Focal Species

The NM Advisory Committee is encouraging you to look for some unusual species that are of particular interest to research biologists around the valley. These scientists may use our findings to aid their work.  For all of these projects, please enter your observations using the standard data entry form selecting either "Casual Observations" or, if applicable, "Project Backyard".

Birds:
Clark's Nutcracker Project
Raptors Around Blacktail Butte
Crow and Magpie Nests
Common Loon
Black Rosy-Finch

Mammals:
Northern Flying Squirrels 



Northern Flying Squirrels


The Raynes Wildlife Fund has recently awarded grants to a number of projects, including one that will document the distribution and habitat attributes of northern flying squirrels in Teton County.

Northern flying squirrels serve as excellent indicators of forest function and health.  In Teton County, surveys have not been done and little is known about distribution or habitat use.  Surveys will allow us to develop a baseline occupancy model, and evaluate vegetative composition and structure important for this species.  Data from Jackson will complement data being collected elsewhere in Wyoming.

Northern flying squirrels are an ecological indicator of older aged forests.  No studies have addressed flying squirrel occupancy and habitat requirements in the Jackson areaThe results of this study will be used to improve our understanding of the status of the species in the Jackson area as well as provide much needed information on habitat use and requirements in this changing ecosystem. 

The work will commence this spring, and in the meanwhile, Jackson Hole nature mappers have been busy documenting a few flying squirrels of their own.

Between March 2009 and March 2014 nature mappers have recorded 57 sightings of flying squirrels. Some bird counters during the December 2013 Christmas Bird Count also reported one along the Valley Trail in Grand Teton National Park. The map below shows where these flying squirrels were seen and how many (a few hot spots out there). Sightings come from observers near or within older conifer forests, not surprisingly. Flying squirrels have been reported for every month of the year except July (perhaps because they are raising young?)


Northern flying squirrels reported by nature mappers, 2009 – present
 

In addition to sightings, a few behaviors were recorded. Flying squirrels are nocturnal so they seem to hit the bird feeders after the birds have roosted for the night. Forty of the 57 sightings took place at bird feeders. There were a few other favored digs, as noted by observers below:

 “I heard voices of multiple squirrels - a squeaky twittering that could be mistaken for birds if not at this time of night.”

 “Seen gliding amongst large diameter conifers above our campsite after dark.”

 “It got into the house through the pet door, I think. We managed to escort it out after much excitement in the living room.”

 “The squirrel was in the home of B. Smith. He opened the door and the beast walked out.”

So, keep an eye out for squirrels in the dark – we may help the research that will be going on this summer. 

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Crow and Magpie Nests

Rhea Esposito is a doctoral candidate in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Environmental and Evolutionary Biology program.  She will be working on the following studying in the Jackson area this summer:

A key feature of understanding animal communities and the ecological roles of individual species involves describing species relationships. Nesting associations are a unique type of relationship where two species are spatially associated during the breeding season. The predator protection hypothesis provides an explanation for why less aggressive or smaller species may form nesting associations with more aggressive or larger species. This hypothesis is primarily focused on the protective benefits to the smaller species, however the costs to the protected species and the positive or negative influence of nesting associations on the protector species are rarely considered.

American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and black-billed magpies (Pica hudsonia) are known to exhibit nesting associations with other members of their species based on ecological factors such as territory quality or threat of nest predation, however nesting associations between these species, termed hetero-specific, have not been previously recorded. Both are behaviorally flexible, generalist omnivores that overlap in their ecological roles and who have been widely studied for their problem-solving skills. Despite their similarities, magpies are approximately half the size of crows, and thus may be more vulnerable to nest predation.

My PhD project is designed to assess the applicability of the predator protection hypothesis to magpies and crows nesting in Jackson Hole, WY. To accomplish this, I am monitoring crow and magpie nesting success and behavior as a function of inter-nest distance. I am interested in the locations of crow and magpie nests in the valley, their activity (without disturbing the nest, i.e. "building", "on eggs", "nestlings") and also any nest predation events that people observe. I appreciate the help of Nature Mapping in finding and monitoring these nests!

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Raptors Around Blacktail Butte

Hawks, Owls and Wildlife: Beginning this spring, biologists with Craighead Beringia South will be monitoring the raptor community on and around Blacktail Butte to continue a dataset that spans nearly 70 years.  Frank and John Craighead first surveyed this study area in the 1940’s and published their work in the book, “Hawks, Owls, and Wildlife” which is still considered a definitive text on raptors and raptor ecology. 

CBS biologists are going to compare the current density and diversity of raptors with the historically collected information to better understand the long-term health of Jackson Hole’s most popular avian guild and they need your help!  They are asking Nature Mappers to submit all sightings of raptors spotted this spring and summer near Blacktail Butte, in the river bottom from Meadow Road north to Moose and in the sagebrush between, to help them locate as many nesting raptors as possible.  For more information on the project or Craighead Beringia South, go to http://www.beringiasouth.org/.

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Clark's Nutcracker Project


Taza Schaming is a Ph.D. student at Cornell University, who has been studying nutcracker movement, habitat selection, and social behavior since 2009, with the ultimate goal of determining which management actions will increase the persistence of nutcrackers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a region where the birds are still relatively abundant, but on the cusp of a potentially drastic decline. In the process, she will determine the social system of this little known bird.

Taza won’t be in the field in spring 2014 and therefore needs your help to determine if nutcrackers are breeding! She’s hoping local birdwatchers will help look for evidence of nutcracker breeding, specifically fledglings and juveniles, while she’s gone. Even a few accounts of juveniles in the area will be good evidence of nutcrackers breeding.

Click here to learn more about the Clark's Nutcracker Project.

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Common Loon

A multi-year study of this rare nesting species in Wyoming is being conducted by Biodiversity Research Group in partnership with WGFD, YNP, GTNP and the Forest Service. We would like Nature Mappers to record any loons they see throughout the year but are especially interested in reports of pairs observed during June-August. If you are traveling to remote mountain areas this year, please check out any lakes for loons. We may get lucky and find some new nest sites. This study is being funded by the Ricketts Conservation Fund.

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Black Rosy-Finch

The Black Rosy-finch nests in high alpine areas of western Wyoming but we have little information on distribution of this species or documented nesting areas. If you are traveling in the mountains this year above treeline, please keep a record of any of these beautiful birds you see. We would also like to hear about any feeders where they appear in the spring prior to the nesting season. We are hoping to get a more formal study funded in the future.