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Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Annual Report of the Wildlife Conservation Fund
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Remember our wildlife and the wild places that we want future generations to enjoy. Make sure to “check” for wildlife on your state tax return.
Over 2,000 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and plants are considered nongame species in Nebraska, 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. In addition, tens of thousands of invertebrates, like beetles and butterflies, also fall under the nongame category. These constitute 98% of all species in Nebraska. By law, revenue from 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, managing and conserving such spectacular species as the whooping crane, bald eagle, swift fox, river otter, western prairie fringed orchid, and blowout penstemon. By supporting the Fund Blue flag (Iris virginica) with a tax-deductible donation, you are taking an active part in conserving our state’s diverse wildlife and our natural legacy for future generations.
Nebraska’s River Otters
By Amy Williams and Sam Wilson The river otter is native to Nebraska and could be found in most rivers, streams and wetlands up until the early 1900’s when it was eliminated due to habitat destruction in the form of draining of wetlands and destruction of stream side habitats and unregulated trapping. Fortunately river otters were not eliminated everywhere and Nebraska was able to reintroduce river otters with the help of trappers in states like Louisiana, Idaho, and Alaska. Between 1986 and 1991 more than 150 river otters were trapped in other states and released at 7 sites in Nebraska. They can still be found in the areas they were reintroduced and are currently listed as a threatened species in Nebraska. Despite the high profile of the reintroduction and role as a flagship species, relatively little is known about river otter ecology in Nebraska. In 2006 the State Wildlife Grants program and the Wildlife
All donations are fully tax deductible
Poppa at ice edge, North Platte River near Lewellen
Photo by Bob Grier
Look for the peregrine falcon symbol and donate all or a portion of your tax refund to the Wildlife Conservation Fund. You can also donate throughout the year by calling (402) 471-0641 or visit us online for details at. OutdoorNebraska.org
Photo by Gerry Steinauer
Conservation Fund began providing funding to the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (NCFWRU) to collaborate with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) in conducting a study with the objective of trapping 20 river otters and collecting information on home range, habitat use, daily and seasonal movements, and survival along the big bend area of the Platte River using radio telemetry. The river otter telemetry study concluded this year with a total of 18 otters being trapped and implanted with transmitters and over 1200 locations taken over the past three years. NGPC Non-game Mammal and Furbearer Program Manager and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student Sam Wilson will complete the telemetry study by determining habitat use and home range size for river otters in Nebraska. Another collaborative project using the telemetry data began in fall of 2008. This project was inspired by the recent invasion of common reed (Phragmites australis), a large grass that is associated with wetlands. The ability of common reed to spread rapidly and over large areas has caused it to invade many native plant communities in Nebraska and encroach on wildlife habitat. Given the importance of wetland habitats in the Great Plains and their increasing invasion by non-native vegetation, it is critical we understand the effects of rapidly changing habitat on river otter use of the Platte River. This study will provide information on the effects of common reed on river otter movements, den use, and habitat use for the development of a management plan for river otters in Nebraska and to inform Platte River restoration efforts. The goal of this study is to gather quantitative data regarding river otter interactions with their habitat. The study will provide insight into the effects of common reed on a state threatened species which will expand our knowledge on the effects common reed has on wildlife and wildlife habitat in Nebraska. While the information gained from these two studies will be paramount in developing a river otter management plan, the absence of a population estimate remains a problem. Due to the elusive nature of river otters, traditional population estimation methods such as capture-mark-recapture are impractical. Recent developments in wildlife genetics have presented researchers with a potential solution. Otter scat contains DNA and analysis of this DNA allows
Mom and yearling on the ice
Mom and kit bonding
researchers to identify the individual that deposited a specific sample. Thus, by using DNA analysis from collected scat samples we can utilize the same methodology of capture-mark-recapture with the individual identification of DNA within scat samples. Currently a pilot study is underway that will be analyzing scat samples collected in the Big Bend region of the Platte River to estimate population size in that area. This small scale study will allow us to determine the appropriate techniques needed to yield the highest quality of DNA, and thus the highest quality results. This knowledge can then be used to determine the feasibility of a statewide population
estimate using scat. The river otter is one of nature’s most playful and charismatic species. By keeping their populations healthy in Nebraska through research and management we will be able to ensure that they remain a part of the great outdoors here in Nebraska. This project could not have been carried out without your donations to the Wildlife Conservation Fund and the help and support from the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the Nature Conservancy, the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, and the Nebraska Fur Harvesters.
