Dennis Anderson: Minnesota's intense drought has different impact for different critters

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

MINNEAPOLIS — Within a few weeks, northern Minnesota black bears preparing for hibernation will scrounge for 12,000 calories a day worth of food, a search that might lead the ravenous bruins to trash cans and bird feeders, due to a shortage of berries and nuts caused by the state's ongoing drought.

In southern Minnesota, meanwhile, ring-necked pheasants just ended what might have been their best hatch in decades, thanks to the same extremely dry conditions. The birds could benefit further by a banner grasshopper crop — the bane of many farmers — that is just now showing up on the state's farmlands, again due to the drought.

The two cases underscore that while the "severe drought'' that grips much of Minnesota, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department, affects nearly every critter — and plant — that lives here, not all suffer equally, and some actually benefit.

"Wild rice, for example, should have a banner year,'' said Mark Spoden, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wildlife manager in Grand Rapids. "The low water really benefits the crop.''

But some lakes are so low that launching boats has become difficult.

"One Aitkin County lake I fished a couple years ago I could step level from the dock into my boat,'' said Dave McCormack, DNR northeast region acting fisheries manager. "When I fished the same lake recently, I stepped down two feet.''


Rain and cooler weather that washed over Minnesota this week granted the state a reprieve from the recent unrelenting heat (the dozen 90-degree days Minnesota experienced last month was topped in only three other Junes since 1872).

But heat and sun are forecast to return next week, with some Twin Cities temperatures again expected to reach 90.

"Farmers are concerned about rain for their crops, and everyone worries about forest fires,'' said Carrol Henderson, retired DNR nongame wildlife supervisor. "But everything that lives in Minnesota or that passes through the state is to some degree affected by the lack of rain and the heat.''

Here's a look at how different critters are faring this summer.


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