President — Rick Tischaefer, P.O. Box 334, Butte, ND 58723-0334; 701-626-7150; firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President — Glen Baltrusch, 312 Alder Ave., Harvey, ND 58341; 701-341-1261
Treasurer — Linda Penry, 3235 Crested Drive N., Mandan, ND 58554; 701-667-9380; email@example.com
Fur Harvester Education Program Coordinator — Rick Tischaefer, P.O. Box 334,Butte, ND 58723-0334; 701-626-7150; firstname.lastname@example.org
• Junior (14 and under) membership with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $12
• Adult membership with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $20
• Family membership with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $20
• Lifetime with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $250
• Lifetime (62 and over) with subscription to Trapper & Predator Caller — $150
Complete membership application on first page of the association news section and send dues to:
3235 Crested Dr. N., Mandan, ND 58554
The winter meet is Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Joann Hetzel 4-H Building in Bismarck. The building is just east of the Game and Fish Headquarters. Activities begin at 8:30 AM and will wrap up around 4:00 PM. We have some great speakers lined up for the morning that will provide some important information to you. Lloyd Jones (former Director of the ND Game and Fish Department and recently retired from the USFWS) will speak about returning to trapping; Steve Takacs (Class III FFL and business owner) will talk about suppressors, specialty weapons, the dysfunction on the federal side of things, and somethings you’ll want to know about future firearms acquisition and ownership; we’ll have an update on the muskrat float research project; an enjoyable lunch; an auction that usually provides a good laugh or three; and an afternoon of skinning muskrats. We have about 100 muskrats that need to get skinned and fleshed, so anyone and everyone is welcome to participate – or gain some more experience. The meet wouldn’t be complete without supplies for sale, a short meeting, and as mentioned earlier, an enjoyable auction. Lunch will be provided for a nominal fee – we’re open to the public and free of charge – plan on spending the day and having some fun!
For those who did not get a Dakota Skinner – sign up to be a member so you don’t miss the next issue. One of the subjects that we’ve been trying to work with Game and Fish on is having a river otter harvest season in North Dakota. Here is some information that will help you understand why and how we need your help in educating folks when the opportunity arises. Do not hesitate to contact your advisory board member and the folks you know in the Game and Fish Department and encourage them to move forward with this season. I’ve been involved with this subject for 13 years now, and progress is slower than molasses when it’s 25 below. We need your help to make this happen – spread the word, join the association if you’re not a member yet, and let folks know you support moving forward. The science is there, let’s make it happen.
River Otters in North Dakota – Part II
A river otter harvest season was discussed at the Furbearer Working Gruop meeting in April 2013. Stephanie Tucker mentioned that it might be sometime before she’ll be able to work on anything related to a harvest season; and Randy Kreil thought that a segment of the public in the eastern part of North Dakota would be opposed to such a season.
A past survey indicated trappers are interested in having a river otter harvest season In North Dakota. Some feel it is past due. While things get worked out, we need to get into the public education business now. The following information should be helpful to you in this public education effort. You can discuss this information with friends, co-workers, relatives, at club meetings, coffee shops, or any other place or event where you have the opportunity to educate the public. Doing so will advance the effort to someday have a river otter harvest season in North Dakota.
Many trappers report the abundance of tracks, scat, or observations of river otter in their trapping areas. Most of these areas are in tributaries, lakes, ponds, or sloughs relatively close to something that flows into the Red River. The incidental catches of river otter while water trapping have increased as well. We encourage trappers to turn in incidental catches as these are resources for important information (age, sex, location, reproductive history, and overall health). If the pelts can be salvaged, they are put up and sold through the North Dakota Cooperative Fur Harvester Education Program account at North American Fur Auctions.
During the 2005 – 2010 time period, North Dakota Game and Fish Department State Wildlife Grant monies provided $200,695.00 in grant funding to Dr. Tom Serfass of Frostburg University (Maryland) to “Evaluate the Distribution and Abundance of River Otter and Other Meso-Carnivores in Eastern North Dakota”. If you would like a copy of the 214 page report, drop me an e-mail and I will send it to you. The bottom line is the research substantiated the presence of river otter. The research did not delve in to population modeling to identify what the estimated population may be, but there was enough latrine sites to do some additional research. First was the genetic make-up of our river otter – they are the same as the river otter in Minnesota. Second was what river otter were eating – mostly rough fish and crustaceans. My personal observations while working in the northeast included rough fish like carp and suckers, other unidentified fish, crayfish, clams, turtles, ducks, and muskrats.
