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CO Reports: Bears wake from hibernation, looking for easy snacks

Area MnDNR Conservation Officer Weekly Reports - May 3, 2022

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

District 9 - Brainerd area

CO Nate Benkofske (McGregor) reports nuisance bear calls are coming in with bears out searching for easy food sources and ending up in residential yards after bird feeders or garbage bins. Please acknowledge this in the spring and take measures to get rid of the food sources at night at a minimum. Benkofske checked ATV riders and turkey hunters. Anglers and bow fishermen were also contacted.

CO Tony Flerlage (Crosby) took calls of nuisance bears getting into trash cans. Checked for turkey hunters struggling with the wet season. The rain is clearing off the last bit of ice left on the lakes.


CO Calie Kunst (Crosslake) spent time throughout the week patrolling ATV activity in the area and responding to a wetland filling complaint. Kunst also assisted in teaching ATV safety and responding to a shining and shooting deer call.

CO Chelsey Best (Pequot Lakes) spent the week on fishing, trapping, burning, spring forest closure and fish run activities. Enforcement action was taken for registration issues.

CO Jim Guida (Brainerd East) patrolled for angling, all-terrain vehicle, and prohibited burning activity. The couple days of rain improved the area fire conditions. Without three inches of accumulated snow in the forest, a permit is now required to burn vegetative material.

CO Eric Sullivan (Brainerd) some area lakes are completely ice free and the majority of other area lakes will be ice free by the end of the week. Sullivan also addressed big game issues that included high populations of deer and nuisance bears. Some turkey hunters are still pursing harvest but are reporting the desired bird is proving to be elusive.


District 2 - Bemidji area

CO Brice Vollbrecht (Bemidji #1) monitored area streams for spring fish run activity. Incidentally caught otter were seized and donated to the Minnesota Trappers Association fur project. Officer spent a day on the Rainy River checking sturgeon anglers. The current remains strong and the bite was slow. A complaint of an individual burning prohibited materials was investigated and closed Forest Roads were patrolled.

CO Chris Vinton (Perham) reports investigating TIP calls on possible deer killed out of season and an ATV operating illegally, south of Hwy 10. Several calls of dead deer found were taken along with dead swans and eagles. All the swans appeared to have struck power lines and there was no immediate cause of death for the eagle. Calls were answered about posting of private lands and what to do with illegal stands located on a person’s private property. CO Vinton attended the Vergas firearm safety class.

CO Jake Swedberg (Detroit Lakes) spent the week checking the last of the area ice fishermen this week. Rain and warmer weather has started to open up some of the lakes, but some ice remains. Use extreme caution if you are going out on ice still. CO Swedberg also assisted with water survival training for the Minnesota State Patrol Academy.


CO Al Peterson (Osage) checked ice anglers, monitored ice conditions, worked a slow bow fishing opener and handled calls about bears and incidental trapping kills.

District 4 - Walker area

CO Jacque Hughes (Longville) responded to a loon that accidental landed in a parking lot. The loon was safely returned to the water.


CO Jordan Anderson(Wadena) investigated a TIP on trapping related case, and spent time patrolling state forest lands in the area for turkey hunting activity and operation on closed trail violations. Bow fishing opener was much slower than past years with many lakes in the area still ice covered.

CO Patrick McGowan (Walker) patrolled Cass Co for angling activity throughout the week. CO McGowan also maintained station equipment, and completed division trainings.

CO Mark Mathy (Cass Lake) responded to a trapping and litter complaint in the Lake George Station. Mathy also took a call about a sick deer and answered questions about bear hunting regulations. Some turkey hunters were out and a few anglers were checked. Enforcement action was taken for a trapping violation.

District 7 - Grand Rapids area


CO Brian Holt (Grand Rapids) focused on trapping and OHV activity throughout the previous week. Time was also spent on a TIP complaint and following up on an ongoing investigation. Holt continued to monitor closed roads and trails throughout the area.

CO Thomas Sutherland (Grand Rapids) work last minute ice anglers with some using boards to get to the last ice on area lakes. With this weekends’ rain the ice has become unsafe even for foot travel. CO Sutherland gave a presentation to the Grand Rapids Area Lions Club on local furbearer’s this past week. CO Sutherland also followed up on littering cases from this spring.

CO Jimmy Van Asch (Pengilly) – focused enforcement efforts on angling, trapping, ATV, and AIS activities. Numerous questions regarding the upcoming fishing opener were fielded, along with several nuisance animal complaints. Equipment maintenance, transition, and preparation were also completed.

CO Taylor Hochstein (Hill City) spent much of the week focusing on turkey hunting and beaver trapping activity. A law and ethics talk was presented youth students in both a firearms safety class and an ATV safety class. Several ATV and trapping violations were addressed.


District 10 - Mille Lacs area

CO Dan Starr (Onamia) followed up on a sucker out of season case in which citations were issued. A complaint of dogs chasing deer is currently under investigation. A reminder to dog owners to keep your pets at home or it may cost them $500 just in restitution per deer. A Mille Lacs meeting was attended on the status of the fishery and future “Keep it Clean” efforts.

District 11 - St. Cloud area

CO Stephen Westby (Little Falls) checked area pan fishing activity with few people catching much. Took phone calls about possible trespassing and turkey hunting problems. Located a bald eagle which appeared sick and was transported to Garrison Animal hospital where it was tested positive for avian flu. Officer Westby located ATV’s with youth under 18 with no helmet, and he would like to remind everyone that anyone under 18 years of age has to wear a DOT approved helmet.

CO Tou Vang (Pierz) monitored turkey hunting and fishing activities in the station, and attended training.

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) is seeing some angling activity picking up with all area lakes free of ice. Some fish are being caught but still slow. An ATV safety training class was attended to present the laws and ethics portion of the course.

District 12 - Princeton area

CO Ryan Hanna (Milaca) received a couple tips of anglers keeping walleye. The investigations are on-going and will continue to monitor the hot spots. Anglers are getting eager but the walleye season is still closed.

Aviation Section

CO Pilot Tim Gray (Bemidji) flew a recon for flooding in NW MN and continued radio telemetry training.

CO Pilot Jason Jensen (Brainerd) reports flying a training flight and checking local shore angling areas for activity.

NR Pilot Brad Maas (Brainerd) completed a post maintenance test flight in a helicopter, and attended First Aid/CPR refresher training. He also taught classes to high school students about the moose, deer, and elk surveys, and completed administrative tasks.

CO Pilot Charles Scott (Grand Rapids).Performed return to service maintenance flights. He completed required aircraft maintenance. Charles provided recurrent training for unit pilots.

Stand-by CO Pilot Jake Willis (Grand Rapids) conducted a flight for required maintenance on division aircraft as well as completed ongoing training flights. Equipment needs were researched and maintenance needs were attended to.

NR Pilot Gracie Zeller (Brainerd) successfully received her applicators license and aerial license. She began familiarization with another airframe and attended to administrative tasks.

Water Resource Enforcement Officers

WREO Joseph Stattelman (NW) spent the week working on LSP compliance follow up, worked on open cases and spent time talking to LGUs about ongoing cases.

WREO Robert Haberman (North Central) worked on cases in his assigned area. WREO Haberman conducted a AIS for law enforcement class for officers in Cass Co. ATV and spring turkey hunting was worked.

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