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Outdoors Notebook: Watch for whooping cranes migrating through North Dakota

Whooping cranes that travel through North Dakota are part of a population of about 500 birds on their way from nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to wintering grounds in Aransas

Whooping crane with sandhill cranes
Whooping cranes, such as the bird pictured at center in this undated photo from Alaska, occasionally will travel with sandhill cranes. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking the public to be on the lookout and report whopping crane sightings as the birds begin their fall migration through the state.
Contributed/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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NDGF: Report Whooping crane sightings

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking the public to report sightings of whooping cranes, which are in the midst of their fall migration. Sightings will increase as the birds make their way through North Dakota over the next several weeks. Anyone seeing these endangered birds as they move through the state should report sightings so the birds can be tracked.

Whooping cranes that travel through North Dakota are part of a population of about 500 birds on their way from nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to wintering grounds in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, a distance of about 2,500 miles.

Whoopers stand about 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of about 7 feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight, they extend their long necks forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of two to three birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

Other white birds such as snow geese, swans and egrets are often mistaken for whooping cranes. The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.


Pheasant, grouse and partridge seasons are open through Jan. 1, 2023, so there’s still plenty of time to get out and enjoy what the late season offers.

Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location and the birds’ activity. Observers should also look for and report colored bands, which may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, (701) 848-2466; Audubon, (701) 442-5474; the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, (701) 328-6300; or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers and identify times and migration routes.

– N.D. Game and Fish Department

NDGF offers reminder on PLOTS regs

BISMARCK – Nonresidents cannot hunt small game, waterfowl, furbearers or big game on North Dakota Private Land Open To Sportsmen acreage and state wildlife management areas from Oct. 8-14, the first seven days of the pheasant season, the Game and Fish Department said this week in a remember.

Nonresidents can, however, hunt on PLOTS land they own during that week.

In addition, leaving equipment on PLOTS overnight, such as tree stands, blinds, decoys, firearms, archery equipment, or trail cameras, is not allowed without written permission from the landowner.

Permission from the landowner is always required for motorized vehicle access on PLOTS lands, such as for setting decoys in a field, unless specifically designated on the PLOTS sign.

– Herald staff report


Motorists should be on the lookout for deer

BISMARCK – As it does every year about this time, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds motorists to watch for deer along roadways as juvenile animals disperse from their home ranges.

October through early December is the peak period for deer-vehicle accidents. Motorists are advised to slow down and exercise caution after dark to reduce the likelihood of encounters with deer. Most deer-vehicle accidents occur primarily at dawn and dusk, when deer most often are moving around.

Motorists should be aware of warning signs signaling deer are in the area. When you see one deer cross the road, look for a second or third deer to follow. Also, pay attention on roadways posted with Deer Crossing Area caution signs.

Deer-vehicle accidents are at times unavoidable. Under North Dakota law, if an accident does happen, law enforcement authorities do not have to be notified if only the vehicle is damaged. If the accident involves personal injury or other property damage, then it must be reported.

In addition, a permit is required before taking possession of road-killed deer. Permits are free and available from game wardens and local law enforcement.

A few precautions can minimize chances of injury or property damage in a deer-vehicle crash:

  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Don’t swerve or take the ditch to avoid hitting a deer. Try to brake as much as possible and stay on the road. Don’t lose control of your vehicle or slam into something else to miss the deer. You risk less injury by hitting the deer.
  • If you spot deer ahead, slow down immediately and honk your horn.

– Herald staff report

DNR promotes hunter walking trails

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources maintains hunter walking trails as easy ways to travel by foot through wildlife management areas, state and federal forests and other public hunting lands. Hunter walking trails wind through prime habitat for ruffed grouse, woodcock, wild turkey and deer. There are more than 600 miles of hunter walking trails meandering throughout the northern half of the state. Many of the trails are gated, allowing foot traffic only.


The DNR offers a hunter walking trail tool (mndnr.gov/Hunting/HWT) that provides information on trail locations by name and county. Hunters can also call area wildlife offices (mndnr.gov/Areas/Wildlife) for information about the trails or hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities and tips.

– Herald staff report

DNR offers accessible hunting options

ST. PAUL – Hunters with disabilities can learn more about hunting opportunities in Minnesota by visiting the DNR website. Information about accessible hunting, fishing, camping and more is available on the Accessible Outdoors page at mndnr.gov/Accessible_Outdoors.

