Elk Update

More Cervid Contraception: GonaCon and ElkIn February, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission collared 11 elk for a study in north-central Nebraska. There are a few more details in this brief KOLN-TV report.

A new elk study in Montana got more coverage. There, 45 cow and 20 bull elk were fitted with tracking collars. Five of those were traditional radio collars, the rest were GPS collars. The two year study will investigate elk movement patterns and food. Read about it in the Ravalli Republic.

In Wyoming, the concern is the potential to spread of chronic wasting disease at the 22 artificial feeding stations run by the state and one at the National Elk Refuge. Read the opinion piece in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, here.

An opinion piece that is getting a lot of buzz ran in the New York Times recently. It says that wolves did not fix the Yellowstone ecosystem by preying on elk and allowing aspen to grow. No, the article says, the Yellowstone ecosystem is broken, and mere wolves can’t fix it. Read the article in the New York Times, here.

Photo of bull elk courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service


Feds Announce State Wildlife Grants

Oregon vesper sparrow and Mazama pocket gopher; mountain plover, burrowing owl and McCown’s longspur; the palila, a rapidly-declining Hawaiian honeycreeper; Karner blue butterfly, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, and northern harrier; and white-tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah, and black-tailed prairie dogs are among the non-game species to benefit from this round of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grants.

The competitive federal grants focus on large-scale, cooperative conservation projects for Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) that are included in State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plans (also known as State Wildlife Action Plans — what would government be without changing terminology?).

Seven projects will take place in 12 states: Washington (2), Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Texas, Wyoming (and also British Columbia, Canada).

Read about the projects in the USFWS press release, here. Don’t bother to follow the link in the press release for more information about individual projects. It takes you to information about the grants that hasn’t been updated in years.

Photo: Black-tailed prairie dog, by Gary M. Stolz, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service


Snow Goose Origins

Snow geese present a tricky wildlife management situation. Their numbers have increased so much that they are harming the Arctic tundra where they raise their young.

Where are all these geese coming from? One theory says that they are fattening up on rice farms in the South. Since we can’t fly along with the geese as they migrate from their wintering grounds to their breeding grounds, questions remain.

A paper in a recent issue of the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology shows how stable isotopes can be used to determine the wintering grounds of northbound migrant lesser snow geese in the Mississippi and Central flyways. The paper suggests that the same technique can be used to determine the summer location of southbound migrants in the fall.

Finally, the authors say that their techniques can also be used to determine critical habitat for other waterfowl species.

The Avian Conservation and Ecology paper is open access. Read it here.

Photo: Snow geese in Iowa. Photo by Dave Menke, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

20 Mountain Lions in Nebraska’s Pine Ridge

A recent dog-tracking survey and DNA analysis shows that Nebraska’s Pine Ridge, in the panhandle, is home to 19 mountain lions. Scat-sniffing dogs found the scat, then 33 scat samples were sent for DNA analysis. The analysis revealed 19 individual mountain lions present in the region, which is near the border with South Dakota, and its known mountain lion population.

The story broke earlier this month. Here is a quick summary from Nebraska Central News. Another report comes from the Kearney Hub, which headlines with the biggest possible number of mountain lions. And here is a more in-depth report from the Lincoln Journal Star.

Grassland predators

Photo courtesy US Fish & Wildlife
The population of dickcissels, a grassland bird, is declining nationwide. Habitat fragmentation is thought to be a key factor. Researchers monitored 33 dickcissel nests in a highly fragmented agricultural landscape in Nebraska and Iowa. They found that 20 nests were completely depredated and that three were partially depredated. The nest predators were:
-nine snakes
-six small mammals
-six raccoons
-two brown-headed cowbirds
-one American mink
One nest was abandoned because of ants. Nine of the 33 nests fledged young. The researchers found the number of snake predators notable.
The study appeared in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.