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Izaak Walton League of America

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  • 01/15/2018 3:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Winter Rabbit Hunting 

    By Douglas Claycomb, Outdoor Ethics Chair

    Winter makes Minnesota special. If you don’t get out and take advantage of the bright white cold, you might as well live in Texas. They have lakes too. But, for those of us who don’t ski, it’s sometimes hard to find a way to get some vigorous exercise in February. Ice fishing is peaceful and fun but sedentary. As for recreational snowmobiling: smoke, noise? Forget it! That is why I am thankful rabbit season lasts until the end of February. Most years, during the months of January and February, I venture out a half dozen times or so into the bright white cold: in pursuit of a rabbit dinner. I usually come home with nothing but numb feet, wind-chapped cheeks, and tired legs. But, you see, while getting a rabbit is the goal, it’s not really the point of it. If you have a moment, I’ll tell you about it.

    The dead of winter is like no other time of year. The woods are stark and twigs snap with a brittle frozen “crack.” The snow squeaks under your boot and, at first, the air stings your nostrils. But after a few minutes, it’s fine: a runny nose is an auto-defensive strategy. The nose knows. This is the only time of year when you can be simultaneously cold and hot. Although fingers and toes are cold, exercise warms your middle. Through trial and error, each hunter learns just the right way to dress, sort of, most of the time.

    There is no “right way” to hunt rabbits, but here are a few tips. First is finding a place to hunt. If you want to hunt private land, get permission. But why kowtow to a landowner when there is plenty of public land? Several units of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and numerous nearby Wildlife Management Areas (e.g. Bradshaw Lake WMA in Scott County and Esker WMA in Rice County) are loaded with rabbits—and almost nobody hunts them in winter’s cold. Stepping out with your shotgun, clad in hunter orange, do not expect to see rabbits “hopping about,” frolicking in the snow. They are a prey species and they seem to know that their brown coat offers no camouflage against a white, snowy background. Cleverly, in winter rabbits are nocturnal: feeding at night on buds, twigs, and bark; hiding during daylight (hunting) hours. So, look for their sign: tracks and scat in the snow and saplings with bark stripped near ground level. If you see sign, there are rabbits near.

    Scaring them out of hiding, or “jumping” them, is exercise. Rabbits like to hide in thick tangles if vegetation (especially briars) and under debris. In winter, they especially like tall grasses bent over under the weight of snow, forming snow-cave-like hiding spots. Sometimes you find rabbits completely buried under a new-fallen snow. Unless you have a dog, the only way to jump them is to stomp, kick, and thrash about. Then, when a rabbit jumps, you need to be ready.

    Rabbits go like greased lightning, zig zagging among trees and other obstacles, making it quite a challenge for the shotgunner. You need to be ready. Lead them a little bit—shoot where they will be, not where they are—have luck on your side, and never shoot in your companion’s direction (a way to end a friendship). Unlike tougher critters (e.g. squirrels), it does not take much to kill these soft targets. Hold off if the rabbit is too close (< 20 yds.) or too far (>50 yds.). Too close and the animal is inedible; too far, crippled and lost. Try to hit them in their front half, not the rear. The front is mostly vital organs (the target) and the back is meat and guts: neither of which you want to damage. Use a shotgun with #6-8 lead or, a greener alternative is #4-6 steel (in some places steel is the law- the Bush Lake Chapter Izaak Walton League recommends using lead free shot whenever possible). Steel shot needs to be larger because it is less dense than lead. Although steel is a lot easier on the environment, it is also more dangerous to your teeth. Be extra certain to pluck all the steel out of a rabbit before serving.

    Once you have the rabbit in-hand, remove the guts right away—very carefully. Using a knife to open the abdomen, it is easy to accidently slit the gut. You know what is in guts—and you do not want it associated with food. Cut through the sternum to the neck and remove lungs and heart. To keep the meat clean, leave the skin on until after the hunt. At the end of the day, pull the skin off, wash in cold water, removing any hairs or debris. Rabbit meat spoils quickly, like poultry, so keep it cold. Some people soak rabbit overnight in salt water before cooking; others cook it right away. Some people cut up their rabbit into pieces; others cook it whole. As for recipes—there are hundreds on the internet. I like mine breaded and fried in a skillet, like chicken. Simple.