Photo by Bob Grier
Photo by Bob Grier
Nongame and endangered species need your help – donations accepted! The Wildlife Conservation Fund
By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist, NGPC Scrounging is a way of life for Nebraska Game and Park Commission nongame biologists – an ornithologist, two mammalogists, a plant ecologist and a botanist (myself). We have learned to look for a couple hundred dollars here and a few thousand there until we find enough piecemeal funds for a project. Nongame species are native plants, wildlife and other organisms that are not hunted, trapped or fished. Although they make up the vast majority of Nebraska’s biodiversity, funding for their conservation is seldom straightforward or easy to come by. By law, the Commission cannot use money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses on nongame species – it can only be used to directly help game species. Similarly, funds from the sale of Habitat Stamps and Aquatic Habitat Stamps, which are also required to hunt and fish, are used to purchase and manage habitat for game species, although these habitats often benefit native plants and nongame species as well. Which brings us to the Wildlife Conservation Fund, formerly known as the Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Fund. The Wildlife Conservation Fund is the Commission’s most consistent funding source for nongame projects, primarily research, inventory and population monitoring. The money also helps fund education efforts such as the new Master Naturalist Program, which is designed to train volunteers to provide education, outreach and service for biodiversity conservation. While license and stamp sales are the Commission’s primary funding sources, bringing in several million dollars each year, the Conservation Fund, initiated in 1985, is almost totally supported through donations, primarily those made by individuals through the nongame “checkoff” box located on state income tax forms. Donations to the Conservation Fund peaked in 1997 at nearly $120,000, but have been declining since. Last year’s donations were $96,000. Other funding sources for nongame species conservation in the state include the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund (NETF), which is supported through the state lottery, and the federal State Wildlife Grant (SWG) program. NETF funds are competitive, meaning one must write a grant and compete against others to get funds for a particular project. The federal government has awarded SWG funds the last several years, but continued SWG funding is not guaranteed – Congress must appropriate these funds annually and when budgets are tight, conservation funding is often the first cut. Both NETF and SWG grants require matching funds, so Conservation Fund dollars are often used as the match, allowing the Commission to leverage several times over any money that is donated to the fund. Conservation Fund money is used for those species at greatest risk of disappearing from our state, threatened and endangered species such as the river otter, Topeka shiner and small whitelady’s slipper orchid, but also on more common species we are trying to keep from becoming rarer. Examples of recent projects completed with Conservation Fund dollars include a rare plant survey on the central Niobrara River, a study of the recently discovered Platte River caddisfly (see “Platte River Caddisfly” August 2009 NEBRASKAland), and support for the Lincoln Safari outdoor education program. Another recent effort supported by the Conservation Fund is the Nebraska Long-billed Curlew Satellite Tracking Project, which is trying to identify the previously unknown migration routes and wintering habitat of curlews that breed in Nebraska. Two adult female long-billed curlews, one named Sandy and the other Bailey, were
Photo by Cory Gregory
outfitted with satellite transmitters in Garden County in May 2009 and the tracking is ongoing. Long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus) are North America’s largest shorebird, standing nearly two feet tall. Named for their long, decurved bill and “curluoo” call, longbilled curlews have a buff-colored body, tinged with pink or cinnamon, and long, blue-gray legs. Unfortunately, like many grassland bird species, curlew populations are in trouble – in 2007, their rangewide population was estimated at 123,500 individuals. Long-billed curlews nest in the Great Plains and Intermountain West and winter on the Gulf and Pacific coasts, as well as interior sites in Mexico and south Texas. “Breeding bird surveys show curlews are a declining species with a long-term downward trend,” said Joel Jorgensen, nongame bird program manager for the Commission. “Curlews