Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund
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Projects Funded by the Wildlife
Benefitting wildlife in your community
Selected Nebraska Wildlife Conservation Fund Projects, 2007-Present
(Projects with asterisks are scheduled to begin in 2012)
Long-billed Curlew Satellite Telemetry
The Long-billed Curlew, the largest shorebird in the U.S., nests in several western states, including northwest Nebraska. However, little is known about migration routes, transit times, and specific wintering areas for our nesting birds. This project helped researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University place transmitters on two Nebraska curlews that could be tracked by satellite, providing nearly continuous location data as the birds made their way to and from northeastern Mexico. More information about the project can be found at http://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/what/newsarchive/LongbilledCurlews2009.asp.
Peregrine Falcon and American Kestrel Nest Box Web Cameras
This project provides web-accessible views of the Peregrine Falcon nest box at the Nebraska State Capitol, and the American Kestrel nest box at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission headquarters building in Lincoln when the birds are active in the spring and summer. A video monitor and information kiosk is also installed at the capitol to provide real-time views of the peregrines to visitors. Links for viewing the nest boxes can be viewed found at http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/conservation/wildlife-viewing/viewing.asp.
Mountain Lion Scat Study
After being extirpated from the state for nearly a century, the first contemporary confirmation of a mountain lion in Nebraska occurred in 1991 near Harrison in Sioux County. Since then, confirmed sightings have increased in frequency across the state, and females with kittens in the Pine Ridge were confirmed in 1997. Many questions about Nebraska’s big cats remain, but perhaps most importantly, biologists needed information about how many animals were in the Pine Ridge population. Counting these secretive cats is notoriously difficult, but a new technique emerged that showed promise. By collecting droppings or “scat,” and analyzing the DNA they contain, researchers are able to identify the individual animals that produced the sample, as well as relationships among animals. By taking repeated surveys of the same area, biologists are also able to estimate the number of animals in the population. The first of these surveys was conducted in the Pine Ridge in 2010, and more are planned in the coming years. More information about the scat survey can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9yad3HBYgI, and about mountain lions in general at http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/wildlife_species_guide/mountainlion.asp.
Wildlife Ladders for Stock Tanks
Many kinds of animals are attracted to water, sometimes at their peril. In rangeland, stock tanks that provide water to cattle are often used by wildlife as well, but small animals that happen to fall into the tanks while drinking are sometimes unable to escape and eventually drown. However, drownings are reduced when “ladders” made of steel mesh are placed inside the edge of the tank. The Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, the primary project partner, has constructed more than one thousand of these ladders and distributed them to landowners in western Nebraska. More information about the project can be found at http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/programs/nongame/pdf/Wildlife%20Newsletter.pdf.
Project BEAK (Bird Education and Awareness for Kids) and Nebraska Bird Library
In partnership with the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nebraska Bird Partnership, this project produced an interactive website (www.projectbeak.org) filled with scientifically accurate information about Nebraska’s birds – their adaptations, interactions with humans, threatened and endangered species, and most importantly how to get out and go birding. Content was directed toward current teaching standards and thus specifically suited to classroom use. The partnership also produced the online Nebraska Bird Library (www.nebraskabirdlibrary.org), which contains species accounts for the over 400 bird species which can be found in Nebraska. Searchable by color, size, region, habitat, or by common or scientific name, each bird species account is filled with high quality images, bird descriptions, songs, habitat information, and Nebraska-specific bird locations.
Watchable Wildlife Small Grants Program*
This program will provide small grants to communities and organizations to develop and promote wildlife watching opportunities across the state.
Master Naturalist Program
The Master Naturalist Program provides conservation-related training to volunteers, who subsequently use what they have learned to assist conservation agencies and organizations in delivering conservation and education projects. More detailed information about the program can be found at http://naturalist.unl.edu and http://nebraskanaturenetwork.org.
Cooperative Outdoor Educator position with the USFWS in Grand Island
This is a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support a part-time Outdoor Educator in Grand Island to service central Nebraska. The position delivers age-appropriate education programs to primarily K-12 students.
Cooperative Outdoor Educator Position with the National Wild Turkey Federation in Norfolk
This is a partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation to support a full-time Outdoor Educator in Norfolk to service northeast Nebraska. The position delivers age-appropriate education programs to primarily K-12 students.
Southern Wings Program – Saltillo Grasslands Project
The program is sponsored by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which facilitated cooperative projects among state and federal wildlife agencies. The Southern Wings Program brings states together to support migratory bird conservation south of the U.S.-Mexico border, where many of our breeding migrants spend the winter. Nebraska is participating in the Program’s Saltillo Grasslands Project, which provides seed money for conservation projects in northeastern Mexico, where several of Nebraska’s grassland birds (e.g., Long-billed Curlew, Mountain Plover, Chestnut-collared and McCown’s longspurs) winter.
Midwinter Eagle Survey
Each January, biologists perform aerial surveys of Nebraska’s major rivers and reservoirs to count waterfowl and eagles wintering in the state. Together with similar data from other states, these surveys help monitor the regional health and distribution of the species present.
Glass Lizard and Timber Rattlesnake Surveys
This project funds a herpetologist to look for new populations of these two reptiles. The legless Western Slender Glass Lizard, which more resembles a snake, was recently re-discovered in southcentral Nebraska after having not been seen in the state since 1932. The Timber Rattlesnake was once common along the Missouri River bluffs from Plattsmouth to Rulo, but is now extremely rare in southeast Nebraska.
