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials said.

On Saturday and Sunday, Minnesotans whose ATVs are registered only for private or agricultural use can enjoy riding the more than 3,400 miles of state and grant-in-aid trails without paying the additional registration fee to ride on public trails. Out-of-state riders can explore Minnesota trails, too, without the need for a nonresident trail pass.

Information on trail maps and where to ride is available.

Leaping rainbow is a winner

Cloquet artist Stuart Nelson’s painting of a rainbow trout leaping to consume a mayfly has been chosen for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ 2014 Trout Stamp.

Nelson won the 1999 trout stamp contest with a painting of a brook trout but hadn’t submitted an entry since. His painting of the rainbow trout was selected from 13 submissions in the annual contest.

Trout stamp validations, $10, are printed on Minnesota fishing licenses. For an extra $2, purchasers can get the actual pictorial stamp.

About 83,000 trout stamps were sold last year in Minnesota.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner. The winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work.

Under mom’s watchful eye

Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Darin Fagerman of Grand Marais recently watched two wolf pups cross a road under the watchful eye of their mother, according to the weekly DNR enforcement division report. The mother wolf crossed first and waited for the pups to cross before they all went off into the woods.

Not an hour later, Fagerman said he observed a small girl cross a busy highway while her mother was busy looking at her smartphone screen on the other side of the road. Luckily, he said, the girl crossed in a crosswalk. Oncoming traffic saw her dart out into the highway. The mother looked up briefly when she heard the vehicles slowing down but then went back to whatever was interesting her on the smartphone screen.

“Sometimes animals are smarter than we are,” Fagerman said.

Leave fawns alone

White-tailed deer across the Northland have started to have their fawns, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging people to leave the little dears alone.

Even if you don’t see the mother around, a fawn almost certainly has not been abandoned. Unlike human mothers that cling to their newborns, deer mothers often move away from fawns while feeding to avoid drawing any attention to newborns. Fawns’ camouflage spots, and an odd quirk of nature that makes fawns almost odorless (also unlike humans), is usually enough to get them through the first few days when their legs are wobbly.

The DNR notes that mama doe will come around every four or five hours to check on the fawn, and she is usually within earshot. Only when the fawns are strong enough to outrun predators do the young travel much with their mother.

A fawn’s curiosity may entice it to approach a person who comes upon it. The DNR urges people not to try to catch a fawn if they encounter one. Walk away. Never feed or collar a fawn. Contact a local DNR Wildlife office if you have questions.

Bear news elsewhere

It’s good to know that wild animal sightings make the news in places other than Duluth.

A black bear made the news in Cottage Grove, Minn., when it was spotted multiple times early Wednesday in the Twins Cities suburb, first in a residential neighborhood, then in a park and later along Highway 61.

A resident called police about 12:30 a.m. after seeing a bear in a backyard.

A police officer found the bear and watched it make its way through multiple yards, according to the police report.

Police contacted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which advised monitoring the animal and letting it wander until it returns to a nonresidential area.

Emergency dispatch received two more reported sightings, one from a caller who spotted a bear in Hearthside Park and another from someone who saw it behind a restaurant.

Then, about 8:40 a.m. a caller reported seeing a bear near a guardrail along Highway 61 in St. Paul Park.

DNR officials told police that as long as it wasn’t creating a hazard or safety concern, they should let it wander back into a rural area.

Owl collection

As we’ve reported several times, the Northland is seeing an influx of owls from Canada this winter. They’ve moved south in search of food, such as mice and voles.
While many owls are finding good pickings in our area, some owls, inevitably, will perish here. But some good may come of that. The Duluth Audubon Society reports the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is collecting dead boreal or saw-whet owls this winter for use in research.
If you find a dead owl, place it in a plastic bag with the date and general location where it was found, and take it to the nearest Minnesota DNR wildlife office — in Duluth, Cloquet, Two Harbors, Tower or wherever you may be.

Smokey Bear missing

Smokey Bear warned against wildfires, but he never said anything about theft.

Wisconsin Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward to find Smokey Bear — or at least a 6-foot-tall reflective aluminum sign of the iconic “Only you can prevent wildfires” bruin.

The bear-nappers stole the sign in the Town of Caledonia in Columbia County (north of Madison) during the past two to three weeks. The landowner and the local emergency fire warden are hoping to get this valuable public information sign back in service.

Anyone with information on the missing sign is asked to contact the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office at (608) 742-4166, Crime Stoppers at (800) 293-8477 or their local Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation warden. Callers are eligible for a reward for up to $1,000 for leading to the recovery of the stolen sign along with prosecution of the thief.