    For me, rabbit hunting is a much better way to waste a day than sitting on a couch watching playoffs, eating chips, getting fat. The exercise, winter air, and white woods refreshes the soul. I always seem to see something unexpected—a coyote, grouse, otter, etc.—and I usually have exciting tales to tell. If not, I make one up, I lie—nobody knows the difference. Every now and then, I feed my family a rabbit dinner. In truth, I could not say if any of them like rabbit. They say they do. Would they tell me otherwise?

    If you decide to give it a try, buy a license, read the rules, and be safe. Let me know if you have a good recipe.

  • 01/15/2018 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    By Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    Every Bush Lake Chapter Board Meeting begins by our reciting aloud, in unison, the Izaak Walton League of America’s Pledge Statement:

    “To strive for the purity of water, the clarity of air, and the wise stewardship of the land and its resources; to know the beauty and understanding of nature and the value of wildlife, woodlands and open space; to the preservation of this heritage and to our sharing of it, I pledge myself as a member of the Izaak Walton League of America.”

    Reciting our Pledge before each meeting is an excellent reminder of the ideals that we as a Board need keep in mind as we conduct Chapter business. A “pledge” is a solemn promise or undertaking according to Webster’s Dictionary. And, solemnly pledging to defend our environment can often feel to me to be overwhelming. It seems a promise only a super hero could hope to fulfill. But, in a way, I think that every one of our members is a caped super hero, each making individual contributions to our Chapter and the League. Imagine 43,000 caped crusaders dressed in tight bright Lycra from 240 Chapters nationwide fighting for the future of our planet!

    The Ikes’ Pledge (Izaak Walton League members are known as “Ikes”) serves as a mission statement that is much broader than any other environmental organization in the U.S. Our Pledge is not limited to protecting a specific plant or animal species or habitat, but encompasses the earth’s triumvirate: water, air, and soil. It challenges us to consider and share the intangible benefits of nature such as beauty. And, it asks us to value both the intrinsic and economic values of wildlife, woodlands and open space. This almost overwhelmingly broad mission speaks in large part to how long the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) has been on the scene. The IWLA was established almost 100 years ago when idealism was high and people were boundlessly optimistic about what they might accomplish. I am not so sure that if the IWLA was being organized today, a non-profit board charged with writing our mission statement, would dare to reach so far and broad.

    That being said, the IWLA has stayed true to its mission and has been very successful on so many fronts. Over the years, the IWLA has been involved in almost every major national conservation program in the U.S. Ikes have effected change and influenced public policy in five major areas.

    Here are just some examples of the League’s accomplishments:

    • Clean Water: IWLA has been in the forefront of almost every major clean water battle in the U.S.
    • Public Lands: IWLA led the charge to form our Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund which is used to acquire public land. In Minnesota, the League was very instrumental in creating the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Isle Royale National Park and Voyagers National Park.
    • Farm Policy: IWLA has supported many state and federal regulatory policy changes to reduce erosion and regulate the use of toxic agricultural chemicals. It paved the way to set aside marginal farmland into “conservation reserves” and influenced federal/state subsidy programs linked to conservation practices that protect our soil and water quality.
    • Clean & Renewable Energy: IWLA promotes renewable energy resources, advocates for the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and has been a proponent of Federal regulations on coal-fire power plants to reduce emissions.
    • Community Based Conservation: IWLA through its Chapters across the U.S. has been involved in innumerable conservation projects, fish and wildlife habitat restorations, trail building, fish breeding, tree planting and outdoor skill building and youth programs.

