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Elk Head CONSERVATION
Native fish, wildlife and their habitat
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nestlings
Streaked horned larks nest on bare ground in sparsely vegetated habitat.
- Dr. Randy Moore Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo
On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

June 2012

Oregon: Summer often dawns in the imagination long before it is reflected in the weather. Once it does arrive, everyone is outside—time to take a good look around, at the landscape and the habitats that are home to Oregon’s fish and wildlife.

CONTENTS

Researcher captures video of wolverine in Wallowa County
Streaked horned larks like to change it up
2012 Habitat Conservation Stamp on Sale Now
One Small Thing

Video: Audrey Magoun, The Wolverine Foundation
View on YouTube
Audrey and Pat
Researchers Dr. Audrey Magoun and Pat Valkenburg set up a typical wolverine camera site.
Download higher resolution image.

Researcher captures video of wolverine in Wallowa County

In April 2011, five days after discovering wolverine tracks in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon, researcher Audrey Magoun downloaded photos of two wolverines from a remote camera. It was the first confirmation of wolverines in Wallowa County. Before that, they were the stuff of legend, rumor and unconfirmed sightings.

Slogging through the mud and snow that April day on her way to retrieve the winter’s field cameras, Magoun admits she had almost given up hope of documenting wolverine presence that season. “But the habitat was right. I just felt they had to be here.”

And they were—three males had been snapped by field cameras at bait stations.

Encouraged by last year’s results, Magoun and her husband and research partner, Pat Valkenburg, were back in the area in the winter of 2011-12, working on foot, by air and with field cameras trying to relocate the males they had detected the previous winter and hoping to find a female.

To date, Magoun has captured images of only one of the males sighted last year. “He gets around,” she said. “He’s shown up on 10 of the 26 cameras I have out there, and I got some good video of him as well.”

Although there are no signs of a female so far, Magoun is still looking. “This male covers a lot of ground. I’m not willing to say he’s lonesome yet.” With cameras still active high in snow country, she is hopeful that there is a lot more to learn about wolverines in the Wallowas.

Dr. Magoun’s research is funded by The Wolverine Foundation, Oregon Wildlife (Heritage Foundation) and the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. National Park Service donated cameras and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides snowmobiles, equipment and logistical support. See the video on ODFW’s YouTube Channel.

STREAKED HORNED LARKS LIKE TO CHANGE IT UP

The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling bird with distinctive black feathered tufts on its head. Historically, it lived in the open grasslands and windswept coastal dunes of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Today, due to a variety of factors including habitat loss, land use change, invasion of nonnative plants and the suppression of fire and flood events, it has vanished from much of its range. In Oregon, the streaked horned lark is believed to breed only in the Willamette and Lower Columbia River valleys.

Currently, Dr. Randy Moore, an Oregon State University researcher, is studying the breeding ecology of the species to find out how they do reproductively in different habitat types.

Streaked horned lark
Streaked horned larks are ground-dwelling birds that nest on the ground. USFWS photo.
Click to Enlarge Photo
nestlings
ODFW offers advise to landowners interested in creating habitat for grassland birds.

“These are interesting birds. We have found they are exhibiting more habitat flexibility than they probably did historically. And, unlike many birds, they appear to be much more focused on habitat structure than on habitat composition,” he said.

While they need bare ground and sparse vegetation to nest, they don’t appear to be at all picky about plant communities. We find them in agricultural fields, in sheep pastures, in newly planted tree farms and along open gravel roads. They seem especially fond of airports and dredge deposition sites.”

Increased flexibility sounds like good news until Moore explained, “Managing habitats for larks is a tricky situation. We can’t simply restore a grassland or native prairie and walk away, expecting larks to use it. These birds are dependent on disturbance, and evolved in ecosystems that changed dynamically over very short periods of time—prairie fires, vernal wetlands, flooding events, shifting sands and the like. They are not suited to the static landscapes of the Willamette Valley as it is today.”

So while streaked horned larks don’t like fully restored grasslands, they do like the process of restoration, the disruption—the burning, the mowing, the tilling, the grazing by geese or livestock.

ODFW grassland biologist Ann Kreager knows the challenges of habitat restoration for streaked horned larks first hand. “They need disturbed landscapes, but care must be taken to reduce disturbance to sites during the nesting season when the birds are most vulnerable to reproductive failure. This means carefully timing management activities between April through August to minimize mortality of adult birds and nestlings.”   

According to Kreager, successful recovery of all grassland birds will depend on cooperative projects by landowners, conservation organizations and federal and state agencies. “There are a lot of people involved in this work now, but with the projected rate of development in the valley, we have to keep focused.”

Moore and Kreager are part of a regional interagency streaked horned lark working group that is trying to reverse the decline of the species. In Oregon, the streaked horned lark is a Strategy species in the Oregon Conservation Strategy and is on the state sensitive species list. It is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. For fact sheets and conservation plans, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Find a copy of The Willamette Valley Landowner’s Guide to Creating Habitat for Grassland Birds on ODFW’s website. Contact Randy Moore. Contact Ann Kreager.

2012 HABITAT CONSERVATION STAMPS ON SALE NOW

Buy a Habitat Conservation Stamp and help conserve Oregon’s native species and habitats. Stamps sell for $40 a year and include a free ODFW Wildlife Area Parking Pass, a $22 value. Proceeds will be used for restoration of the native habitats that are home to the state’s fish and wildlife.

The stamp was adopted by the 2011 Oregon State Legislature, as a means to fuel the conservation of the 88 percent of Oregon's wildlife that are not hunted, trapped or fished.
The Habitat Conservation Stamp is available for purchase at ODFW license sales agents, ODFW offices that sell licenses and on ODFW’s website. The 2012 stamp features a western meadowlark created by Sara Stack of North Bend, Oregon. More information.

ONE SMALL THING

Water wisely: The temperature is finally rising and so is outdoor water use. Clean Water Services offers these tips to conserve water and save money.

  • Your lawn only needs one-inch of water per week (a tuna can full)
  • Water in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler
  • Mow grass higher to promote deep roots and healthy soil
  • Mark your calendar to aerate, thatch and reseed with a Northwest grass this fall and spring
  • Plant natives that require less water and fewer chemicals

PAST ISSUES OF THE NEWSLETTER

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ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY

The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a voluntary, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands.

EDITOR
Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021
meg.b.kenagy@state.or.us

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