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Something Wild Newsletter Spring 2010

Something Wild Newsletter Spring 2010

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Published by NEGameandParks
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Annual Report of the Wildlife Conservation Fund
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Annual Report of the Wildlife Conservation Fund

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Published by: NEGameandParks on Dec 09, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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You canmake thedifference
Remember our wildlifeand the wild placesthat we want futuregenerations to enjoy.Make sure to “check”for wildlife on yourstate tax return.Look for the peregrinefalcon symbol anddonate all or a portion of your tax refund to theWildlife ConservationFund. You can alsodonate throughout theyear by calling (402)471-0641 or visit usonline for details at.OutdoorNebraska.org
All donations are fully tax deductible
Nongame Is...
Over 2,000 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles,amphibians, and plants are considered nongame species inNebraska, species that are not hunted, trapped or fished.Species such as hawks and herons, bats and brown snakes,turtles and frogs, flying squirrels and prairie flowers. Inaddition, tens of thousands of invertebrates, like beetlesand butterflies, also fall under the nongame category. Theseconstitute 98% of all species in Nebraska. By law, revenuefrom hunting and fishing licenses cannot be spent directly on nongame species. The Wildlife Conservation Fund,formerly The Nongame Species Fund, is the state’s primary source of funding for monitoring, researching, managingand conserving such spectacular species as the whoopingcrane, bald eagle, swift fox, river otter, western prairie fringedorchid, and blowout penstemon. By supporting the Fundwith a tax-deductible donation, you are taking an active part inconserving our state’s diverse wildlife and our natural legacy for future generations.
Nebraska’s River Otters
By Amy Williams and Sam Wilson
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Annual Report of the Wildlife Conservation Fund
The river otter is native to Nebraska andcould be found in most rivers, streams andwetlands up until the early 1900’s when it waseliminated due to habitat destruction in theform of draining of wetlands and destructionof stream side habitatsand unregulatedtrapping. Fortunately river otters werenot eliminatedeverywhere andNebraska was ableto reintroduce riverotters with the help of trappers in states likeLouisiana, Idaho, andAlaska. Between 1986and 1991 more than150 river otters weretrapped in other statesand released at 7 sitesin Nebraska. They can still be found inthe areas they werereintroduced and arecurrently listed as athreatened species inNebraska.Despite the high profile of thereintroduction and role as a flagship species,relatively little is known about river otterecology in Nebraska. In 2006 the StateWildlife Grants program and the Wildlife
Pppa a ice edge, Nr Plae River near Lewellen
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Blue flag
(Iris virginica)
Swif Fx
Conservation Fund began providingfunding to the Nebraska CooperativeFish and Wildlife Research Unit(NCFWRU) to collaborate with theNebraska Game and Parks Commission(NGPC) in conducting a study withthe objective of trapping 20 river ottersand collecting information on homerange, habitat use, daily and seasonalmovements, and survival along the bigbend area of the Platte River using radiotelemetry.The river otter telemetry study concluded this year with a total of 18otters being trapped and implanted withtransmitters and over 1200 locationstaken over the past three years. NGPCNon-game Mammal and FurbearerProgram Manager and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student SamWilson will complete the telemetry study by determining habitat use and homerange size for river otters in Nebraska.Another collaborative project usingthe telemetry data began in fall of 2008.This project was inspired by the recentinvasion of common reed (Phragmitesaustralis), a large grass that is associatedwith wetlands. The ability of commonreed to spread rapidly and over largeareas has caused it to invade many nativeplant communities in Nebraska andencroach on wildlife habitat. Given theimportance of wetland habitats in theGreat Plains and their increasing invasionby non-native vegetation, it is criticalwe understand the effects of rapidly changing habitat on river otter use of thePlatte River.This study will provide information onthe effects of common reed on river ottermovements, den use, and habitat use forthe development of a management planfor river otters in Nebraska and to informPlatte River restoration efforts. The goalof this study is to gather quantitativedata regarding river otter interactionswith their habitat. The study will provideinsight into the effects of common reedon a state threatened species which willexpand our knowledge on the effectscommon reed has on wildlife and wildlifehabitat in Nebraska.While the information gained fromthese two studies will be paramount indeveloping a river otter managementplan, the absence of a populationestimate remains a problem. Due to theelusive nature of river otters, traditionalpopulation estimation methods such ascapture-mark-recapture are impractical.Recent developments in wildlife geneticshave presented researchers with apotential solution. Otter scat containsDNA and analysis of this DNA allowsresearchers to identify the individualthat deposited a specific sample. Thus,by using DNA analysis from collectedscat samples we can utilize the samemethodology of capture-mark-recapturewith the individual identification of DNAwithin scat samples. Currently a pilotstudy is underway that will be analyzingscat samples collected in the Big Bendregion of the Platte River to estimatepopulation size in that area. This smallscale study will allow us to determinethe appropriate techniques needed toyield the highest quality of DNA, andthus the highest quality results. Thisknowledge can then be used to determinethe feasibility of a statewide populationestimate using scat.The river otter is one of nature’smost playful and charismatic species.By keeping their populations healthy in Nebraska through research andmanagement we will be able to ensurethat they remain a part of the greatoutdoors here in Nebraska.This project could not have beencarried out without your donations tothe Wildlife Conservation Fund andthe help and support from the NebraskaCooperative Fish and Wildlife ResearchUnit, the Nature Conservancy, the PlatteRiver Whooping Crane MaintenanceTrust, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, and theNebraska Fur Harvesters.