    When I reflect upon the IWLA Pledge and what it has accomplished since it was formed in 1921, I am inspired to continue the League’s legacy of environmental work and activism. Thinking back to when I was young, I loved the adventures of DC Comic’s Justice League superheroes: Superwoman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. And so, refusing to be resigned into thinking that I cannot make a difference, I put on my imaginary caped crusader outfit and try to fight for the purity of water, the clarity of air, and the wise stewardship of the land and its resources. Together we can make a difference. Perhaps it is time for you too to find your super power and consider becoming more active in our Chapter’s good work. Capes and Lycra are of course optional!

  • 12/09/2017 12:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Study to Be Quiet- by Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    Think of the noise in your life. We are bombarded by man-made sounds that intrude upon our thoughts causing stress and fatigue. Have you ever considered what the long term effect of living in such a noisy world might be?

    The phrase “Study to be Quiet” was one of Izaak Walton’s favorite mottos. It embodied Walton’s philosophy and way of life. So important to him was the tranquility and solace that he found in angling that he chose to end his most famous book “Compleat Angler” with these final four words: “Study to be Quiet”.

    Walton died December 15, 1683 at the age of 90 and was buried in Winchester Cathedral, England. Winchester is about seventy miles south east of London. The Cathedral’s south transept contains a small simple chapel with a stained-glass window. Funded by English and American fishermen in 1914, it is a memorial to Izaak Walton. The window depicts Walton sitting quietly reading, his fishing rod beside him. Below the image, written in stained glass: “Study to be Quiet”. Fisherman’s Chapel at Winchester Cathedral has become a place of pilgrimage for anglers from all over the world.

    The phrase “Study to be Quiet” is Biblical in origin (1 Thessalonians 4:11). While Biblical scholars attribute the verse to the virtue in being humble in spirit, word and action, Walton appropriated and expanded the phrase to extol the spiritual benefits gained by quiet contemplation immersed in nature angling in his beloved trout streams.

    Walton lived during turbulent times in England. A bloody civil war raged across England for almost ten years (1642-1651). Additionally, Walton suffered profound personal losses in the deaths of two wives and eight young children. Angling and writing offered Walton a place of respite for peace and emotional healing. He found the close friendships and insights into nature formed during angling to be far more compelling than the number of fish that he hooked.

    I find that the phrase “Study to be Quiet” is as relevant today as when Izaak Walton lived. During these trying times of political turmoil, heightened reliance on technology, and increased detachment from our natural world, all of us would do well to heed Izaak Walton’s favorite motto.

  • 08/06/2017 5:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    Izaak Walton (1594-1683) was an English author and fisherman-philosopher who wrote the book “The Compleat Angler”. This inspirational forward thinking book, first published in 1653, is much more than just a fishing and natural history manual. It is a timeless philosophical guide on how to live in harmony with nature. Walton approached fishing as an environmental, social and spiritual experience. He believed that the natural world is so precious and complex that all of us have a moral duty and obligation to work together to understand and preserve it. Walton was an early idea leader for conservation and environmental justice. His strong environmental ethic espoused in “The Compleat Angler” is as relevant today as it was over 364 years ago. Free eBook downloads of “The Compleat Angler” are available at: www.gutenberg.org

    Watch our Newsletter for an upcoming Chapter event to discuss this influential book sometime in the Fall of 2017!

  • 08/06/2017 5:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Douglas Claycomb, Outdoor Ethics Chair

    In the final decades of the twentieth century, remarkable progress was realized in the reduction of lead in our environment. Prior to the 1970s, lead was ubiquitous; it was in our house paint, gasoline, pottery, and plumbing. We were not only poisoning our environment, but also ourselves--and we knew it. So we rolled up our sleeves, found non-toxic alternatives, and regulated lead.

    Because of these efforts, very little lead is being released into our environment through these routes any more. Lead pipes, for example, have been replaced by copper and plastic, and solder is lead-free. Instead of lead, zinc and titanium are used to produce pigments in today’s house paint and ethanol serves in place of tetraethyl lead to boost octane levels in our gasoline. In each case, viable alternative materials and techniques were developed in conjunction with lead regulations so that the environment was protected and livelihoods and economies were not up-ended in the process--a win-win.