Patch Burn Grazing Study
Patch burn grazing is a technique that uses rotating prescribed burns, rather than cross-fencing, to distribute cattle grazing within a pasture. Cattle and other grazing animals tend to concentrate their feeding on recently burned areas, which produce more palatable new growth shortly after the fire. This grazing approach also has promise in providing the diverse grassland habitats needed by wildlife. This research project is measuring the effects of patch burn grazing in southeast Nebraska on both cattle performance and wildlife habitat, and is being conducted in partnership researchers at Oklahoma State University that helped pioneer this technique.
Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership
This partnership works to protect the endangered Interior Least Tern and threatened Piping Plover by reducing the likelihood of conflicts developing between people and birds, and by increasing the amount of habitat available to these species. The TPCP is a partnership among the University of Nebraska’s School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Environmental Trust and a group of sand and gravel industry cooperators having an interest in tern and plover conservation in Nebraska. For more information, visit http://ternandplover.unl.edu/.
Second Edition of the Nebraska Watchable Wildlife Viewing Guide*
This project will update the first edition of the guide, which was published in 1997. The guide provides information about and directions to 68 of the best places to view wildlife in the state, as well as tips for viewing wildlife and ethical considerations while doing so.
Monitoring Bird Responses to Habitat Management at Ponca and Indian Cave State Parks*
Many of eastern Nebraska’s woodland plant communities are threatened by the invasion of non-native plants such as buckthorn, tree of heaven, and garlic mustard. Removal of these exotics is underway at Ponca and Indian Cave state parks, among other public areas. This project will monitor the responses of birds using these treated woodlands.
Adaptive Management of Invasive Tree Removal in the Lower Niobrara River Valley
Eastern red cedar and other invasive tree species are increasingly dominant in woodlands along the lower Niobrara River, which is likely detrimental to species dependent on a more diverse woodland community. This research project is designed to measure the community responses to invasive species removal, and to help quantify the costs and benefits of such projects. The research is being conducted in conjunction with the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Nine-spotted Ladybird Beetle Survey*
The once common and widespread nine-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella novemnotata) has been collected only twice in the last decade in the United States. It was rediscovered in western Nebraska in 2005-2007, with six specimens collected from 4 counties. This project is to conduct searches for this species to assess population status, determine larval plant association, determine grazing impacts, and identify potential threats. The project will also conduct a genetic analysis of recently collected specimens and museum specimens to determine if genetic changes have occurred.
Support for the Nebraska Nature and Tourism Center
The Center, located at the Alda interchange along Interstate 80, is a non-profit organization that operates year-round and is solely supported by sponsorships, contributions, grants and program fees. It provides information, programs, and wildlife viewing opportunities to a diverse audience of all ages from Nebraska, the nation, and around the world to increase awareness and appreciation of the Platte River ecosystem. For more information, visit http://nebraskanature.org/.
Bat Surveys in Eastern and Western Nebraska
Nebraska has great potential to develop its wind resources into energy. However, wind turbines can cause significant mortality to birds and bats if wind turbines are located where these species are abundant. This project will help identify potential bat migration corridors in Nebraska, which in turn can help us develop wind energy in a wildlife-friendly manner.
Ute Ladies’-tresses Study
The Ute ladies’-tresses is a federally threatened and state endangered orchid. In Nebraska, it occurs in only two meadows in the Niobrara River valley in Sioux County. One of the meadows is being invaded by exotic cool-season grasses, which may threaten the orchid. This project will monitor vegetative conditions on the alkaline wet meadow with the Ute ladies’-tresses, monitor the Ute ladies’-tresses population on the meadow, and seek to correlate meadow management to vegetative condition and Ute ladies’-tresses population numbers.
Stories about additional projects can be found in past issues of the WCF newsletter at: http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/wildlife/programs/nongame/WCF_newsletters.asp
- Flying Squirrel Nest Box Project
- I80/American Kestrel Nest Box Project
- Swift Fox Scent Station Survey
- Bird Feeder Give-away at Elderly Care Facilities
- Bluebird Restoration Project
- Nebraska Prairie Partners Program
- Nongame Bird Conservation and Education Program
- Breeding Bird Atlas Project
- Platte River restoration projects/island clearing
- Salt Creek Tiger Beetle Study
- Arbor Lake Acquisition/Boardwalk and kiosk
- Fort Robinson Sheep Pen
- Heritage Program Startup
- Barn Owl Restoration Project projects
- Wildcat Hills Nature Center
- Ornate Box Turtle Study
- Sandhills Streams Inventory for T&E Fish
- Instream Flow Studies
- Seasonal Technicians for Nongame surveys
- Signage for least tern/piping plover, eagles, swift fox management projects
- Sandhills Recreation Study
- Prairie Dog Distribution Surveys
- Faucus Springs WMA
- Strategy for Nongame Bird Conservation Study
- Piping Plover Video – "A Vanishing Melody"
- International shorebird surveys and conservation planning
- Water bird surveys
- Herptile surveys
- Wet meadow study
- WMA lands inventory: map natural communities and
inventory T&E species
- Ecoregional Planning
- Mountain Plover Project
- GIS Database for survey sites
- Prairie Restoration
- Ferruginous Hawk nesting platforms
- Small White Lady Slipper Orchid transplant
- Topeka Shiner Survey
- Nebraska Natural Legacy Project