June 2005

Surveillance | Land Management | Education | Research

New on the ESER Website

Searchable Surveillance Data through 2004 (updated)

2003 Annual Site Environmental Report (ASER)

2003 ASER Summary Report - written by Skyline High School students

First and Second Quarter 2004 Surveillance Quarterly Reports

Desert Species of the Month

An Animal of the High Desert - Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Results of ESER Annual Rabbit Counts

Desert Species of the Month Archive

Environmental Surveillance:
Focus on Precipitation

Precipitation samples are collected at two locations on the INL: the Central Facilities Area (CFA) and the Experimental Field Station (EFS). Precipitation from Idaho Falls, a location distant from the site, is sampled to serve as a control or background sample.


Environmental Education

Rocky Mountain Adventure Summer Camp

Explore southeastern Idaho, make new friends, and have fun at the Rocky Mountain Adventure Summer Camp for children in grades 6 - 12. July 25- 29.

NEW!! Ask a ESER Scientist

Request Classroom Visit


Contact Us

Contact us:
ESER Program
S. M. Stoller Corp.
1780 First Street
Idaho Falls, ID  83401

Raptor Count

Every year 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 counts:

  • 6 Golden Eagles
  • 2 Prairie Falcons
  • 61 Rough-legged Hawks
  • 2 Red-tailed Hawks
  • 1 Northern Harrier
  • 21 Ravens
  • 2 Northern Shrike

Compare this data to historical counts

Common Plants of the INL
Identification Handbook

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 http://www.stoller-eser.com/CMP/Plant_handbook/index.asp

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.       More Information

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 project updates.

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 their territories.

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 (i.e. May).

Have you turned up any interesting data that isn't related to your research?

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).