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Keep up with the latest research and projects from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff.

Flames on the Niobrara

The story of a prescribed burn By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist My introduction to the central Niobrara River Valley came in 1984 when, fresh out of college, I interned on The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve located east of Valentine. My job on the recently-acquired preserve was to design and build nature trails, help move cattle between pastures on horseback, and fix windmills and fences, along with other miscellaneous ranch duties. On evenings and weekends, I explored. For a kid from …

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Community Science for the Birds

By Alie Mayes, Community Science Education Specialist Are you a bird nerd? Maybe you like to casually watch birds visit your backyard feeder. Or perhaps you visit local green spaces in hopes of spotting some of your favorite feathered friends. Or maybe you have only recently started noticing the birds that you see every day. Whether you are new to bird watching or have been enjoying it for years, community science is a great way to level up your hobby …

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Deer Fangs

By Brian Peterson In Nebraska, male white-tailed and mule deer are most recognized by their elaborate, showy antlers. While we all have observed deer or pictures of deer with antlers, have you ever encountered a deer with fangs or tusks — canine teeth? If you have, this is extremely rare, possibly a 1 in 10,000 occurrence. Both whitetail and mule deer have two lower “incisiform” canines which look and function like incisors and are used for foraging and browsing vegetation, …

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The Butterfly Explorers

Story and photos by Renae Blum It had been a slow year so far. But not at this moment. Joanne Langabee calls out, “I’ve got an orange and a blue!” Her companion, Holly Hofreiter, responds almost immediately: “I’ve got a Peck’s” — short for Peck’s skipper. One butterfly after another materializes from the prairie grasses at their feet, just seconds apart, but the women aren’t fazed. They continue calling back and forth in a kind of butterfly shorthand, identifying new …

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A Researcher’s Field Season — Part III

By Allison Barg, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Graduate Assistant Read Part I: https://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2022/04/a-researchers-field-season-part-i/ Read Part II: https://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2022/05/a-researchers-field-season-part-ii/ One of the hardest and most interesting aspects of research is that answering one question generally leads to at least three new ones. For example: What is the best way to count pheasants? Answer: Males crow regularly during the breeding season, so we can listen for those calls and count how many we hear. Easy, right? But to make those counts useful, we …

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A Researcher’s Field Season – Part II

By Allison Barg, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Graduate Assistant Welcome back! We are now a little over halfway through the pheasant breeding season, a.k.a my field season. Here is an update on what’s going on in the field this week. If you missed reading Part I of this series, catch up here: http://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2022/04/a-researchers-field-season-part-i/ May 2, 2022 3:30 a.m. – If you read my last post, you may be thinking, “Wow, that seems a lot earlier than last time.” That is …

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Discovering Slime Molds

Story and photos by Gerry Steinauer Two years ago, while morel mushroom hunting in a creekside woodland near Aurora, I saw a pink, dime-sized “ball” sprouting from a log. Baffled, I concluded it was a strange puffball mushroom. I snapped a photo and texted it to my go-to guy for mushroom identification, Chance Brueggemann, woodland ecologist at Indian Cave State Park. His response: “It’s wolf’s milk, a slime mold.” I wasn’t sure what a slime mold was. I assumed they …

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A Researcher’s Field Season – Part I

By Allison Barg, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Graduate Assistant “I put pheasant habitat on my property. Why don’t I have any pheasants?” University of Nebraska-Lincoln biologists are trying to answer this question. Many Nebraska landowners and wildlife managers have noticed that in parts of the state where there are swaths of land covered in what looks to be ideal pheasant habitat, there are no pheasants. It turns out that the “if you build it, they will come” approach doesn’t always …

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Rarer Than a Three-Spurred Rooster

By Cassidy Wessel, Wildlife Biologist I can remember the first rooster pheasant I ever held as a kid, standing over the trash can in our garage helping my dad clean birds and thinking that this brown, purple, blue, red and green iridescent thing might just be too pretty to pluck. And I’m sure I did think “pluck” — skinning a bird at that time would have been completely foreign to me. Pheasants were rare table fare. Being the fifth generation …

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Turtles at Home in Nebraska

The Sandhills region is tops for Blanding’s turtle habitat and numbers Grass-covered sand dunes accented by wetland marshes and lakes as far as the eye can see. Humans and vehicle traffic sparse. Vibrant community of turtles and other wildlife. If real estate advertisements targeted wildlife, such words would catch the eye of at least one species. Thanks to research at the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, we know many Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are already living the good life in the …

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