require relatively large unbroken native grasslands for nesting and in Nebraska they nest in the Sandhills and the Panhandle, primarily north of the North Platte River. As native prairie is converted to cropland or developed, curlew habitat is lost.” Breeding curlews arrive in Nebraska 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 both males and females incubate the eggs and defend the nest. The eggs hatch simultaneously and the young leave the nest a few hours after hatching. The chicks mature rapidly and are independent of the adults in about eight weeks. Both adults and young leave their Nebraska breeding grounds on their fall migration by late-August. Until the tracking project began, the migration route and wintering grounds of Nebraska’s breeding curlews were unknown to biologists. “We had one recovery on the Texas coast from a bird
banded in Nebraska in 1933, but that’s it,” said Jorgensen. “It was easy to speculate that our birds headed to the Texas Gulf Coast vicinity, but speculation is one thing and solid data to back it up is another. “Our curlews spend only a few months on their breeding grounds and the rest of the year they are somewhere else. To develop effective conservation strategies to preserve the birds here, we needed to know where these highly mobile birds were going the rest of the year,” said Jorgensen. “We may be doing everything right in Nebraska, the birds may have adequate breeding habitat and food sources, but if something is afoul elsewhere in their range, our efforts may be in vain. That’s the reason for the study.” Cory Gregory, an Iowa State University graduate student, captured both Sandy and Bailey during their nesting attempts and fitted them with transmitters as part of his larger statewide project to estimate breeding curlew numbers, nest and chick survival, and determine what kind of brood- rearing habitat they require. Along with the Commission, partners in the study include Iowa State University, the
University of Nebraska, the Sandhills Taskforce and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Satellite transmitters, a relatively new technology, use a Global Positioning System (GPS) to track migratory birds. The light-weight, solarpowered transmitters are attached to a bird’s back with a Teflon harness and cause little impediment to movement. The transmitters attached to Sandy and Bailey sent signals that were downloaded daily by Gregory and Jorgensen and indicated that the birds left Nebraska on their fall migration in June after failed nesting attempts and ended up on the Texas-Mexico border several days later. Both birds appeared to have settled on inland wetlands or lagoons just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but how long they will remain there is uncertain. At the time of this writing, signals had not been received from Bailey’s transmitter for several weeks and Jorgensen feared it may have fallen off or become defective. The Sandhills Taskforce and money from a State Wildlife Grant paid for the transmitters, but Wildlife Conservation Fund money was used to cover the cost of the satellite
service, which must be subscribed to on a monthly basis and will likely run several thousand dollars by project’s end. Jorgensen said he was pleased with the study’s results so far and happy that they were able to determine where Nebraska curlews are wintering, which ultimately might help biologists protect the species from further decline. He also said that without the Conservation Fund, which he’s tapped into for several projects over the past couple of years, the curlew study and others like it might never have happened. “The Conservation Fund is the only flexible money source I have access to. I don’t have to write a grant to get it and I can use it as match to get other conservation dollars. I’m not sure what I would do without it.” Donations to the Wildlife Conservation Fund can be made through a check written to the fund and sent to the Commission at P.O. Box 30370, Lincoln, NE 68503-0370. Contributions to the fund can also be made by using the nongame check-off box found on state income tax forms. All contributions are tax deductible.
Donations to the Nebraska Nongame Tax Check-off Program
1990 1991 1992 1990 1992
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2000 2002 2004 2006
2008 2009 2008
We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of the countless people in our state that donate all or a portion of their state income tax return to help conserve Nebraska’s precious nongame wildlife. This, along with the generous direct donations throughout the year, allows us to continue in our mission to conserve our state’s diverse wildlife for future generations.
