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Minn. roundup: Owl attacks 3-year-old girl in Bemidji; Man found dead at Brainerd speedway died of suicide

BEMIDJI, Minn.—Lake Bemidji State Park staff have temporarily closed one of their park trails after an owl attack over the weekend.

A 3-year-old girl received "minor scratches" on her head and took a brief trip to an urgent care ward, park staff said, after she was attacked by a owl around 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, in the park's general-use area near Lake Bemidji.

Staff closed the park's Rocky Point Trail—where they said most "owl activity" occurs—and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources workers investigated the attack but couldn't locate the bird, which they suspect is a Barred Owl.

The attack could be because the owl felt its young were threatened, said Christine Herwig, a regional nongame specialist for Northwestern Minnesota at the DNR. When they're first born, young birds are not strong flyers and parents will sometimes aggressively defend their brood.

There's also a slim chance the bird was infected with parasites that caused it to act oddly, Herwig said.

"It could be either way," she said. "It's a little late for young birds, but I have had a few other calls on that. Late nesting can occur, too. It's hard to say."

There are some steps Minnesotans can take to minimize the risk of bird attacks, Herwig added: don't leave small pets outside, keep children supervised; carry an umbrella or tall stick or flag (birds tend to attack the tallest animal or object in the area when they feel threatened), and leave nests alone. Birds also click their bills or use their calls to signal a possible attack.

"Usually their first thing is to give you a bit of a warning before they're gonna come near you," Herwig said.


Authorities: Man found dead at Brainerd speedway died of suicide

BRAINERD, Minn.—Authorities were called to a campsite inside Brainerd International Raceway early Saturday morning after a man was found dead.

Deputies were dispatched about 2:30 a.m. Saturday to BIR to investigate the death, the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office reported. Upon arrival, deputies located an unresponsive male. Resuscitation was attempted, but was unsuccessful.

It was determined the man died by suicide. The man's body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office.

The raceway hosted the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals over the weekend.


Man arrested for DUI trying to take son to hospital after he fell in fire

MERRIFIELD, Minn.—A 32-year-old Lindstrom man was arrested Friday after crashing his vehicle while transporting his severely burned 10-year-old son to the hospital in north-central Minnesota..

The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office reported the incident occurred at 10:04 p.m. Friday on the 11000 block of Sorenson Lake Road, south of Merrifield. The boy was burned after falling into a fire, the sheriff's office reported. While driving his son, the man lost control of the vehicle and struck a power pole, ending up in a swampy area.

The 10-year-old was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis for his burns. The driver was arrested for gross misdemeanor driving under the influence.


Study: Leech Lake Tribal College No. 1 community college in U.S.

CASS LAKE, Minn.—Leech Lake Tribal College in northern Minnesota had some good news on their first day of classes Monday, Aug. 21.

The Cass Lake college was named the best community college in the U.S.

The study by personal finance website WalletHub ranked more than 700 college and technical schools across the U.S. based on affordability, student-faculty ratio, graduation rates and job placement.

The Cass Lake college currently with 190 students this fall semester was established by tribal resolution by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in July 1990.

The college had a campus in Red Lake on that tribe's reservation until this past spring when they split off on their own.

The school offers such classes as forestry ecology, law enforcement, Ojibwe language, carpentry, Anishinaabe studies and tribal administration. Its liberal education programs with an emphasis on sciences are the most popular.

College marketing specialist Ryan White said the school was ranked 54th in the study last year so moved up quite a ways.

College president Pat Broker said categorically she can say they are doing a lot of things right at the campus, but she said it boils down to the students. She said she is amazed by their resiliency and perseverance.

As for the cost factor, Broker said they try to get as many students as possible to be debt free after completing their two-year programs through keeping tuition low, financial aid and help from the tribe.

"This is just fantastic news," she said.


Second case of starry stonewort invasive species this year confirmed in Minnesota

GLENWOOD, Minn.—The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the invasive algae starry stonewort in Lake Minnewaska in Pope County near Glenwood and Alexandria.

his is the second new confirmation of starry stonewort in a Minnesota lake in 2017.

DNR invasive species specialists confirmed an abundant growth of starry stonewort among native aquatic plants in the narrow Lake Minnewaska marina off the main body of the lake. Additional searches are being conducted to determine whether it spread beyond the marina.

Treatment options are being considered. Starry stonewort has never been eradicated from any U.S. lake, but treatment can help ease lake access and water-based recreational activities.

There are now 11 lakes in Minnesota where starry stonewort has been confirmed. Two were confirmed in 2015. seven in 2016, and the two this year.

Since the first case was confirmed in 2015, all but one have been reported in August, when the telltale star-shaped bulbils are most abundant and visible. Now is the best time of year to look for it. Information on how to identify starry stonewort can be found on the DNR's website, and any suspicious plants should be reported to the DNR.

Starry stonewort is an algae that can form dense mats, which can interfere with use of a lake and compete with native plants. It is most likely spread when fragments have not been properly cleaned from trailered boats, personal watercraft, docks, boat lifts, anchors or other water-related equipment.


Motorcyclist, 65, dies in crash in northwest Minnesota

McINTOSH, Minn.—An Oklee, Minn., man died over the weekend in a motorcycle crash near McIntosh.

At 3:38 p.m. Saturday, Dean Ernest Walstad, 65, was westbound on U.S. Highway 2 about 2 miles east of McIntosh on a 1988 Honda Shadow when he lost control and went into the ditch, according to a news release from the Minnesota State Patrol. He was not wearing a helmet and no alcohol was involved, the release stated.

Walstad was taken to Essentia Hospital in Fosston, Minn., but he died from his injuries.

McIntosh is about 35 miles southeast of Crookston.