Sunday, January 27, 2019

Department of Natural Resources to fly elk surveys in northwest Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will begin conducting aerial elk surveys starting the first week of February, weather permitting, in the Kittson County and Grygla elk ranges in northwest Minnesota. The flights are conducted annually during winter.

"We will begin surveys once we receive several inches of new snow to help improve our ability to see elk," said Doug Franke, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Thief River Falls. "Our goal would be to conduct the surveys during the first two weeks of February."

DNR pilots will use airplanes that fly low-level surveys during daylight hours at an altitude of approximately 200 to 300 feet.

The DNR this year might forgo surveying the so-called "border herd" near Caribou Township in northeast Kittson County unless Manitoba decides to fly at the same time, Franke said. Unless both jurisdictions fly, the results aren't reliable because the herd routinely travels between Minnesota and Manitoba.

Last year, for example, the DNR tallied only seven elk on the U.S. side of the border while Canadian officials flying the same day counted 126 elk. In 2017, the DNR counted only one border herd elk on the Minnesota side of the border.

"It's just too unreliable" if the Canadians don't fly, Franke said. "The elk in Minnesota have been at such a low number during the day the last couple of years. They've been hanging out in Canada just across the border."

The DNR again is asking for help from anyone with recent elk sightings in their area. Report sightings to the following local DNR offices:

• Karlstad area wildlife office, (218) 436-2427.

• Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, (218) 222-3747.

• Thief River Falls area wildlife office, (218) 681-0946.

Last year's survey tallied 97 elk in Minnesota elk range, up from 79 in 2017 and 83 in 2016. That's not a particularly meaningful number because northwest Minnesota has three distinct elk herds: The Grygla herd, the Kittson Central herd near Lancaster, Minn., and the border herd.

Questions about survey flights should be directed to the northwest regional wildlife office in Bemidji at (218) 308-2680 or Thief River Falls area wildlife office at (218) 681-0946.

Original article ➤ https://www.grandforksherald.com

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