Nebraska’s Legacy of Biological Diversity
By Melissa Jo Santiago Focuses on efforts to aid individual species and larger ecological communities and landscapes. Property owners have shown growing interest in ecosystem rehabilitation plans. Prospects for ecosystem restoration are increasing with more landowners becoming involved in conservation projects. The level of accomplishment seen so far is largely because of the collaboration of partners and a network of biologists with the opportunity, training, and experience to implement habitat improvements. Working together, we can continue to conserve wildlife and their habitats. The appreciation and conservation of wildlife and the great outdoors are values that can be shared and passed on to future generations. The state, along with voluntary participants, has undertaken the important task of ensuring continued biological diversity through a partnership initiative known as the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project. Legacy Project’s main objective is to conserve proactively our at-risk animal and plant species, by focusing our efforts in biologically unique landscapes (BULs) across the state. There are 40 BULs that provide habitat to more than 600 species that face potential threats to their survival. It is typically more cost-effective to prevent species’ declines than to try to bring threatened and endangered species back from the brink of extinction. Agencies, organizations and individuals are collaborating statewide to achieve The Legacy Project’s many goals, including habitat enhancement, monitoring of species, and conservation education. Funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, State Wildlife Grants, US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Landowner Incentive Program, and other sources have launched implementation of the Legacy Project. For example, The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (NRCS – EQIP) special initiative
designated 1 million dollars in 20082009 to create and enhance habitat in Biologically Unique Landscapes. Across Nebraska, Coordinating Wildlife Biologists are scrambling to keep up with interest from landowners and public managers, as the word spreads about land management practices that benefit both landowners and wildlife. Habitat improvement projects include prescribed prairie fires, invasive plant species removal, fencing to establish grazing systems, wetland enhancement, conservation easements, wildlife surveys, and education activities such as landowner workshops and tours. Grassland management has been a key objective of the Natural Legacy Project. It involves several components. Prairie management actions can involve controlled burns, tree removal, and sometimes implementing a prescribed grazing regime. In 2009, the Legacy Project coordinated the burning of approximately 40,000 acres and cleared trees from 8,000 acres of Nebraskan prairie. In early spring of 2009, land managers conducted a controlled burn of 1420 acres at Clear Creek State Wildlife Management Area in Keith County,
Nebraska. A Terra Torch was used to ignite overgrown vegetation along the North Platte River and the northwest side of Lake McConaughy. At the Bohemia Prairie State Wildlife Management Area in Knox County, Nebraska, burning and grazing were incorporated into the management strategy, setting an example for other land managers interested in maintaining grassland communities. Fire is very beneficial in maintaining healthy grasslands and is a natural ecological process that historically occurred more frequently. Fire suppression has altered the natural community, eliminating habitat for most species. Prescribed burning is an effective and safe way to decrease invasive plant numbers and allow for the rejuvenation of native species. Local fire coalitions and experts work together to ensure prescribed burns are safe and do not infringe on adjacent property.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff works with non-profit Loess Canyon Rangeland Alliance (LCRA) personnel to control-burn invasive and overgrown vegetation on 1420 acres on the northwest side of Lake McConaughy and along the North Platte River at Clear Creek State Wildlife Management Area in Keith County, Nebraska.
Photo by Rocky hoffmann
In order to ensure conservation actions are effective, biologists conduct annual surveys for at-risk species. Recently, surveys were conducted on both public and private lands for the endangered American Burying Beetle in Verdigre-Bazile Watershed and the Loess Canyons Biologically Unique Landscapes. American Burying Beetles have a shiny black appearance and distinct orange bands on each wing cover. They are the largest burying carrion feeding insects in North America, growing up to 1 ½ inches long. The American Burying Beetle lives in the north-central and southwest– central portions of the state. The beetles inhabit wet meadows in sandhills, open woodlands, loess prairie, and Platte River riparian woodlands. Biologists performed surveys to document the presence and monitor populations of this endangered beetle. Finding locations where remnant populations were present was necessary to prioritize areas that needed protection. Additionally, Red Cedar and other invasive species in the Loess Canyons were removed in an effort to benefit the beetles. Red Cedars can dominate an area, preventing the growth and establishment of other species. In 2009, landowners and contractors completed 600 acres of tree removal in the Loess Canyons to create a more open landscape, effectively improving habitat quality for the American Burying Beetle, as well as other native wildlife.
