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Iowans help keep track of imperiled wildlife

From the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

-- It’s 10 o’clock on a summer night along a gravel road anywhere in Iowa.  The fireflies put on a spectacular light show and the night is calm except for the raucous chorus of male frogs making themselves heard as they vie for mates in the farm pond next to the road.  A volunteer stands clipboard in hand, ear cocked, mentally sorting out each of the calling species and the number of individuals that might be using this seemingly ordinary pond.  

Skip over to a Saturday morning by the river where another volunteer has binoculars trained on the tallest tree in the vicinity.  In this tree is an enormous nest, home to two bald eagles and their young.  Are there two or three young in that nest?  Hard to tell and a follow up visit will be needed; in the meantime, notes are taken and a peaceful half hour is spent watching one of the most spectacular birds in North America.  

Both of these volunteers were trained through Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.  The state is big, the species are many and the staff to monitor those species is few, so volunteers are really crucial to ensure that these species remain stable.  Every March, DNR staff travel around the state leading training workshops, readying folks to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife.  

There are two programs: one for monitoring raptors and colonial waterbird nesting sites, and one for monitoring wetlands for frogs and toads.  Some of the raptors the DNR is interested in monitoring are the newly delisted bald eagle, as well as the Cooper’s hawk and great horned owl.  

Colonial waterbirds are so called because they nest in noisy social groups close to water and include such species as great blue herons, great egrets and yellow-crowned night-herons.  

Each volunteer for the frog and toad survey program visits 10 wetland sites three times a summer and identifies all the frog and toad species using the areas for breeding.  Amphibians are an especially important group to monitor since they are declining globally and are important indicators of water quality.

Each year an army of volunteers helps the DNR keep an eye (and ear) on these important resources.   The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program provides an opportunity for folks who love the outdoors and wildlife to be directly involved with the conservation and monitoring of Iowa’s resources.  Training workshops will be held in Page, Woodbury and Jasper counties.  

For more information visit http://www.iowadnr.com/wildlife/diversity/vwmp.html or contact Stephanie Shepherd at (515)432-2823, tephanie.shepherd@dnr.iowa.gov.

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