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Dave Ingebrigtsen retires from DNR wildlife position in Grand Marais

Feb 04, 2018 07:22AM ● Published by Editor

Dave Ingebrigtsen, who retired this past week as assistant area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at Grand Marais, snowshoes out of the woods in Cook County carrying a moose GPS collar in January 2016. DNR photo.

By Sam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune - February 4, 2018

For the past 17 years, Dave Ingebrigtsen of Grand Marais has been a one-man Department of Natural Resources wildlife outpost more than 80 miles from his nearest wildlife colleague.

Ingebrigtsen, 65, retired from his position as assistant area wildlife manager in Grand Marais on Thursday after 26 years in that office and 36 with the DNR's wildlife division. For about the first 10 years he was in Grand Marais, he worked the station with DNR area wildlife manager Bill Peterson, whose position was not filled after he retired in 2000.

"He left me a note that said, 'Don't try to do everything, Dave,' " Ingebrigtsen said on Tuesday.

But Ingebrigtsen covered all the bases he could, conducting wildlife surveys, working with foresters on habitat management and, more recently, recovering GPS collars from just-deceased moose.On more than one occasion, he figured his arrival at a dead moose might have spooked a pack of wolves that had been feeding on the unfortunate creature. Ingebrigtsen was part of the DNR's "adult moose response team," whose purpose was to get to a GPS-collared moose as soon as possible after its collar signaled that it was no longer moving.

"The first one I went in on, I followed the wolf tracks in there," he said. "They had ripped it open and eaten only the kidneys, and their tracks led away. I'm sure I scared them right off the carcass."

The quick-response team's efforts have helped researchers get better clues about the causes of moose mortality.

Deer researcher

Before taking his position as assistant area wildlife manager in Grand Marais, Ingebrigtsen had spent about 10 years working at the DNR's wildlife research station at Madelia, Minn.

"Dave was a researcher," said Nancy Hansen, Ingebrigtsen's supervisor as DNR area wildlife manager at Two Harbors. "He worked on the deer population model, and he often applied his research skills into everything of importance that he worked on... I will miss his input."

Ingebrigtsen is not particularly optimistic about the future of Minnesota's moose.

"I like to look at the big picture," he said. "For a species at the edge of their range, they're going to be more vulnerable to the changes we're observing and predicting. Things don't look good for a northern species like that. ... Humans have the most influence on this, whether it's climate change or other things. I'm hoping they're at least holding their own."

Forestry coordination

Ingebrigtsen has worked closely with foresters over his career. In northern Minnesota, the fortunes of many wildlife species are tied closely to the kinds of forests they inhabit.

The DNR's Hansen said his coordination with the agency's forestry division and his knowledge about forest stands in his work area were critical in the recommendations he gave in managing timber harvests.

"He had a lot of general knowledge about wildlife species and habitat needs, and how he applied it towards management of the land in Cook County was very valuable," Hansen said.

Over the past several years, Ingebrigtsen has worked closely with other agencies and organizations in the North Shore Forest Collaborative trying to re-establish white pine and cedar, among other species.

"Everyone says, 'We can't lose our birches,' " Ingebrigtsen said. "But the birch is an artifact of the things we've done — from the large (post-logging) slash fires of 100 years ago. Conifers should be more prevalent on the North Shore. ... People are going to pretty quickly get used to the conifers on the North Shore."

In his way of taking a big-picture view of the outdoors, Ingebrigtsen — like many in the outdoor community — is concerned about the decline in young people taking up hunting and fishing.

"I think it's dire," he said. "I don't want to be doom-and-gloom, but our firearms safety classes up here used to draw as many as 20 or 24 kids. Last year we had one. The DNR went to online (firearms safety) classes, but still."

Firearms safety is now being taught as part of classwork in the Cook County schools curriculum, he noted.

"That should help," he said.

The DNR will not immediately replace Ingebrigtsen, said Dave Olfelt, DNR regional wildlife manager in Grand Rapids. The wildlife division's budget is tight, and currently 40 positions remain unfilled, he said.

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