Biological Surveys and Habitat Enhancements
Long-billed Curlews are also a Tier I at-risk species in Nebraska. Curlews require short-grass and mixed-grasslands for breeding and use a variety of wetland and agricultural habitats during migration and winter. In Nebraska, the species is now limited to north-central and western Nebraska where large tracts
Research – Migration
of native prairie remain. This currently includes the Nebraska Sandhills and prairies in the panhandle. Iowa State graduate student Cory Gregory equipped 2 Long-billed Curlews with satellite transmitters to obtain a better understanding of the birds’ habits and migration patterns. This collaborative research project is supported
Nebraska’s 40 Biologically Unique Landscapes are distributed across the state’s 4 primary ecoregions: 1. tallgrass Prairie, 2. Mixedgrass Prairie, 3. Shortgrass Prairie, and 4. Sandhills. these landscapes support diverse ecological communities.
Biologically Unique Landscapes in Nebraska
TALLGRASS PRAIRIE Elkhorn Confluence Indian Cave Bluffs Lower Platte River Missouri River Ponca Bluffs Rainwater Basin East Rulo Bluffs Saline Wetlands Sandstone Prairies Southeast Prairies Thurston-Dakota Bluffs MIXEDGRASS PRAIRIE Central Loess Hills Central Platte River Keya Paha Watershed Loess Canyons Lower Loup River Lower Niobrara River Middle Niobrara River Valley Platte Confluence Rainwater Basin West Verdigre-Bazile Watershed SANDHILLS Cherry County Wetlands Dismal River Headwaters Elkhorn River Headwaters Middle Niobrara River Valley Platte Confluence Sandhills Alkaline Lakes Snake River Upper Loup River and Tributaries SHORTGRASS PRAIRIE Kimball Grasslands North Platte River Wetlands Oglala Grasslands Panhandle Prairies Pine Ridge Platte Confluence Sandsage (North and South) Upper Niobrara River Wildcat Hills
the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project protects at-risk or threatened and endangered species such as the state and federally listed American Burying Beetle.
Verdigre-Bazile Watershed Willow Creek Prairies
Photo by Cory Gregory
A Long-billed Curlew, one of Nebraska’s tier I at-Risk species, is fitted with a lightweight satellite transmitter that allows biologists to track habits and migration patterns in order to develop better conservation measures.
by the Nebraska State Wildlife Grant Program, Iowa State University, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Wildlife Conservation Fund, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sandhills Task Force, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Migratory Birds - Region 6, and
Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Transmitters allow researchers to track daily movements and view the birds’ travels over thousands of miles from a computer monitor using GPS technology. The two Long-billed Curlews were marked at Crescent Lake National
Wildlife Refuge in Garden County, Nebraska on 19 May 2009 and began flying south in June to their winter destination of coastal lagoons along the Gulf of Mexico. The information obtained from this study could be important for the long-term conservation of the species. The birds’ journeys can be followed at www.birdsnebraska.org. If you would like more information about the Natural Legacy Project and its implementation, visit the Legacy website at www.ngpc.state.ne.us/wildlife/ programs/legacy or contact Kristal Stoner, Wildlife Diversity Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 402-471-5444.
