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Flora & Fauna

At-risk Species Spotlight: Timber Rattlesnakes

In March, we highlight the timber rattlesnake, a Tier I at-risk species in Nebraska.   Like Indian Jones, many people are terrified of snakes, but this fear is not much more than a defense mechanism. When you stop to think about snakes and their role in the ecosystem, these animals have evolved to possess unique traits that are actually quite ingenious. For example, the serpents’ cryptic coloration keeps them well disguised, and with no legs and feet, snakes hardly make …

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Spring Forward With These 8 Outdoor Activities

Spring has sprung! The amount daylight is increasing. The weather will be warming. In Nebraska, there are a multitude of activities that you can do in early spring. Here are eight to encourage you to step outside. (1) View Early Spring Birds. A wide variety of opportunities await Nebraska bird watchers in early spring. The migration of wild fowl is truly something to behold! The spring spectacle of the sandhill crane migration along the Platte River in south-central Nebraska should …

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Timberdoodles on the Plains

How a forest-dwelling shorebird makes a living in Nebraska’s prairies By Joel Jorgensen and Stephen J. Brenner Photos by Eric Fowler As winter’s grip begins to loosen in early March, one of the first tangible signs of spring comes in the form of one unusual bird’s evening courtship display. Along with first returning flocks of geese, sandhill cranes and a noticeable northward push of bald eagles, the American woodcock is one of our earliest arriving migratory birds, often laying claim …

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Of Limpkins and Snails

By Joel Jorgensen, Nongame Bird Program Manager A few years ago, if someone raised the possibility of a limpkin reaching Nebraska, an appropriate response would have been “when pigs fly.” That is because, not long ago, limpkins were restricted to Central and South America, the Caribbean and Florida. In North America, any limpkin wandering north of the sunshine state would have been big news. Over the past two decades, limpkins began to increase in Florida and push a little farther …

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All About Antlers

By Brian Peterson and Greg Wagner. Brian Peterson is a wildlife biologist at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and coordinates the M.S Biology Online Program. His research focus is white-tailed deer antler metrics.  He is also an avid hunter and outdoor enthusiast. In the outdoor space, there is a lot of information about deer shed or cast antlers. Knowing the science of them instead of the myths or misconceptions about them can increase your knowledge which may boost your …

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Navigating Life Underground

American bader

By Amber Schiltz, Wildlife Educator Dirt, soil, ground, outer crust layer — we walk, skip and drive on top of it every day without giving it much thought. Humans and most animals we know spend their lives above it, under blue skies and the light of the sun, in the wide-open space we call home above ground. But life doesn’t stop at the ground surface. There’s a whole world of nature found below. Let’s dive into this underground world and …

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See the Sandhill Crane Migration

March Wildlife Viewing — Sandhill Cranes By Olivia DaRugna, Watchable Wildlife Biologist Observing the convergence of over a million sandhill cranes along the Central Platte River is like immersing yourself in a nature documentary. The sandhill crane migration is truly one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles, on par with the awe-inspiring caribou migrations across northern Alaska and Canada or the mass movement of wildebeest herds across the Serengeti in Tanzania. The best part about the sandhill crane migration is …

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Nebraska’s Water Bears

Tardigrade under a microscope.

By Alie Mayes, Community Science Specialist Tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets, are a group of animals that are found almost everywhere on earth – including Nebraska! Now, you may be thinking, “If Tardigrades are so common, why have I never seen one?” It’s because tardigrades are tiny – very tiny — like half a millimeter tiny. That’s even smaller than the point of your pencil. On top of being minuscule, tardigrades are also hard to see …

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Student Takes Flight with Monarch Butterflies

By Ronica Stromberg, National Research Traineeship Program Coordinator Miyauna Incarnato, doctoral researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has discovered that studying monarch butterflies is not for the faint of heart. For one thing, eastern monarch butterflies are hard to track. The orange-and-black beauties breed four to five generations in a year, with successive generations migrating from Mexico to Canada and back again. Depending on where and when they are born, the butterflies live for different lengths of time. Only adults …

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At-risk Species Spotlight: White-tailed Jackrabbit

This February, we highlight the white-tailed jackrabbit, a Tier II at-risk species in Nebraska. Story by Olivia DaRugna, Watchable Wildlife Biologist Jackrabbits are always a treat to see. Their awkwardly large ears and eyes and long hind legs give them a cartoonish appearance. Although “rabbit” is in their name, jackrabbits are actually hares, which are precocial, meaning they are born with fur, open eyes and are able to move soon after birth. The white-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) is similar in …

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