Published January 24, 2022

Game and Fish Briefs

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

View Wildlife From a Distance in Winter 

Wildlife managers urge outdoor enthusiasts to consider where they recreate during North Dakota’s leanest months to spare already stressed animals that are simply trying to survive the snow and cold. 

This advice is especially true this winter as wildlife habitat and available food sources are limited because ongoing drought conditions leading up to winter nearly crippled the development of vegetation that many animals rely on to survive. 

“People in North Dakota want to have fun in winter because we have four or five months of it, which means we've got a lot of people out shed hunting, riding snowmobiles and track machines, snowshoes, those kinds of things,” said Casey Anderson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department wildlife division chief. “It's important, the tougher the winter is, that people are cognizant about where wildlife are and really view wildlife from a distance. Also, people need to realize if they’re out on a snowmobile or a machine and are pushing wildlife, chasing wildlife, that's actually an illegal activity in North Dakota as far as harassment of wildlife is concerned.” 

Anderson said it’s common for snowmobilers and others to ride in areas where snow has accumulated, such as near shelterbelts and other wooded habitat. 

“Those areas can be fun to ride because that's where the drifts are, but people also have to realize that there could be deer or other wildlife within those areas that are using that for thermal cover and a windbreak. And so, every time you push them out, it increases the amount of energy they expend to survive the next day.” 

These same warnings, for shed hunters and others, also apply on Game and Fish Department owned or operated wildlife management areas where many animals gather to weather the winter months. 

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey 

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual midwinter waterfowl survey in early January indicated about 81,000 Canada geese in the state. 

Andy Dinges, Department migratory game bird biologist, said that number likely would have been higher, but snow and bitterly cold weather in late December undoubtedly pushed some birds south just prior to the survey. 

“The number of waterfowl recorded dropped substantially from last year’s survey, but that was a relatively mild winter with little snow accumulation,” Dinges said. 

In addition, Lake Sakakawea didn’t officially freeze over until Jan. 24 last year, which was the latest date on record. 

During the survey, an estimated 55,000 Canada geese were observed on the Missouri River, and another 21,100 on Nelson Lake in Oliver County. Dinges said after summarizing the numbers, an additional 7,000 mallards were tallied statewide, most of which were recorded on Nelson Lake. Lake Sakakawea officially froze over just a few days before the survey this year. 

The 10-year average (2012-21) for the midwinter survey in North Dakota is 123,100 Canada geese and 24,700 mallards. 

All states participate in the midwinter survey during the same time frame, to reduce the possibility of counting birds more than once. 

Earth Day Patch Contest for Students 

The Earth Day Patch Contest is step one in bringing awareness and develop consciousness about the environmental conditions of our planet and North Dakota. Students who participate will develop a patch design using five colors to incorporate some aspect of Earth Day including environmental awareness, respect for Earth, water quality, wildlife or habitat conservation in North Dakota. 

The contest is open to students in grades K-12. Winners are chosen from three grade categories (K-4, 5-8 and 9-12). Each winner will receive an outdoor kit, which includes a pair of binoculars and field guides. The grand prize patch design winner is chosen from one of the three winning age categories. In addition, the grand prize winner will have their design displayed on the year's recognition patch, be featured in North Dakota OUTDOORS and on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website. 

Contest entry deadline is March 15. Details about the contest can be found at https://gf.nd.gov/education/earth-day-patch. For additional information about the contest, contact Sherry Niesar, contest coordinator, at 701-527-3714 or email sniesar@nd.gov

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