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Published November 23, 2021

Game and Fish Briefs

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

Collective Effort to Save Native Grasslands Unveiled 

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department announces a new statewide strategy that will team landowners, conservation groups, scientists, and others to enhance, restore, and sustain native grasslands in North Dakota. 

The vision of the Meadowlark Initiative, named after the state’s iconic, yet declining Western meadowlark, is to promote and create healthy, thriving grasslands that provide biodiversity and prosperity for wildlife, pollinators, ranching operations, and communities. 

North Dakota has lost more than 70% of its native prairie over time, and it will take more than the Game and Fish Department and its long list of contributing partners in the long-haul task of enhancing, restoring, and retaining what’s left of North Dakota’s native grasslands. 

“When we talk about native prairie in the state, we need to acknowledge who the owners and managers of our native prairie are,” said Greg Link, Department conservation and communications division chief. “In most cases, we’re talking about ranchers and producers who run livestock on that prairie. We need those folks, because they’re important in keeping that prairie healthy.” 

Link said through the Meadowlark Initiative, producers can plant marginal cropland back to diverse native perennial grasslands for grazing. Cost-share to establish the grass and to install grazing infrastructure, such as fencing and water, is available. During the first three years of grass establishment, producers also are eligible to receive rental payments as the land transitions from cropland to grazing land. 

“This is about keeping working lands working, getting it done on the private playing field, and we know in that arena, we have to come together, we’ve got to collaborate,” he said. 

A year ago, the Game and Fish Department and 13 contributing partners submitted a USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant proposal, seeking to leverage more than $12 million in partner contributions with $10 million of USDA-NRCS funding to kick-start collaborative work toward a goals and objectives, encompassed in the Meadowlark Initiative. In the spring, it was selected as one of 85 successful projects nationwide. 

Together, the collected effort focuses on improving, increasing and connecting wildlife habitat, and supporting the sustainability of new and existing livestock ranches by offering incentives and programs to promote regenerative grazing with grass-based livestock operations. 

Early Ice Awareness 

Outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to be aware of early ice conditions before traveling onto and across North Dakota waters. 

A few reminders include: 

  • Edges firm up faster than farther out from shore. 
  • Snow insulates ice, which in turn inhibits solid ice formation, hiding cracks, weak and open water areas. 
  • Ice can form overnight, causing unstable conditions. Ice thickness is not consistent, as it can vary significantly within a few inches. 
  • Avoid cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signal thinner ice. The same goes for ice that forms around partially submerged trees, brush, embankments or other structures. 
  • Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around. 
  • Daily temperature changes cause ice to expand and contract, affecting its strength. 
  • The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions. However, early in the winter it’s a good idea to double these figures to be safe: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8-12 inches for an automobile; and 12-15 inches for a pickup/truck. 

And some life-saving safety tips: 

  • Wear a personal flotation device and carry a cell phone. 
  • Carry ice picks or a set of screwdrivers to pull yourself back on the ice if you fall through. 
  • If someone breaks through the ice, call 911 immediately. Rescue attempts should employ a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit. If that’s not possible, throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug or other buoyant object. Go to the victim as a last resort, but do this by forming a human chain where rescuers lie on the ice with each person holding the feet of the person in front. 
  • To treat hypothermia, replace wet clothing with dry clothing and immediately transport the victim to a hospital. 

Late-Season Hunting Dates 

The statewide duck and white-fronted goose seasons close Dec. 5. However, duck hunting in the high plains unit reopens Dec. 11 and continues through Jan. 2. 

In addition, the season for Canada geese closes Dec. 18 in the eastern zone, Dec. 23 in the western zone and Dec. 31 in the Missouri River zone. Light goose hunting closes statewide Dec. 31. 

Archery deer, fall turkey, sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse, partridge and pheasant hunting seasons continue through Jan. 2. 

The season for tree squirrels closes Feb. 28. 

Mountain Lion Zone 1 Late Season Opens 

North Dakota’s early mountain lion season in Zone 1 closed Sunday, Nov. 21, and the late season, when hunters can pursue lions with dogs, is open.  

During the early season, hunters took one cat from a harvest limit of eight. Under the season structure, a conditional season could open five days after the late season closes for hunters to pursue the additional seven mountain lions that were not taken. 

The late season in Zone 1 opened Nov. 22 and is scheduled to run through March 31, 2022, or until the harvest limit is reached. The late season harvest limit is seven total lions or three female lions, whichever comes first. 

Hunters are advised to check the status of the late season by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. 

Zone 1 includes land in western North Dakota south of ND Highway 1804 from the Montana border to the point where ND Highway 1804 lies directly across Lake Sakakawea from ND Highway 8, crossing Lake Sakakawea, then south along ND Highway 8 to ND Highway 200, then west on ND Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 85, then south on U.S. Highway 85 to the South Dakota border. 

The mountain lion season in Zone 2, which is the rest of the state outside Zone 1, has no harvest limit and is open through March 31, 2022. 

The mountain lion season is open only to North Dakota residents. Hunters need a furbearer or combination license to participate. 

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