The Red River is key to the geographic area we’re talking about, and simply put, it is a watershed. This watershed contains tributaries from both Minnesota and North Dakota. Minnesota has 14 smaller watersheds that contain an estimated 1579 miles of streams and rivers that flow in to the Red River. North Dakota has 12 smaller watersheds that contain an estimated 2135 miles of streams and rivers (that does not include mileage for the Rush River watershed; and the New Rockford and McClusky Canal systems – and yes, river otter have been caught and released as far west as Turtle Lake on the McClusky Canal system) that flow into the Red River. All of this, from both Minnesota and North Dakota, flow in to the Red River and north into Canada.
Minnesota has had a regulated harvest season for river otter in the Red River watershed since 1986. Bag limits have varied from 2 to 4 for that region of Minnesota. A review of the 2012-13 harvest season for the counties that border the Red River in Minnesota – and also border North Dakota – reveal a total of 182 river otter harvested by trappers. That is just in the counties that border North Dakota.
The Red River is also a geo-political boundary. It is a “state line” separating North Dakota from Minnesota. Minnesota has had a river otter harvest season in this area since 1986 and North Dakota has no harvest season. River otter go where the habitat supports them, and a geo-political boundary like a “state line” means nothing to a river otter. I was listening to Randy Kreil, (Chief, NDGFD Wildlife Division) on KFYR in December 2013 and he made clear that particular point. I cannot recall what species he was talking about (and it really doesn’t matter), but his point was that wildlife does not abide by geo-political boundaries (i.e. boundaries established by humans separating land from one another, whether it be private ownership; township; county; state; or federal lands). That is the truth, and it is yet another fact that substantiates having a river otter harvest season in North Dakota. If you can have a regulated harvest in the eastern half of the watershed (i.e. Minnesota), you can have a regulated harvest in the western half of the watershed (i.e. North Dakota).
The mid 1990’s is the earliest I have been told about incidental catches of river otter. While not very specific, those were from the Barnes, Steele, Traill, and Cass county areas. In 2001, Jackie Gerads (our Furbearer Biologist) began looking into river otter populations in North Dakota, and there was some discussion about a reintroduction effort. Many states had demonstrated real benefit from trapping river otter in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas and reintroducing them to where they were once native. Those efforts resulted in having river otter harvest seasons in those states in a soon as 5 years after reintroduction. We needed to know what was on the landscape before that occurred, and which after 10 years, finally materialized in to the research that Frostburg University completed.
Population modeling takes many factors into account in order to be accurate. It is a formula of numbers and computations that include habitat acres; adult male to adult female ratios; juvenile male to juvenile female ratios; adults to juvenile ratios; litters per adult female; litter sizes; litter success rates; and incidental mortality are just to name a few. The most accurate, efficient, and inexpensive manner in which to garner most of what a biologist needs for that model comes from the animals carcass. You cannot pleasantly (or safely) obtain that information from a live animal on the table in front of you. Trappers and trapping activity, (regardless of what furbearer we are talking about), are the single most efficient and inexpensive tool wildlife managers and biologists have to accurately obtain the crucial components of a population model. There has never been an instance where modern, regulated trapping has been a detriment to any species.
River otter are no different than any other furbearer we’re blessed with in North Dakota. By monitoring the population and habitat; reviewing the tools, techniques, and season dates for harvest; and having trained game wardens to enforce the laws; everything will work out just fine. The data recovered from the carcasses will help in population modeling and planning a future. Using the aforementioned information to educate the public at every opportunity you get can move the process forward to a river otter harvest season in North Dakota.
Remember to keep your membership current so you stay informed. As we go about our business calling or trapping, consider sharing your travels and experiences with someone who has yet to know these activities. Until next time, take care, be safe and responsible, and enjoy what Mother Nature and North Dakota have to offer. Chris and I hope to see you on the 22nd.
Catch ‘ya. — Rick Tischaefer