2021 was another year of protecting and preserving Minnesota’s wildlife! Our specialists spent the field season conducting prescribed burns, wildlife surveys, population monitoring, and more. We also hosted two interns from the Increasing Diversity in Environmental Careers program. They were able to get out in the field as well and assist our specialists with some of their projects.
Some additional highlights of our work in 2021 include:
Helping Species in Greatest Conservation Need
- We began implementing the Wood Turtle Conservation Plan. We collected vegetation data at 550 wood turtle foraging locations. This information will help us learn more about the vegetation structure turtles use, which will help us in future conservation efforts.
- We also continued installing iButtons and HOBO loggers to track wood turtles and detect precipitation events that might threaten wood turtle nests. Thanks to this technology, we were able to track 18 adult and 4 juvenile wood turtles.
- Specialists in the northeast region conducted surveys for four-toed salamanders. Four-toed salamanders are a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Minnesota and these surveys help us learn more about their habitat use, range, and reproductive ecology.
- We conducted our annual northern goshawk monitoring. Our program supervisor Cynthia Osmundson and our IDEC interns joined our nongame wildlife specialist Gaea Crozier to monitor known goshawk territories with active nests to see if they were successful. They were able to see and hear some chicks, so we know some nests were successful!
- We surveyed several sites in the Prairie Coteau Conservation Focus Area to see if our prairie restorations are having an impact on pollinator populations. We surveyed each of the 12 sites six times and saw many pollinators, including monarch butterflies, regal fritillaries, and even southern plains bumble bees.
- We continued our monitoring of common terns on Interstate Island. Last year, there was a large scale habitat restoration on the island to create more nesting sites for the terns. This year we looked at their population numbers and banded chicks. We also set up fencing, string grids, and wooden shelters to help protect the common tern chicks from predation by seagulls.
- Our EagleCam nest had a successful season! We were able to band two chicks from the nest, one female and one male.
- We continued our long-term monitoring of colonial waterbirds through a partnership with the Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth. The survey runs in 5 year cycles and was set to run in 2020, however we were only able to conduct a partial survey last year. This year, we were able to survey all of the sites and combine the data for a full analysis.
- As part of our ongoing American kestrel project, we placed transmitters on 21 adults and 3 young kestrels at 3 different sites. We also set up 3 more MOTUS towers to help us track the transmitters on the kestrels.
- We released the MN Wildlife Action Plan 5-Year Report. This is our first report showing the progress we’ve made in implementing the 2015-2025 MN Wildlife Action Plan. It’s full of great stories and successes!
- In January 2021, we released the new pollinator Critical Habitat License Plate. This was our first new critical habitat license plate since 2015. The plate features pollinators like the rusty patched bumble bee and monarch butterfly. The critical habitat license plate fund allows us to match donations, so when you donate $20 to the program, $60 goes towards helping Minnesota’s wildlife and natural areas! You can learn more over on our donation webpage.
- We created a new promotional video about the program. It was initially created for tax preparers, but we think it’s great for anyone who wants to learn more about our program!
We couldn’t have done any of this without your support! Thank you to everyone who volunteered, purchased a critical habitat license plate, shared our messaging, or donated to the program. We are YOUR Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program.