    So, what next? Where is progress feasible? Where are there both a lead contamination problems and viable alternatives? Fishing and hunting. Nearly all fishing sinkers and the large majority firearms projectiles are still lead. This would not be a problem except for the fact that almost every time an angler loses his or her rig and darn near each time a hunter shoots, lead ends up strewn on the bottom of a waterway, littering the forest, or lodged in the flesh of wounded game. This “lost lead” is an inevitable part of fishing and hunting.

    This is a lot of lead. And it does not break down. It persists, accumulating in our environment year after year. Furthermore, lead is highly toxic. One does not need to be a scientist to conclude that scattering it across our woods and waters is a bad idea. And, although the hazards posed by this “lost lead” to humans and to the environment are multiple, birds are the most vulnerable to its toxic effects.

    Lost lead has a nasty habit of showing up in birds’ digestive systems. Birds eat it. Ducks and other birds mistake it for grit--thinking they are getting sand and pebbles for their gizzards. They are just birds, and cannot tell the difference between a pebble and a fishing sinker. Eagles and other scavengers ingest lead too, but for another reason; they inadvertently consume lead-contaminated carrion. How does this carrion become contaminated? It is the residue of animals which have either consumed lead themselves or have been “peppered” by a hunter’s lead projectile and the lead stayed in them.

    We know that lead from hunting and fishing is a problem and fortunately the solution is right before us. Lead has been outlawed for waterfowl hunting nationwide since 1991 and it is prohibited in California’s condor country. Lead fishing tackle is prohibited in many National Parks and in Maine--to protect loons. And it works out just fine because there is a multitude of viable, non-toxic alternatives. Tin, steel, and tungsten fishing sinkers are offered at most tackle shops. Non-toxic pellets (of steel, tungsten, bismuth) for shotguns have been around since the 1970s and copper bullets are widely available for centerfire rifles. Even shotgun slugs are offered in copper and other non-lead options. These options are every bit as effective as lead (sometimes even more so) and they cost only a little bit more. Given these perfectly viable, affordable, effective and available non-toxic alternatives, we seem to have an easy fix. Right?

    Wrong! Since lead was prohibited for waterfowl in 1991, no significant wide-reaching progress has been realized in the U.S. So, what is the hold-up? Part of the problem is that hunters and anglers, by and large, resist lead regulations. Why is this? Surely hunters and anglers know that good hunting and fishing are found in healthy, uncontaminated woods and waters. And surely they know lead is poisonous. So why would hunters and anglers want to contaminate the very environment upon which their pursuits depend? Why would hunters eschew lead paint in their homes yet willingly season their own family’s table fare with it, especially when non-toxic options are right there on the store shelf?

    Hunters and anglers are not the problem. They are victims like the rest of us, of a system where public opinion is swayed by moneyed interest groups and their slick use of media to distort facts, to produce wedge issues which encourage tribalism, and then to exploit the very cleavages they create for their own benefit. In the case of lead, three factors have conspired to make the problem seem intractable. First, the NRA has successfully misled hunters by conflating lead regulations with gun-rights. Second, the biggest economic beneficiaries of fishing and hunting, manufacturers and retailers represented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and American Sportfishing Association, have exaggerated the cost of non-toxic alternatives--saying lead regulations would make fishing and hunting too expensive, pricing common people out. And third is the fact that most hunters and anglers already live in rural, government-regulation-averse, America.

    In the waning days of the Obama administration, Interior Secretary Dan Ashe idealistically (but naively) issued Order 219, phasing out lead projectiles for hunting on National Wildlife Refuge lands. Although scientists and environmentalists knew it was a common-sense step in the right direction, it never stood a chance. The current Interior Secretary revoked it immediately and was congratulated by the NRA for it and then heralded as a “true friend of the American Sportsman” by the NSSF.

