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Field Reports: Wisconsin bear harvest down 11 percent

A bear is seen in a tree in Duluth 2016. Wisconsin bear harvests were down this year. (file / News Tribune)

Preliminary registration numbers show hunters harvested 3,685 black bears during the 2018 Wisconsin bear hunting seasons. This represents an 11 percent decrease from the 4,136 black bears harvested in 2017.

Scott Walter, large carnivore specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the decline was to some extent expected as the agency reduced the harvest quota in three of four bear management zones to bolster the population.

While reports from hunters during the season were varied, hunter success was very similar to previous years across most of the state, with over half of hunters in most areas harvesting a bear.

As the News Tribune reported last month, Minnesota bear hunters took nearly 13 percent fewer black bears this year compared to 2017. Minnesota hunters killed 1,760 bears during the hunting season that ended in October, down from 2,035 in 2017 and down 33 percent from 2,633 bears shot in 2016. It's the fewest bears taken since 2013 when just 1,624 were shot.

Larger Mille Lacs walleye nearly triple

The number of walleyes over 14 inches long have nearly tripled in Minnesota's Lake Mille Lacs over the past five years, the state's Department of Natural Resources revealed Tuesday, an improvement that will again allow ice anglers to keep one fish daily this winter.

As the News Tribune first reported Tuesday, the one-walleye limit starts Dec.1, the third winter where some walleye can be kept after a series of summers that have been catch-and-release only for all walleyes.

Anglers this winter will be able to keep one walleye between 21 and 23 inches long or one over 28 inches long.

The DNR said the number of walleye 14 inches and longer jumped from about 250,000 in 2013 and 2014, after the population crashed, to about 727,000 this year. The DNR estimates the population through test netting and through marking fish, releasing them and seeing how many are re-caught by anglers.

The DNR's fall gill net assessment also showed that the total pounds of mature walleye sampled increased significantly from 18.9 pounds per net last year to 27.7 pounds per net this year, mostly due to an increase in mature females.

But not all the news is good as some years' classes — fish hatched in a specific year — have remained below average.

The DNR is taking a cautious approach to interpreting the results of the population estimates. The 2013 year class continues to dominate the population, accounting for about 40 percent of the fish caught, but year classes hatched since 2013 show mixed results. The 2014 and 2015 year classes remain below normal.

In other bad news, the DNR reports that perch and tullibee, prime food fish for walleye, are less abundant than usual and that walleye are thus skinnier than they should be.

Global wildlife down 60 percent

Global wildlife populations have declined 60 percent in the past 40 years due to pollution, climate change and habitat loss, according to a report released last week by the World Wildlife Fund.

The group's Living Planet Report said the situation has become a crisis with the total population of more than 4,000 combined mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species declined rapidly between 1970 and 2014. The biggest declines were of creatures that live in freshwater, down 80 percent since 1970. Current rates of species extinction are now up to 1,000 times higher than before human involvement in animal ecosystems became a factor.

The report predicts the area of the planet not negatively impacted by people is projected to drop from a quarter to a tenth by 2050. But the report also said some efforts to preserve habitat and endangered species has worked, such as pandas and dolphins.

The group has called for an international treaty, modeled on the Paris Agreement, to be drafted to protect wildlife and reverse human impacts on nature. It warned that current efforts to protect the natural world are not keeping up with the speed of human caused destruction.

The crisis is "unprecedented in its speed, in its scale and because it is single-handed," said Marco Lambertini, the WWF's director general. "It's mind blowing. ... We're talking about 40 years. It's not even a blink of an eye compared to the history of life on Earth."

St. Louis County seeks invasive species projects to fund

St. Louis County is looking for ideas on how to prevent the introduction or limit the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species in lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. The County has $710,820 in state-allocated grant money to award in 2019 through Minnesota's AIS Prevention Aid Program.

Projects should focus on the protection or maintenance of aquatic resources, and social or economic impacts of AIS. To be considered, projects must address one or more of the seven categories and associated actions outlined in the St. Louis County Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Plan:

• Assess county resources and risks for AIS introduction and spread.

• Increase resources for county-wide education and enforcement.

• Increase public awareness and participation in prevention.

• Raise available resources and leverage partnerships.

• Broaden knowledge of and participation in early detection and rapid response activities.

• Manage existing populations of AIS.

• Address specific pathways for AIS introduction.

Applications, instructions and other details can be found online at stlouiscountymn.gov/ais. The deadline to apply is December 5. Grant awards will be announced in and projects are expected to begin in the spring of 2019.

Since the effort began in 2014 St. Louis County has distributed more than $3 million in state funds to fund projects aimed at preventing or limiting the spread of AIS. Previous projects funded through this program include watercraft inspection programs, decontamination equipment, AIS monitoring programs, and public education campaigns. All Minnesota counties get state money to battle AIS based on their number of boat landings and trailer parking spaces.

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