scientists and bird-watchers throughout the county participate in the
national Midwinter Bald Eagle Count. This count was started in
1979 by the National Wildlife Federation.
The count is now
administered by the
U.S. Geological Survey.
Each year, count
participants travel a designated route and count and record the number
of eagles they see.
The ESER Program coordinates the Midwinter Raptor Count on and
around the INL. Counters tally not just bald eagles, but all birds of
prey, as well as ravens and shrikes. Eagles, hawks, falcons and
owls are collectively called raptors. Ravens are
included in the count because they function ecologically as raptors.
Shrikes, predatory songbirds known to impale their prey on thorns and
barbed wire, are included because of concerns about declining
populations. All predatory birds (including raptors) are also
known as birds of prey.
Birds of prey are an
important part of the environment. Since raptors are at the top
end of the food chain, they act as a biological indicator of
environmental problems. This count is not a complete census of the
entire wintering population on the INL, but it is an index of the
species' abundance and distribution, which can be compared year to year.
Count data are
submitted to an USGS Idaho State Coordinator. Information submitted by
all of the states to the USGS is analyzed to monitor trends in the populations of
eagles throughout the United States.
The information gleaned
from this count is important locally as well. Good resource management
requires a knowledge of wildlife populations, including birds of prey, in the
area being managed.
Results of this year's
6 Golden Eagles
2 Prairie Falcons
61 Rough-legged Hawks
2 Red-tailed Hawks
1 Northern Harrier
2 Northern Shrike
data to historical counts
Plants of the INL
The ESER Program has published a new
handbook for field identification of the wildflowers, shrubs, grasses
and trees of the INL's sagebrush steppe habitat. Although this
guidebook will appeal to a broad audience, it was written specifically to aid in plant identification for vegetation projects at the INL. Plants are listed under their scientific name, but a quick
reference index at the end of the handbook provides a directory of both
common and scientific names.
This handbook is available for perusal or
download on the ESER website at
Coyote Research Update
Since the pioneer days, coyotes have been
killed throughout the western United States because of their
depredations on domestic animals. Millions of coyotes in the western
United States have been destroyed, all though the coyote depredation 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 tracks 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 was initiated in 2003.
Results of the study have not yet been published, but Mike Ebinger,
graduate student at Utah State University, has shared the following
Did all the coyotes collared in spring 2004 survive the winter?
Were you able to retrieve useful information from their movements?
No, they didn't all survive, but most of them are still around. A
few dispersed from the site to the north, two died of natural causes on
the site, and several have been taken by hunters and trappers near the
edge of the site.
Most of the GPS collars have worked well
and provided lots of information about how animals are moving around
Do you have additional objectives for 2005?
In 2005 we have GPS collared 15 animals and retrieved 14 of the 15
collars. These were mostly recaptures (alphas and betas), although
we also put new vhf collars on a few animals. Next time around we
plan to collar 22 coyotes while ewes and lambs are on range this spring
Have you turned up any interesting data that isn't related to your
Many of the coyotes seem to be periodically traveling long distances
outside of their territories. These forays take upwards of several
days and can be as long as 35 kilometers (one-way distance).