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Mm and yearling n e iceMm and ki bnding
Scrounging is a way of life forNebraska Game and Park Commissionnongame biologists – an ornithologist,two mammalogists, a plant ecologist anda botanist (myself). We have learned tolook for a couple hundred dollars hereand a few thousand there until we findenough piecemeal funds for a project.Nongame species are native plants,wildlife and other organisms that are nothunted, trapped or fished. Although they make up the vast majority of Nebraska’sbiodiversity, funding for theirconservation is seldom straightforward oreasy to come by. By law, the Commissioncannot use money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses on nongamespecies – it can only be used to directly help game species. Similarly, funds fromthe sale of Habitat Stamps and AquaticHabitat Stamps, which are also requiredto hunt and fish, are used to purchase andmanage habitat for game species,although these habitats often benefitnative plants and nongame species aswell. Which brings us to the WildlifeConservation Fund, formerly known asthe Nongame and Endangered SpeciesConservation Fund. The WildlifeConservation Fund is the Commission’smost consistent funding source fornongame projects, primarily research,inventory and population monitoring.The money also helps fund educationefforts such as the new Master NaturalistProgram, which is designed to train volunteers to provide education, outreachand service for biodiversity conservation. While license and stampsales are the Commission’s primary funding sources, bringing in severalmillion dollars each year, theConservation Fund, initiated in 1985, isalmost totally supported throughdonations, primarily those made by individuals through the nongame “check-off” box located on state income taxforms. Donations to the ConservationFund peaked in 1997 at nearly $120,000,but have beendeclining since.Last year’sdonations were$96,000. Otherfunding sources for nongame speciesconservation in the state include theNebraska Environmental Trust Fund(NETF), which is supported through thestate lottery, and the federal State WildlifeGrant (SWG) program. NETF funds arecompetitive, meaning one must write agrant and compete against others to getfunds for a particular project. The federalgovernment has awarded SWG funds thelast several years, but continued SWGfunding is not guaranteed – Congressmust appropriate these funds annually and when budgets are tight, conservationfunding is often the first cut. Both NETFand SWG grants require matching funds,so Conservation Fund dollars are oftenused as the match, allowing theCommission to leverage several timesover any money that is donated to thefund. Conservation Fund money is usedfor those species at greatest risk of disappearing from our state, threatenedand endangered species such as the riverotter, Topeka shiner and small white-lady’s slipper orchid, but also on morecommon species we are trying to keepfrom becoming rarer. Examples of recentprojects completed with ConservationFund dollars include a rare plant survey on the central Niobrara River, a study of the recently discovered Platte Rivercaddisfly (see “Platte River Caddisfly”August 2009 NEBRASKAland), andsupport for the Lincoln Safari outdooreducation program. Another recenteffort supported by the ConservationFund is the Nebraska Long-billed CurlewSatellite Tracking Project, which is tryingto identify the previously unknownmigration routes and wintering habitat of curlews that breed in Nebraska. Twoadult female long-billed curlews, onenamed Sandy and the other Bailey, wereoutfitted with satellite transmitters inGarden County in May 2009 and thetracking is ongoing. Long-billed curlews(Numenius americanus) are NorthAmerica’s largest shorebird, standingnearly two feet tall. Named for their long,decurved bill and “curluoo” call, long-billed curlews have a buff-colored body,tinged with pink or cinnamon, and long,blue-gray legs. Unfortunately, like many grassland bird species, curlew populationsare in trouble – in 2007, their rangewidepopulation was estimated at 123,500individuals. Long-billed curlews nest inthe Great Plains and Intermountain Westand winter on the Gulf and Pacific coasts,as well as interior sites in Mexico andsouth Texas. “Breeding bird surveysshow curlews are a declining species witha long-term downward trend,” said JoelJorgensen, nongame bird programmanager for the Commission. “Curlewsrequire relatively large unbroken nativegrasslands for nesting and in Nebraskathey nest in the Sandhills and thePanhandle, primarily north of the NorthPlatte River. As native prairie is convertedto cropland or developed, curlew habitatis lost.” Breeding curlews arrive inNebraska from wintering sites by early April and most are nesting by late-April.Females generally lay four eggs in “nests”– lined scrapes on the ground – and bothmales and females incubate the eggs anddefend the nest. The eggs hatchsimultaneously and the young leave thenest a few hours after hatching. Thechicks mature rapidly and areindependent of the adults in about eightweeks. Both adults and young leave theirNebraska breeding grounds on their fallmigration by late-August. Until thetracking project began, the migrationroute and wintering grounds of Nebraska’s breeding curlews wereunknown to biologists. “We had onerecovery on the Texas coast from a bird
Nongame and endangered species need yourhelp – donations accepted!The WildlifeConservation Fund
By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist, NGPC
Photo by Cry Gregry 

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