    Lead is cheap and plentiful and the manufacturers of ammunition and fishing tackle hope to keep production rates growing and to protect their profit margins by continuing to use it. By aligning with the NRA and the various trade groups who oppose lead regulations, hunters and anglers are hurting the environment and undermining the long-term viability of the very same woods and waters upon which their pursuits rely. And they are possibly sickening themselves by eating their lead-laced game to boot. But here is the worst part: the NRA and the industry trade groups are duping hunters and anglers into advocating against regulations which would be in their own best interest--playing them for chumps.

    Although sweeping regulation like the 1991 waterfowl lead ban are not in the offing at the moment, a number of states are taking small steps. For example, in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the lead shot is extended beyond waterfowl to also include turkeys and small game. And it has worked. Hunters still bag game and lead contamination is held in check. Currently, there is another small, but positive, proposal. The Minnesota DNR has convened a Nontoxic Shot Advisory Committee and is considering requiring hunters to use non-toxic shot for small game hunting in all Wildlife Management Area except those in the northeastern “forest zone.” This would not apply to private land but at least it is something. For now, in this current political circumstance, we are fortunate to be discussing it at all.

    Hunters and anglers are uniquely positioned at the moment to be the agents of progress on lead in the environment. They could be the force that re-establishes the lead-reduction momentum of the 1970s and 80s and they would also reap the benefits--better fishing and hunting and healthier fare for their families’ supper tables.

    Further Reading:











  • 06/22/2017 1:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Doug Claycomb, Outdoor Ethics Chair

    Greetings, Ikes! I am honored to have been appointed by the Board to be our chapter’s first Outdoor Ethics Chair. Since this role is brand-spanking new, and there is no established position description, I get to figure it out as I go. The first thing I want to do is to write, on a somewhat regular basis, about local outdoor opportunities (usually related to fishing, hunting or foraging). I envision these “outdoor opportunity” pieces to be entirely apolitical, “light” reading. Later, I anticipate writing on relevant environmental issues. These “issue” pieces will address controversial environmental topics from an advocacy standpoint. But for now, I’ll keep it light. Here goes:

    If you have never gone fishing, living in Minnesota, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. The easiest way to get started is to pursue Minnesota’s most frequently caught fish--the “sunny.” The term “sunny” is used to refer to several similar species including the pumpkinseed, bluegill, and sunfish. Although sometimes a bit on the small side, sunnies are plentiful in nearly every waterway in Minnesota (including Bush Lake), are almost always eager to bite and are really great to eat.

    To fish in Minnesota, a license is necessary--with a few exceptions I describe here. First off, children (15 and under) who reside in-state do not need a license. Also, in most Minnesota State Parks, fishing privileges are included in the admission fee--without a license. And then there is “take a kid fishing weekend” (June 9-11, 2017) during which an adult may fish without a license if accompanying a child who is also fishing. Everybody else needs a license.

    Now for the hardest part of any fishing trip: catching fish. First of all, no angler is ever assured a fish. For those who want certainty, there is a seafood section at the CUB foods. Nonetheless, it does not take an expert to land a dozen or so sunnies from shore. The most rudimentary “kiddie” rod, a few worms from the garden, a hook, and maybe a small bobber is all you’ll need. Experiment a little bit, watch others who are catching them, and soon enough you’ll be catching them too.

    Did I tell you that sunnies make excellent table fare? Well, they do. Although even the smallest sunnies are delicious, most anglers consider 6 or 7 inches to be the minimum size “keeper” and anything over 8 inches is a “nice one.” The really good news: in most waters, an angler can keep up to 20 sunnies per day, year-round.

    Although some fishing purists practice strict “catch-and-release,” there is no reason to feel guilty for taking home a bucketful of sunnies for the fry pan. The limit on sunnies is set by the DNR at 20 because they reproduce prolifically. In fact, because many lakes in Minnesota are over-populated with sunnies resulting in stunted (abnormally small) fish, taking them home to eat can sometimes actually help the fishery!