Project BEAK: Bird Education and Awareness for Kids
Check it out at www.projectbeak.org When a cartoon Rose-breasted Grosbeak sweetly sings complete with a moving beak, you may believe that this website is just for children, but this website is packed with fun resources for adults, teachers and children. Project BEAK is an interactive, web-based curriculum that contains scientifically accurate information about bird conservation, adaptations, Nebraska’s birds and those that are threatened and endangered. It also has resources specifically for teacher resources and tips for beginning birders. The curriculum is divided into six different modules – Birds and People, Adaptations, Nebraska Habitats, The Rare Ones, Birding Basics and Teacher Resources. Each module has information geared to students in grades 5th through 8th with classroom lesson plans already prepared so teachers can easily integrate this online curriculum with their existing plans. The information comes alive through videos, photos, and interactive diagrams and games making this website a fun and exciting way to engage students and adults. Lindsay Rogers, of the Lower Platte South NRD explains that “The website is designed to be extremely interactive. With videos, fun quizzes, and fantastic games, the Project BEAK website is a hit with kids and adults. And, the best part is that the entire website focuses on Nebraska’s birds and Nebraska’s ecosystems.”
Some interesting things to look for on this website include watching a marsh build a nest while suspended between wetland reeds. Also, did you know that the people of China (past and present) believe that the presence of a magpie brings happiness, unlimited opportunities, and good luck? If you have ever wondered why some birds have very long skinny beaks and while others are curved and thick, check out the “Build a bird” game and see how well your creation survives. Project BEAK is a product of the Nebraska Bird Partnership (NBP) which felt that the more students understand and are connected to the places where they live, the more they would care about what happens on the land. Youth and adults need to understand that they can make a difference for conservation. “Project BEAK is arguably one of the best bird and environmental education websites available, and what makes it even more unique is that it is entirely focused on Nebraska birds, rather than birds that Nebraska students may never see.” - Mike Carter, Playa Lakes Joint Venture Coordinator Project BEAK was made possible with cooperation from the Nebraska Educational Television, with funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund (Nongame Check-off). Individuals that made Project BEAK happen include teachers, resource professionals, ornithologists, and Educational Service Unit (ESU) staff. So find the singing Rose-breasted grosbeak at www.projectbeak.org and learn a little more about Nebraska’s birds!
The Bald Eagle’s Journey to Recovery
By Melissa Jo Santiago Maybe you’ve noticed it too. Perhaps if you enjoy paddling Nebraska Rivers, fishing at a favorite reservoir, or going wildlife watching, you may be seeing more Bald Eagles these days. Bald Eagle numbers have been rising and they continue to find success in the skies over Nebraska. Support for nongame wildlife and species and habitat conservation efforts have been helpful in the Bald Eagle’s recovery. The Bald Eagle is one of the country’s largest native birds of prey. As impressive and powerful as Bald Eagles are standing almost 3 feet tall and with a wingspan up to 8 feet, they have certainly been vulnerable to environmental threats and poor management policies of the past. Unregulated hunting in the late 1800’s and environmental contaminants led to a decline in the eagle’s population. The inadvertent ingestion of lead shot has been, and even today, remains a source of eagle poisoning. Additionally, insecticides capable of bio-accumulating, such as Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT), caused embryonic death or eggshell thinning that prevented adult Bald Eagles from being able to incubate their eggs without crushing them. By the mid 1960’s, 55-96% of Bald Eagle nests were failing. In 1972, the government banned the further use of DDT in the United States. But, it would take time and additional efforts to save the Bald Eagle. On 14 February 1978, our national bird, the Bald Eagle, was officially listed as an endangered species. With these legal protection measures in place, the Bald Eagle population would gradually begin to increase. In the state of Nebraska, the Bald Eagle was upgraded from endangered status to threatened status in the year 2000. Continued improvements would eventually lead to the bird’s removal from the federal threatened and endangered species list on 28 June 2007 and from the Nebraska threatened and endangered species list in October 2008. Presently, the Bald Eagle is still afforded protection from the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Historically in Nebraska, Bald Eagles bred in the eastern portion of the state
