New on the ESER website
New National Environmental Research Park Study Initiated:
Depredation Behavior in Coyotes
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
National Wildlife Research Center and Utah State University
recently began a project to investigate coyote depredation
behavior on sheep and its implications for control techniques.
The study required capturing thirty coyotes on the Idaho
National Environmental Research Park (NERP) on the Idaho
National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). The
Department of Energy-Idaho Operations Office manages the NERP
and is providing logistical and technical support for the
study through its Environmental Surveillance, Education and
Each of the coyotes was fitted with a radio collar which emits
unique frequencies so study animals are individually
recognized and tracked during the duration of the study. Four
of the coyotes were also fitted with unique Global Positioning
System (GPS) collars. These collars record the animalís
positions at five-minute intervals from the time of capture
until March 10th when the collar automatically drops off the
animal and is retrieved by project scientists. Information is
then downloaded from the GPS unit providing a detailed map of
the animal's movements. The data gathered through this project will provide valuable
information for decisions about lethal and non-lethal control
of coyotes, as well as substantially contributing to the
understanding of coyote behavioral ecology.
Since the pioneer days, coyotes have been destroyed regularly
throughout the western United States because of their
depredations on domestic animals. Millions of coyotes in the
western United States have been destroyed, yet the coyote
problem still persists today. Studies have shown that not all
coyotes kill sheep and social status is a key factor of those
that do. This study will track the movements and hunting
behavior of alpha (dominant), beta (younger adult offspring)
and transient (searching for a mate or territory) animals so
that more specific control methods may be employed.
This study is funded through the U.S. Department of
Agriculture National Wildlife Research Centerís Logan, Utah,
Field Station under the direction of Dr. Mike Jaeger, Research
Scientist. Utah State University PhD candidate Mike Ebinger
will conduct the study, with assistance from the ESER Program.
For more information visit the ESER website:
Breeding Bird Survey 2003 Results Published
Since 1985, official Breeding Bird Surveys have been
conducted on the INEEL. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a
roadside route survey of avifauna designed to monitor
abundance and distribution of birds in the United States and
southern Canada. Data from these censuses are one of the main
sources of information on avian population trends across the
continent. These surveys are conducted in June every year.
BBS surveys on the INEEL have yielded useful information about
population dynamics of native birds, effects of weather and
fire on avian abundance, and the breeding status of a number
of bird species of concern, including sagebrush obligate
species and other species exhibiting declines through their
From June 1st to June 25th 2003, 14 permanent survey routes
located at the INEEL were surveyed for birds. A total of 5,844
individuals representing 67 species of birds were recorded
along the routes. This is above the average of 4,629
birds/year recorded from 1985-2002. Horned Lark and Western
Meadowlark comprised more than 50 percent of all birds counted
on the INEEL. Both of these species have increased in recent
years, most likely as a consequence of large fires converting
sagebrush to grassland habitat. Species of special concern
recorded in 2003 included Long-billed Curlew, Ferruginous
Hawk, Swainsonís Hawk, Sage Grouse, and Loggerhead Shrike.
Burrowing Owl, a Bureau of Land Management species of special concern, was not observed
See the full report at
Project Updates November 2003-January 2004
Rabbit Release: No radio signals from previously
released radio collared pygmy rabbits have been recorded in
the last month, though one collared offspring is still active.
One adult and one offspring rabbit have been observed and are believed
to be alive, though their collars may have malfunctioned.
Release for the next study group
of rabbits from Washington State University is expected to occur during the month of February
with cooperating weather.
Big Game Surveys: Big Game Counts were conducted
during January on the INEEL. Fifty groups of pronghorn were
observed with a total of 732 individuals being observed.
Extrapolated, it is estimated that there are approximately
3,052 pronghorn on site which is within the average
number that winter each year on the INEEL. Elk observed on
site totaled 528. It is estimated with this count that
there are approximately 1,346 elk on site. This is
the most elk counted during the winter on the INEEL since
these counts have been conducted. Sixty-four mule deer were
also observed during the Big Game Counts. Snow cover and
bright sunny days greatly increased visibility of mule deer so
counts this year were above other years. It is estimated that
145 mule deer are currently on the site.
Raptor Counts: Eagle counts were conducted during
January 2004. The counts covered the majority of the INEEL
where paved roads provided access. Not only were eagles
counted but other raptors, and ravens were also tallied.
Ravens were the most abundant bird counted this year, with a
total of 46 individuals observed. This number is down from
last yearís record of 140 individuals, but is above the
average of 27. Rough-legged hawk numbers were also down from
last yearís count of 301 to 28 individuals observed this
year. The number is also below the yearly average of 69.
This may be due to more snow cover this year than last. Seven
golden eagles, two bald eagles, two great horned owls, one
American kestrel, and one northern shrike were also observed.
The eagle observation numbers were similar to past years.
Survey at Rattlesnake Cave: An inventory of bats
hibernating in West Rattlesnake Cave was conducted in January
2004. This survey was a cooperative effort with
Idaho Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) and Idaho Cave Survey. Two species of
bats were observed during the survey: Townsend's big-eared
bats (175), and western small-footed myotis (37). A report was
generated by Idaho Cave Survey and is available upon request.
Scott Earl (email@example.com),
Idaho Cave Survey