    Cleaning and cooking sunnies is a snap. All you need to do is scrape the scales away, cut off the head (optional), slice open the belly and pull the guts out. That’s it. Then rinse it and it’s ready for the kitchen. Sure, you can try all sorts of fancy recipes, but with a fish as tasty as a sunny, less is more. I like to sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, coat them with flour, and fry them for just a few minutes in butter--until they’re brown. Easy, tasty, and nutritious!

    Be warned, eating sunnies the way I suggest requires a bit of patience and practice because the bones are left in. The best way to go at them is gently with a fork, lifting the meat off the bones, inspecting each morsel visually, then occasionally plucking a stray bone from your mouth. Although a bone is sometimes unpleasant, you cannot actually choke on a fish bone. They are too small.

    If you absolutely cannot bare the prospect of a fish bone in your mouth, then you probably should just practice catch-and-release. The other solution is to fillet them. Although filleting sunnies is technically possible, especially if the knife is in skilled hands, it is uncommon. This is because filleting works best on larger fish, not sunnies.

    So, if you are interested in giving it a try, find yourself with some spare time this summer, or you want to try something “outdoorsy” with a child, consider sunny-fishing. Be sure to consult the DNR website about specific regulations (don’t take my word for it), always be safe near water, and leave nothing behind but footprints.

  • 03/24/2017 12:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Paul Erdmann, Bush Lake Chapter Conservation Director

    Most of us know that pollinators need our help. Starting a honeybee hive is not the answer!

    What’s the issue?

    Honeybees are not native to North America, they were introduced from Europe. They are now one of the most abundant and widespread insects on Earth. Honeybee populations have increased 45% worldwide over the last 50 years and there is no risk of this bee species going extinct. Honeybees are important pollinators of agricultural crops but do not belong in areas providing critical habitat for native bees and other pollinators.

    What’s wrong with honeybees in natural areas?

    • Honey bees compete with native pollinators for floral resources (food)
    • Honey bees may spread disease and parasites to our native insects
    • Honey bees prefer non-native plants and can contribute to the spread of invasive plants
    • Honey bees can interfere with the reproduction of native plants

    Want to help bees? Plant native plants and create habitat! This will help our native bees and honeybees!

    Our native bees and other pollinators (butterflies, moths, flies, and other insects) are in severe decline. Habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, industrial agriculture, and the loss of flowering plants have all contributed to this loss. By introducing honeybees, we add another stressor to our native bees that can have negative consequences. Help get the word out about native bees and their critical interdependent relationship with the natural world. All bees need adequate habitat that includes flowering plants. Introducing more populations of non-native bees when food is already scarce is counterproductive and has little to do with native pollinator conservation. Please, for the bees- think twice about introducing honeybees!

    Spread the word! Check out this factsheet!

    For further reading, go to: https://www.insidescience.org/news/how-bees-you-know-are-killing-bees-you-don’t

  • 01/07/2017 1:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Water is of major importance to all living things. Our bodies are composed of 65% water. We need clean water to drink, to water our crops for our food, for the animals that need it to survive, and for the ones that live in the water. I feel very fortunate that I was able to spend some time at both Sacred Stone and Oceti Sakowin camps in Cannon Ball, ND this fall. We donated a compressor, 4 garbage bags full of high quality winter gear, and boxes of food. Although we knew no one, we were welcomed with open arms. There was such a overwhelming sense of gratitude, peace, and mutual respect. The people at camp were such an amazing group of diverse people, yet, we were all there for one main reason: to advocate for clean water.

    My trip culminated with the Veteran's Day March. Native, non-native, active and retired military personnel followed by civilians marched in solidarity to the front lines for clean water. Hundreds of us stood in resistance to the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline which threatens to pollute the Missouri River and millions of people's water supply downstream. We all stood there in prayerful protest even though the DAPL workers surrounding us had bullet proof vests and helmets on and were carrying rifles and shot guns. It was a very surreal situation. During the ceremony, two bald eagles flew over us. Simplified, bald eagles are sacred to the Native Americans signifying courage, wisdom, strength, and they are the the messenger to the Creator. The eagles just reconfirmed to all of us that what we were doing, standing in unity for clean water, was meant to be and a worthy cause.

