Wyoming Studies Mountain Goats

mtn goat wyomingThe Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently captured four mountain goats in the western part of the state as part of an on-going study into the animals’ travel between Idaho and Wyoming, says an Associate Press article in the Billings Gazette.

An article in the Caspar Star-Tribune adds that, “the goats were tranquilized while biologists collected nasal and tonsil swabs, blood and fecal samples.”

Mountain goats are not native to Wyoming, the articles state. But apparently, they are native to adjoining Idaho. After being reintroduced to Idaho, some of the mountain goats wandered over to Wyoming.

Photo: Mountain goat, courtesy of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Good News from Pygmy Rabbit Relocation Project

pygmy rabbitPenny Becker, a research scientist overseeing the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit recovery effort for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife is pleased with the 40 percent survival rate of the rabbits released through a breeding program that brought in rabbits from surrounding states, according to an article in the Seattle Times.

That 40 percent survival rate compares to a survival rate of 10 percent for wildlife pygmy rabbits in Oregon, and 22 percent for wild pygmy rabbits in Idaho, the article says. The population was listed as federally endangered in 2003.

Read the entire story in the Seattle Times, here.

Photo: pygmy rabbit, perhaps in Idaho. Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

Prairie Chicken and Sage Grouse Reintroductions

Male greater prairie chickenGreater prairie chickens are booming again this spring in Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie, Missouri. The species had been extirpated from the area until five years ago when the Missouri Department of Conservation translocated some greater prairie chickens from Kansas.

State biologists studying the birds have learned a lot about their habitat needs and have been surprised by the interplay between the donor population back in Kansas and the newly-established Missouri population.

The restoration offers hope to other states and regions trying to restore the greater prairie chicken, which is an endangered species in Missouri, when there is limited habitat available.

Read more in the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here.

In Alberta, Canada, a two-year project to relocate some 40 sage grouse from Montana appears to be successful, says an article in the Calgary Herald. Human development, including oil drilling, had nearly wiped the species out in the province. Last year, poor weather hurt the reproduction of the introduced birds, but this year biologists believe the birds are nesting.

Read more in the Calgary Herald.

The key word mentioned in both reintroduction stories: “hopeful.”

Photo: Male greater prairie chicken courtship display, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Return of a Classic Beetle

“The last documented American burying beetle in Missouri was collected from Newton County (southwest Missouri) in the mid-1970s,” says a US Fish and Wildlife press release. “Historically, It was recorded in 35 states, including 13 counties throughout Missouri, and was most likely found throughout the state.”

In June, the federally endangered beetle will return to the Missouri prairie, with the reintroduction of American burying beetles bred at the St. Louis Zoo. The zoo-bred beetles will be released on The Nature Conservancy’s Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie (link to more info about the reintroduction).

Local news reports seem to be focusing on the fact that this population has been declared “experimental,” so the usual Endangered Species Act protections don’t apply.
Springfield News-Leader
St. Louis Public Radio

Photo courtesy of US Forest Service

Winter Research Roundup

In New York State, a recent survey of the spruce grouse population revealed that there are not many of the birds left in that state. A revised management plan seeks to restore the population.
An Albany Times-Union article about the survey and results
A link to download the spruce grouse management plan.

New York State has also released a management plan for bobcats. The plan includes a survey of the state’s current bobcat population. Comments on the plan are being accepted until February 16.
Read an article about the plan in North Country News, here.
Here’s the state’s bobcat page, with a link to the management plan.

In California, the Department of Fish and Game is looking for volunteers over 16 years old and in good health to help count bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains on March 4. There is an orientation on March 3.
Read an article from KPPC, southern California public radio, here.
Go to a website dedicated to the count, here.

Also in California, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will review the status of the San Bernardino flying squirrel. It’s soliciting information about the flying squirrel and its habitat from state and federal natural resource agencies until April 2.
Read the article in the Riverside Press-Enterprise
The US Fish and Wildlife service press release is here.

Bobcat photo courtesy of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit’s Last Stand

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is making what may be a final attempt to restore the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit to its native habitat. A 2007 attempt to reintroduce zoo-bred rabbits into the wild ended in most of the naive rabbits being eaten by predators.

This time the rabbits will be released into a fenced enclosure, with gradual exposure to predators through smaller enclosures with tunnels to the outside. The rabbits are not pure-bred Columbia Basin pygmies, but have been bred with pygmy rabbits from Idaho and Oregon, which are not endangered. In fact, most other pygmy rabbits in the West thrive.

Read more in this article in the Idaho Statesman. An InsideScience report on the restoration is available via US News and World Report. Or read the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife press release. Read the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s species profile (well technically, a “distinct population segment” profile) here.

Photo: A pygmy rabbit of unknown distinct population segment, likely from Idaho, courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Photo Credit: R. Dixon (IDFG) and H. Ulmschneider (BLM)