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Superior National Forest Update - April 27, 2018

National Forest Update – April 26, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, a wildlife biologist on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s National Forest Update, everything, or at least a reasonable amount, of what you need to know when you are visiting the Superior this week. 

It is nearly May, and winter is, hopefully, maybe, cross your fingers, over.  After some truly spectacular storms, the lake has calmed down, the snow has quit, and it seems spring is actually here to stay.  With spring comes the migrating birds.  Robins went from some sporadic sightings to large numbers in people’s yards over the past week.  Most of the robins are males right now, arriving early to set up territories.  You can observe a lot of fighting and other territorial behavior as they settle disputes over who owns which patch of grass, which can be pretty entertaining for us.  Sparrows have also started to trickle in, and the clear plaintive whistle of the white-throated sparrows can be heard welcoming the warmth to the north woods.  Their song is supposed to sound like ‘Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody’, or if you learned it north of the border, they sing ‘Dear sweet Canada, Canada, Canada’.  Mixed in with the white throats are white-crowned, tree, and other sparrows.  These birds all love seeds, so it is a good time to keep the feeders full and sprinkle some millet on the ground as well.  Yellow-rumped warblers are the leading edge of warbler migration, and they’ve been seen in Duluth.  They’ll be working their way north along with the rest of the warbler tribe as our insect population increases.  Speaking of insects, butterflies are back. Mourning cloak butterflies with dark wings trimmed in cream are fluttering along roadsides.  These hardy insects actually hibernate through winter, so they are some of the first butterflies to appear.

If you do have bird feeders, you need to start taking them in at night because butterflies aren’t the only hibernators awakening.  Bears are starting to roam, and they are pretty hungry right now.  We heard one description of someone who had taken in the feeders but had the bear come up to the deck to lick the grate on their grill.  So, plan on hiding in the garage anything that could even remotely be thought of as tasty to a hungry bear.  Remember that bears are after food, and not particularly interested in you.  So long as you don’t put yourself in a situation where you are a threat to them, they are going to leave you alone.  It is in their nature though to chase dogs, so keeping your dog leashed and under control when outside is a good plan.  While you’re at it, with the birds returning and starting to nest soon, it is also a good time of year to keep Kitty indoors. 

There’s no logging traffic on the roads right now, but that it because the roads are very treacherous.  Our timber crews are really recommending staying off the back roads for a while unless you really need to be out there.  It is a mix of soft roadways, ice, and still deep slush in some places, so until it all melts and dries up, roads are hazardous.  If you have to be driving, leave word on where you are and when you are expected to return.  Take it slow, and expect the road conditions to change around every bend.

Most snowmobile trails in the area are closed or in poor condition according to the DNR website, and off-trail use of snowmobiles is not allowed if snow cover is less than four inches.  The trails are not in good condition for ATV use either.  It is easy for ATVs to create ruts and damage trails in the spring, which will ruin good riding for the rest of the year.  Don’t ride on closed trails or roads, but also use good sense and don’t ride when your machine will dig ruts even if the trail is theoretically open.  Check the Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use map to see if your route is open: some routes open mid-April, but some won’t be open for use until later.  You should also check for any posted temporary closures due to seasonal conditions.  Use of ATVs off of designated routes is not allowed on the Forest.

The remaining snow and the damp conditions reduce fire danger, so over the next few weeks, the Forest will try to conduct some spring prescribed burns.  Most of these are to maintain wildlife openings near the shore.  These openings are used by migrating birds and help keep the diversity of habitat available in the forest.  We can’t tell you the exact times of these burns because they are weather dependent, but you can check our website or Boreal for more information. 

Starting next week, May 1st, issued permits will be required for overnight trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  You can reserve these online at Recreation.gov, and pick them up at Forest Service offices and cooperating businesses after watching our Leave No Trace video.  To accommodate wilderness explorers, our offices also start our summer schedule of being open seven days a week, 8 to 4:30. 
Enjoy the return of birds, butterflies, and life to the Forest while you wait out mud season.  While you wait, this a probably the week to put away your snow blower and winter toys, and unearth the lawn mower and summer toys.  You might even look a little at the boat and canoe, but there’s no rush on that yet.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.
 

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