    There are many opportunities for people to fight for the right to have clean water, whether here or there. I do encourage people to go out to ND if able. If not, call your representatives, divest from the companies that support DAPL, and share on social media what is happening there.

    As I said at the beginning: Water is Life! Mni Waconi!

    Stephanie Johnson, Bush Lake Chapter Director and Member

  • 04/08/2015 9:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Minnesota Roads Taking Toll on Turtles

    HerpMapper, a new mapping application, helps to prove it.

    Submitted by Cheryl Wilke

    Roads have been an issue for turtles for as long as vehicles have been around. The density of roads and cars has increased to a point where this hazard is impacting the long-term survival of some Minnesota turtle populations. Fortunately, there are relatively simple road improvements and habitat modifications that can be made to reduce the number of turtles crossing roads.  These range from dedicated wildlife underpasses, modified culverts, wildlife-friendly curbs, and fences to enhanced nesting habitat. These mitigation efforts, however, can be expensive and are not always embraced by highway departments.

    The most effective way to communicate to highway departments the need for protection is tangible evidence showing which road stretches have a significant number of turtle crossings. Because State and County biologists cannot collect enough information to identify all of the significant crossings, public volunteers play a critical role in providing that data. 

    Do not put yourself in harm’s way to protect or document turtles

     or other wildlife observed on a roadway.


    HerpMapper, an online mapping and mobile phone application sponsored by HerpMapper, Minnesota Herpetological Society, and Three Rivers Park District, allows adult volunteers to submit locations of turtle crossings via your computer through the Herpmapper.org website; or by using HerpMapper’s Mobile Mapper application on your smartphone or tablet. Easy step-by-step instructions to create a HerpMapper account are provided at http://www.herpmapper.org/register


    In Minnesota, where all turtles are mainly aquatic, overland journeys usually occur during the annual early summer (late-May and June) nesting migration of egg laden females, or when newly hatched youngsters seek out the backwaters and ponds that will serve as their permanent home. Migration, again, occurs in early autumn when they return to deeper waters for winter hibernation.


    Data collected will be used to generate maps of known turtle crossing areas that can be shared with and used by conservation agencies and highway departments to prioritize and develop safer crossing areas. In addition, data can be collected in areas after mitigation strategies are put into place to better determine their efficacy.


    In June 2014, the Washington County Parks Department and Public Works opened a new “turtle tunnel” to help migrating turtles safely cross the road. The special German-built, under-the-road tunnel on County Highway 4 near Big Marine Lake in May Township, funnels turtles to the two-foot wide turtle tunnel by fences on both sides of the highway. County officials chose the tunnel’s location based on Minnesota Herpetological Society’s documentation of a large number of turtle crossings dangerous to both turtles and motorists, who were stopping on the two-lane highway to avoid hitting them. The Minnesota DNR says helping turtles, particularly females with eggs, safely cross roads is vital to the preservation of Minnesota’s turtle populations.  The tunnel is already a success.  The Minnesota DNR Nongame Wildlife Program has been posting photos on their Facebook page from a motion camera installed in the tunnels.  Turtles, frogs, skinks, woodchucks, ermine, and many other creatures have been using the tunnel to safely cross under the road!

    How can YOU help a turtle cross the road?

                      Don’t endanger yourself or others. When and where possible, pull off the road. Turn on hazard lights to alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of your surroundings and traffic.

                      Allow turtle to cross on its own. If there is no oncoming traffic, allow turtle to cross unassisted.

                      If you need to speed up the turtle’s crossing, grasp it and all turtles, EXCEPT snapping turtles, gently along the shell edge near mid-point of body. (Note: turtles may empty bladder when lifted off ground. Don’t drop it.)