Public land open to public hunting includes wildlife management areas (mndnr.gov/WMAs). A subset of WMAs have an online accessibility sheet that provides greater detail on the services and facilities for people with disabilities, including photos and maps. Interested hunters can also call the area wildlife manager (mndnr.gov/Areas/Wildlife) for an update on current conditions at WMAs.

– Herald staff report

Minnesota fall turkey season opens

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s fall turkey hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 1, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 30.

Hunters are allowed to take one turkey of either sex during the fall season. Fall turkey hunters may use a crossbow, firearm or archery equipment afield; however, hunters who also are hunting deer with legal bows and arrows may only use a legal bow and arrows, not a crossbow.

Fall turkey licenses are available for purchase online, by telephone at (888) 665-4236 or in person anywhere DNR licenses are sold. More information about fall turkey hunting is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey.

– Herald staff report

Statewide youth deer season returns Oct. 20-23

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s youth deer season will take place statewide Thursday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 23, the DNR said in a remember. The season coincides with statewide teacher workshops, so many Minnesota students don’t have school during the youth season.

To participate, youth hunters must be 10 to 17 years old and have a deer license. Participant numbers are not limited and there is no special permit, so parents should purchase or obtain a regular deer hunting license for the youth who will be hunting.

An adult parent, guardian or mentor must accompany hunters who are 10 to 13 years old. All hunters and mentors, regardless of whether they are participating in youth deer season, must follow blaze orange/pink clothing requirements. Adults may not hunt, unless they are in an area open during the early antlerless season and have the corresponding license. Complete youth season details are available on the DNR youth deer hunting page at mndnr.gov/Hunting/Deer/Youth.html.

In related news, hunters can participate in an early antlerless-only deer season in several deer permit areas across the state from Thursday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 23.

The season increases opportunities for hunters in areas where deer populations are above population goals or where there is an increased risk of chronic wasting disease. Permit areas open during the hunt are 209, 213, 214, 215, 218, 219, 221, 222, 223, 225, 227, 229, 236, 240, 277, 341, 342, 343, 604, 605, 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649, 661 and 701.

The DNR offers this opportunity to hunters in an effort to manage local deer herds. In changes this year, the bag limit has been reduced from five to three antlerless deer, and hunters are no longer required to obtain an early antlerless permit to participate in the early antlerless season.

To participate, hunters must hunt in one of the 28 open deer permit areas and use a deer license that matches the weapon used during the season (for example, using a firearm for a firearms season license or archery equipment for an archery license). Hunters have the option of using their regular season parent license or can use early antlerless permits, bonus permits, or disease management permits (only in 600 series permit areas) to fill the limit. Deer hunting regulations are available in the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations booklet at mndnr.gov/Regulations/Hunting.

– Herald staff report

Walk supports refuge lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Public Lands Alliance will hold its second annual fundraiser to support America's national wildlife refuges – Walk for the Wild – Oct. 8-15 during National Wildlife Refuge Week.

The fundraiser includes in-person and virtual nature walks, and the alliance has joined forces with 32 nonprofit wildlife refuge friends organizations – including Friends of Rydell and Glacial Ridge in northwest Minnesota and Friends of White Horse Hill near Devils Lake – to get people active in nature and to increase support for 56 diverse national wildlife refuges.

The Friends of Rydell and Glacial Ridge group has a fundraising goal of $3,500, and the Friends of White Horse Hill has a $1,000 fundraising goal.

“For this year's Walk for the Wild, our participating friends group partners are dedicated to conserving incredible biodiversity, from endangered and threatened species to migratory birds,” Dan Puskar, president and CEO of the Public Lands Alliance, said in a statement. “For those who treasure our nation's unique wildlife – from American symbols like the bald eagle and bison, to endangered and threatened species like polar bears and red wolves – I hope you’ll get active outside with us this fall by accepting our 5K challenge and supporting America’s wildlife refuges.”

More information is available by going to support.americaswildliferefuges.org and clicking the “Register” button.

– Herald staff report 

Hoeven, Cramer support bill opposing lead ban

WASHINGTON – North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer (both R-N.D.) have joined Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in co-sponsoring the Protecting Access for Hunters and Anglers Act of 2022.

The legislation would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from banning the use of traditional lead ammunition or tackle on public lands. The bill comes after a recent rule published by the FWS that prohibits the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle at certain wildlife refuges.

“The federal government should not be implementing a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to hunting and fishing,” Hoeven said in a statement. “These activities are a treasured pastime in North Dakota and it’s important that federal overreach doesn’t hinder sportsmens’ ability to participate.”

Also co-sponsoring the bill are Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ala.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.).

– Herald staff report

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