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

At-risk Species Spotlight: Northern Saw-whet Owl

At-risk Species Spotlight is a new, monthly blog post that will highlight one Nebraska animal that is at risk of extinction, with the goal of bringing awareness to the incredible diversity of wildlife we have in the state. See the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project to learn more about the conservation needs of these animals and the efforts to conserve them.    By Olivia DaRugna, Watchable Wildlife Biologist Owls are captivating and mysterious creatures of the night. Rarely seen but often …

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Listening for Bats

Surveying and Monitoring Nebraska Species By Leslie Reed, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Elusive creatures of the night, bats fly silently and erratically in the dark. They hide in nooks and crannies and caves. Because of these ghostly qualities, humans often don’t realize when bats are nearby. A University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientist is working with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and other federal and state agencies to use acoustic detectors to survey bat species and populations in …

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Searching for Spotted Skunks

And How Nebraskans Can Help By Alie Mayes, Community Science Specialist What’s black and white, and does stinky handstands when frightened? Why, the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius), of course! It’s not surprising if you’re not familiar with the eastern spotted skunk – or spotted skunk — as the rare mammal has not been reported in the state since 2017. In fact, there have only been four confirmed sightings of the spotted skunk in Nebraska since 2009, all in the …

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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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