                      Snapping turtles should NEVER be picked up by the tail. This can damage the snapping turtle’s spinal cord. Use a branch, broomstick, or snow shovel to prod the animal along from behind. If the turtle bites the object, use it to drag the turtle to roadway edge.

              Maintain direction of travel. Move turtle low to the ground, in a direct line, and in the same direction it was traveling. Do NOT remove it from its area of habitat.

  • 04/08/2015 9:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    WANTED: Walkers to Assist Turtle-Crossings on East Bush Lake Road and West Bush Lake Road During Migration Seasons 2015

    The turtles in West Bloomington, primarily painted and snapping turtles, will soon begin emerging from overwintering in Bush Lake and crossing these roads to shallower wetlands on the other side.

    Your Help Is Needed

    Your participation to help turtles cross East Bush Lake Road and West Bush Lake Road during their upcoming nesting season is vital to their preservation.

    Last May through mid October, one volunteer randomly logged 100+ painted turtle mortalities on East Bush Lake Road using the MN DNR-sanctioned GPS program, HerpMapper. Only a handful of snapping turtles were seen which might lead one to believe that this once turtle-vibrant area is losing this species.

    How do I participate?

    This is a volunteer-driven initiative supported by the Bush Lake Chapter. We encourage you to monitor East and West Bush Lake Roads via the existing walk/bike paths at your convenience and as often as possible during turtle migration seasons. In addition to walking with the purpose to assist turtles, you might consider joining others for nature-loving camaraderie by contacting Bush Lake Ikes member, Cheryl Wilke, at cwwilke@comcast.net. She will offer organized group times and locations.

    May I bring my children or grandchildren?

    Sorry, but the organized walks are for adults only.

    How long is the program? 

    End of April through October.

    What should I bring?

    Tennis shoes, gloves (latex), raincoat and boots if raining, and a shovel to assist moving snapping turtles.

    Can I take photographs?

    We’d love for you to take photos and collect data with your smartphone camera using HerpMapper. For information about how to upload and use HerpMapper, visit http://www.herpmapper.org/help  or contact Cheryl at cwwilke@comcast.net.

    Additional Information

    Minnesota Statute: Subd. 7. Cruelty. No person shall willfully instigate or in any way further any act of cruelty to any animal or animals, or any act tending to produce cruelty to animals.

    If you see someone deliberately swerve his/her vehicle to kill a turtle on the road, safely attempt to snap a photograph of vehicle and license plate, and report this active cruelty to the local police department, the appropriate sheriff’s department, and cruelty investigators with the Animal Humane Society at (763) 489-2236 or www.animalhumanesociety.org/advocacy/humane-investigations.  All three agencies are responsible for enforcement of anti-cruelty laws. 

    Snappers Get a Bad Rap

    While snapping turtles are often blamed for a reduction in fish and waterfowl populations, studies show that they eat insignificant amounts of game fish. Mammalian nest predators and large fish kill far more waterfowl than do common snapping turtles. Snapping turtles are scavengers and clean up dead animals and fish. What most people don't know is that they also eat lots of plants. In fact, water plants make up to one one-third of their diet! Snapping turtles are important to have in our environment.

    About Our Neighborhood Turtles

    In late April/early May, turtles get antsy to start basking on warm, sunny days. The increase in body temperature is necessary for egg development within the female turtle.


    Nesting in Minnesota typically occurs during June. Females are most active in late morning and late afternoon, and at dusk. Nesting can occur as far as a mile from wetlands.

    After a development period of approximately two months, hatchlings leave the nest from mid-August through early-October.

    Nesting females and hatchlings are often at risk of being killed

    while crossing roads between wetlands and nesting areas.

    In addition to movements associated with nesting, all ages and both sexes move between wetlands from April through November.

    These movements peak in June and July, and again in September and October as turtles move to and from overwintering sites. In late autumn (typically November), turtles bury themselves in the substrate (the mud at the bottom) of deeper wetlands (i.e., Bush Lake) to overwinter.



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