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Flora & Fauna

Shed Antlers: A Great Reason to Explore Nature

By Greg Wagner and Brian Peterson. Brian Peterson is a 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 outdoorsman. Maybe you’re a hunter. Maybe you’re not. But, there’s a unique form of hunting you will enjoy. It is a challenging and rewarding pastime that makes for an excellent family outdoor activity this time of year. It is deer shed …

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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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Common Woodpeckers of Nebraska

By Amber Schiltz Woodpeckers are special birds known for exactly what their name describes — “pecking” at wood. Using their strong beaks to drill into living or dead trees helps them look for tasty bugs, build cozy nests for their young, and even allows them to talk to one another by the the sound of their drilling. Woodpeckers have incredible adaptations, or tricks, to help them drill. This includes a stiff tail that keeps them from falling as they drill …

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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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A Historic Gathering: Whooping Cranes

My phone almost always rings when whooping cranes show up in the central Platte River valley. A good friend, who simply appreciates seeing the tallest and rarest bird in North America, called in early November. So did another. There weren’t just a few whooping cranes on the river: There were a lot of them. When I had a chance to head west from Lincoln with my camera on Nov. 7, I was rewarded with something that was not just rare, …

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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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Prairie Seeds in Winter

By autumn, the seeds of most prairie plants have fallen, and with luck, pounding rain, digging animals or winter frost heaving will work them into the soil to await germination. Some seeds, however, are stragglers — held in pods, shriveled fruits or tight bracts to face the elements of winter aboveground. Many of these will fall prey to hungry birds and mammals, and a lucky few will pass through the foragers’ gut unharmed and be dispersed about the land. Others …

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A Winter Hike

A Great Time to Observe Nature Anyone can hike on a warm day, surrounded by birdsong and verdant meadows of wildflowers. The world is full of sights and sounds. But in the winter? That sounds ridiculous. It’s cold outside, the plants are all brown and animals are either hibernating or vacationing in warmer places. What are you supposed to do, tromp through the snow, bundled up like that one kid in that one movie? Well, yes. Whether you explore the …

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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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