A bald eagle tends its chicks, Pierce Co. Nebraska
along its major riparian corridors. However by 1900, the bird was essentially extirpated as a breeding species within the state. In 1991, for the first time in over 100 years, a Bald Eagle pair successfully nested near Valley, Nebraska in Douglas County. The lone fledgling later died, but this significant event marked the beginning of a series of successful modern-day nesting attempts in the state. In 2007, a recent high number of 55 active Bald Eagle nests were documented. Each year, wildlife biologists and volunteers locate and monitor eagle nests across Nebraska. Because the birds have only recently been de-listed, these monitoring efforts are still important
in assessing population fluctuations and understanding eagle distribution within the state. Preliminary results from the 2009 breeding season suggest that approximately 82.4% of Bald Eagle nests located were active. Of the monitored nests, 78.6% were successful, where nesting success is defined as one or more eaglets fledging or leaving the nest. The vast majority of nests fledged 2 young. Mature eagles typically produce 1-3 young per year, but not all of these birds may fledge. Normally, 60-80% of juveniles survive their first year, and a wild Bald Eagle can live up to 28 years. In Nebraska, the majority of nesting has occurred in the northeastern and
Photo by Eric Fowler
north-central regions of the state near large bodies of water and major river courses. Most Bald Eagles choose to nest in forested areas near water. Large limbs support their massive nests that enlarge as the eagles continue to add nesting material each breeding season. They may even upkeep the nest in the fall before migration. Nests are destroyed frequently in stormy weather and high winds. If the birds don’t rebuild a nest after loss, they move on to a new location, sometimes very close to their original nest site. Bald Eagle numbers have increased in Nebraska and the rest of the United States. However, there are still threats to these grand birds such as the persistence of lead shot in prey and the environment, power line injuries, habitat loss, and lax guidelines regarding pesticide applications in other countries frequented by birds on migration routes. These factors may lead to future challenges but for now, the Bald Eagle population appears stable. Bald Eagle population and nest monitoring should continue on a proactive premise to facilitate the continued success of the species. Fortunately, the current path to recovery has had few obstacles. More information is available by contacting Joel Jorgensen, Nongame Bird Program Manager at joel.jorgensen@ nebraska.gov or 402-471-5440. Number of active Bald Eagle nests in the state of Nebraska, (1987-2008). Nesting has far surpassed the initial recovery goal of 10 nesting pairs in the state and 1.0 fledgling per nest.
Bald Eagles nest along Nebraska’s major rivers and lakes. Eagles choose a large tree near a body of water to support their massive nest.
Bald Eagle Nests in Nebraska
Number of Active Nests
50 40 30 20 10 0
Number of active Bald Eagle nests in the state of Nebraska, (1987-2008). Nesting has far surpassed the initial recovery goal of 10 nesting pairs in the state and 1.0 fledgling per nest.
Causes of mortality of Bald Eagles collected in Nebraska, (1988-2005)*
Cause of Mortality Collision Electrocution Gunshot Lead poisoning Poisoning Trap Unknown Number 10 21 10 9 8 2 102 Percent 6% 13% 6% 6% 5% 1% 63%
Photo by Eric Fowler
*from Jorgensen, Joel. 2008. Recommendation to remove the Bald Eagle from the List of threatened and Endangered Species in Nebraska. May 2008. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Lincoln, NE, USA.
Bald Eagle nest, Pierce Co. Nebraska
19 87 19 88 19 89 19 90 19 91 19 92 19 93 19 94 19 95 19 96 19 97 19 98 19 99 20 00 20 01 20 02 20 03 20 04 20 05 20 06 20 07 20 08
2200 N. 33rd St./PO Box 30370 Lincoln NE 68503-0370
Donate to the Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund Help protect our natural legacy by making a tax-deductible donation to the fund. The Fund supports the conservation of Nebraska’s diverse wildlife (including endangered and threatened species). For your donation of $40 you will receive a premium of a T-Shirt Short sleeve T-Shirt - Adult S, M, L, XL, XXL
To donate call 402-471-0641 or go online at www.OutdoorNebraska.org
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Mail to Wildlife Conservation Fund PO Box 30370, 2200 N 33rd, Lincoln NE 68503-0370 All gifts are tax-deductible. Please make checks payable to Wildlife Fund To donate online visit www.OutdoorNebraska.org/wildlife/programs/nongame/ngdonate.asp
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