So, what does the Covid-19 virus outbreak mean for wildlife management and managers?
Apparently all DNR employees have been designated as essential (conservation officers). Just where area wildlife managers are categorized, I do not know.
Sharp-tail grouse dancing ground observation blinds have not been put out. Social distancing would not be possible nor would sanitizing after each use. Hopefully they can be put out next spring.
Spring surveys have been cancelled. These include sharp-tail grouse dancing ground counts that have been conducted since 1975 and ruffed grouse drumming counts that go back to 1949!
The ruffed grouse drumming counts follow the ups and downs of the population but do not figure in to the fall season framework. The dancing counts are pretty important as they help follow and evaluate habitat management practices such as brush shearing and prescribed burning.
No word on the spring waterfowl surveys that figure in to flyway picture and not just Minnesota. These are done via plane with a pilot and observer.
Prescribed burns for habitat and timber management have been cancelled. This will set back management by one year. Also, annual fire refresher training that was scheduled for March 24 was canceled so how fire personnel are now qualified might be a problem.
Firefighters and smoke chasers will still be on duty but not sure how fire detection will work. Fire detection is now done by plane with a pilot and an observer (me or others) but not sure how social distancing will work sitting side by side? Perhaps it will be with a pilot only, who can call in the location of the fire for dispatch, but may have a problem sizing it up.
In Aitkin County, there are many water impoundments with control structures in wildlife management areas that need to be checked periodically for safe operation. Hopefully that will continue.
Wildlife managers will still be gathering deer population information for the various deer permit areas so they can make recommendations for the harvest strategy next fall.
Hopefully this will not drag on in to the summer so work can get done.