Friday, April 24, 2015

Black Bear Safety Tips

By Alyssa Meier, CSU Wildlife Biology Undergraduate and CNHP Student Intern

Spring is here, and with warming temperatures, black bears are emerging from winter hibernation. Black bears can spend up to twenty hours a day covering numerous miles of ground in searching for food, which can lead to some surprising encounters.
Young black bear snoozing in tree.
Here are some tips on what to do if you see a bear:
  • Stay calm. The bear is probably just as shocked as you are.
  • Stop and back away slowly. Sudden movements are often perceived as aggressive and can cause the bear to act defensively in response.
  • No eye contact. Directly looking at bears is seen as a challenge.
  • Speak quietly. Loud noises are perceived as aggressive.
  • Don’t run. Running triggers an automatic predator response in the bears and they will see you as some pretty slow prey.

Bears are very capable climbers and often seek refuge from threats in trees.
Bears are naturally inquisitive creatures. Some encounters occur because the bear is just curious about what’s going on in the area. The behavior of the bear is indicative of the bear’s intentions.

Here are some common bear behaviors:
  • If a bear is sitting or moving away this is often a neutral behavior. Just go about your business.
  • If a bear is standing motionless or ignoring you, it is indicating that they just want to be left alone. As long as you don’t start toward them, the bear will leave you be.
  • Bears climb trees to show submission or seek safety. Mothers will often send their cubs up trees and sit beneath them when they encounter dangers. You’ve probably passed under a few bears hidden up in trees already. Just keep away from the tree and give the bears space and they’ll leave you alone. 
  • When a bear is spotted popping its jaw or huffing, it is a sign nervousness or apprehension. It’s a warning for you to back away and leave them alone.

Curious bears often stand up in order to get a better look. This act in inherently non aggressive.
For more information on safely encountering bears, visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Botany Essentials for the 2015 Field Season

If you are out in the field already, or planning to go soon, make sure you have a copy of A Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants: Identification, Ecology, and Conservation.

If you are working in wetlands on Colorado's Eastern Slope, you can also order a copy of Common Wetland Plants of Colorado's Eastern Plains: A Field Guide. Check our website in September for the upcoming Wetland Field Guide App!

Jennifer Ackerfield, Collections Manager of the CSU Herbarium, has written a new flora for the state of Colorado. Pre-orders are now accepted at the JBRIT website.
Jennifer Ackerfield's new flora will help amateurs and professional botanists alike key out Colorado plant species like the Rocky Mountain blue columbine (Aquilegia saximontana). 

Friday, April 10, 2015

CNHP Staff Teach CSU Graduate Students Field Biology Skills

This week CNHP staff members, along with CSU professor Tara Teel, spent a day in the field with graduate students from the Conservation Leadership Through Learning Program. The CLTL is an innovative graduate program that teaches students how to confront conservation challenges and sustainability from a variety of perspectives. This year’s student cohorts are wrapping up their second semester at CSU, and will spend the last two semesters of their graduate work in either Belize or Africa.
Conservation Leadership Through Learning graduate students learn how to sample vegetation plots at Coyote Ridge Natural Area, Fort Collins.

Close-up of greater short-horned lizard at Coyote Ridge Natural Area.
CNHP staff members Pam Smith and Susan Panjabi, along with Director Dave Anderson and City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department Botanist, taught CLTL students basic field biology skills at Pine Ridge and Coyote Ridge Natural Areas in Fort Collins. These included how to use a GPS to navigate to points, how to set up and survey different types of transects to study plants and animals. The students will use these field skills to design similar studies in Belize and Africa.
A CLTL graduate student holds a greater short-horned lizard.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Celastrina Project:Building Future Conservation Biologists at CSU

CNHP just launched a crowdfunding campaign: The Celastrina Project! The goal of the Celastrina Project is to help Colorado State University students develop, execute, and present their own research on a rare Colorado plant, animal or ecosystem. Donations for the project will be used to pay stipends, field supplies, and travel costs for CSU students. Read more about the project, check out the Celastrina Project video, and how to donate by clicking here.

The idea for this project began in 2014, when CNHP sponsored the first Celastrina Project honors student to study the population ecology of the hops blue butterfly (Celastrina humulus), pictured above.

