Game Wardens Check for Winter Kill - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Game Wardens Check for Winter Kill

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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department worries about the condition of the wildlife it manages.


So much so it finds ways to check on the animals, even when they can't see them.

On a beautiful, sunny, winter day in North can look at the horizon and see for miles.

Paul Bailey is more concerned about what's going on down there.

"3 point 1 meters of clarity, which is very good by North Dakota standards," Bailey says.

Bailey, and his partner Justen Barstad, check to see if fish will survive the winter.

"We're checking dissolve oxygen levels today at McDowell Dam," Bailey says.

Dissolved oxygen level is a measure of how much oxygen is in the water...

"Which is really crucial for fish survival over the winter," Bailey says.

Bailey and Barstad monitor nearly 100 lakes in south central North Dakota.

They'll work about five today...

"That's alright - cabin fever usually sets in this time of year anyway so it's nice to get out when the weather is nice enough.... 1 point 7 C... 2 point 8-7," says Bailey.

That's one-point-seven degrees Celsius and an oxygen level of two-point-eight-seven.

They'd like to see the oxygen level closer to five.

"That pretty much assures that these fish populations will be able to survive the winter," says Bailey.

If the levels get below two, fish die.

That happened at Nygren Dam south of Mandan.

"The lakes iced up a lot earlier than normal, as a result of that we're seeing much thicker ice than we typically see," says Bailey.

Thicker ice means less sunlight hits the water below.

Less sunlight, less oxygen.

"In all likelihood we haven't seen any fish kill at McDowell Dam but getting low enough that if winter persists long enough this might be a lake that could have some issues - so that's something we'll likely check up on again, say, mid-March," says Bailey.

And so they'll be back to take another look.

Bailey says there's plenty to keep him busy over the next month or so.

The wet weather since 2009 creates more than 50 new lakes in South Central North Dakota.

He says they try to put fish in most of them.

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