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Research

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

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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Estimating Duck Migration

Estimating Migration Chronology of Ducks in Nebraska By Cynthia Anchor, waterfowl biologist The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, developed the eBird platform to offer birders a way to store and organize birding media, species lists, counts for single birding events, and “life lists”— complete lists of every bird species seen by an individual — at county, state, national and global scales. Since the release of eBird in 2002, birders have contributed more than 60 million checklists containing …

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Northern Saw-whet Owl Migration

Northern Saw-whet Owl autumn migration in eastern Nebraska: results from a three-year banding study By Stephen J. Brenner & Joel G. Jorgensen The northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadius) is one the smallest owls in North America. In Nebraska, breeding has been documented in the Pine Ridge and Wildcat Hills and is suspected in the middle Niobrara river region, but its status over the remainder of the state is poorly defined. We recently concluded a three-year banding study at sites near …

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Pronghorn Research

By Dr. Andrew Little, University of Nebraska-Lincoln In February 2021, Dr. Andrew Little at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Dr. Ranglack at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and biologists with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission began a 2-year study designed to identify critical ranges, temporal and spatial distribution, habitat use, migration corridors and survival of pronghorn in western Nebraska. This project is a collaborative effort amongst the University campuses, Game and Parks and more than 300 private landowners. This …

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American Burying Beetle Reintroduction

Nebraska Game and Parks assists in collecting American burying beetles for Ohio reintroductions By Shaun Dunn, Zoologist This summer, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and partner biologists led and participated in several trapping efforts for the federally threatened American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in the Loess Canyons and Sandhills regions of the state. The populations in these two areas are among the largest concentrations of American burying beetles in the world. Efforts to monitor their numbers and distribution have …

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Mystery Goose Mount

Waiting 50 Years to be Told The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission occasionally receives animal mounts from individuals who want or need to unload them but do not want to see them go straight to the garbage bin. These donations, if in acceptable condition, can be used for education or to spruce up a public space. Usually the mounts the agency receives possess little or no information about where the animal was harvested or collected, as most are decades old. …

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WMA Habitat Fuels Songbird Migration

By Stephen Brenner and Joel Jorgensen, Nongame Bird Program managers Migration is a critically important event in the lives of many avian species. This period accounts for over a quarter of the annual cycle for some birds and is extremely risky as individual birds travel long distances through unfamiliar areas. Consequently, many species experience higher rates of mortality compared to the breeding or wintering periods. Some of the smallest migratory species in North America also can travel the longest distances, …

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