CSU undergraduate student Callie Puntenney presents results from her honor's thesis on hops blue butterfly population ecology.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gunnison Sage Grouse Conservation Easement in Dove Creek, CO

In 2006, CNHP collaborated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist to create the Dove Creek Potential Conservation Area (PCA) in southwestern Colorado. This PCA was drawn to identify habitats that support one of the seven remaining populations of the federally listed Gunnison sage-grouse. As of 2014, this population (referred to as the Monticello-Dove Creek population) contains only 98 individuals, according to the final listingrule issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lek count data from 19 years of monitoring are generally well below the Rangewide Conservation Plan population target of 500 breeding birds.

In recent years, in an effort to reverse the population trend, Montezuma Land Conservancy has worked with private landowners to conserve important sage-grouse habitat with conservation easements.  Since 2012, the Conservancy has conserved 3,340 acres of occupied habitat for the Gunnison sage-grouse – 2,700 of which is located within the CNHP Dove Creek PCA. The most recent project protected approximately 680 acres of the Dove Creek PCA under a conservation easement. The property contains sagebrush habitats, as well as areas formerly used to grow dryland pinto bean crops which have been replanted into sage brush.  The conservation easement contains a total of 788 acres, and borders BLM land and the Coalbed Canyon State Wildlife Area.

Sagebrush habitats and former pinto bean cropland near Dove Creek, Colorado offer habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, a species listed as threatened in 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Monday, March 23, 2015

CNHP Director Attends Plant Conservation Alliance Meeting in Washington, D.C.

CNHP director David Anderson recently attended meetings in Washington, D.C. organized by the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA). The PCA is a public-private-agency partnership of organizations that work to maintain, enhance, and restore native plant populations and communities. Anderson worked with other non-federal cooperators during the meeting to identify strategies for plant conservation. He presented information on the addition of rare plants to the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), as well as the Rare Plant Conservation Initiative project that helped prompt this exciting addition to the Colorado SWAP. Crafting a bill to create a National Plant Conservation program was the primary strategy identified by the group. Anderson, along with other PCA members, also met with members of the appropriations committees and federal agency leaders to discuss plant conservation, including the National Seed Strategy. After the Strategic Planning Meeting, Anderson was able to participate in a tasting of botanical spirits hosted by the United States Botanical Garden and led by Dwight Grimm. Grimm is a vermoutheir and founder of the Little Alchemist Farm. He produces small-batch herbal spirits, elixirs, and oils from his farm in Preston Hollow, New York.

CNHP director Dave Anderson (far right) with other participants in the Non-Federal Cooperators Committee Strategic Planning Meeting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is your Phragmites native?

If you work in wetlands, you have no doubt marveled at the spectacular common reed (Phragmites australis). This grass can tower over a field biologist, growing up to 15 ft tall. It is frequently found along streambanks and ditches in Colorado. Often considered an aggressive non-native, recent development of molecular markers has led to the discovery that both native and introduced genotypes exist in North America. This evidence suggests that land managers should think twice before treating common reed like an invasive weed.

Common reed (Phragmites australis) grows in a tall stand in wetlands along the Arkansas River.
It can be difficult to determine native vs. introduced Phragmites using morphological characters. Luckily, Dr. Bernd Blossey has created a handy guide to help distinguish between them. If looking at this table makes you dizzy, the website also offers a free diagnostic service. Send them your common reed specimen, and they will key it out for you! Crystal Strouse, Fort Collins Natural Areas botanist, recently suspected that a population of Phragmites at Running Deer Natural Area was native. After sending material to Bernd Blossey, it was confirmed that the Running Deer population belongs to the native genotype of common reed. At CNHP, we plan on making more collections of this species during the 2015 field season to help determine how common the native genotype is in Colorado.
A stand of common reed (Phragmites australis) at Running Deer Natural Area was identified as the native genotype.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The 2015 PIT Tag Workshop: Learning about rare fish and rare-fish databases

The PIT Tag Workshop is a conference hosted approximately every four years to address use of, technology improvements to, and analysis of passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag data for rare fish in the Columbia River Basin and beyond. Database and web-application developer Kirstin Holfelder and zoologist Rob Schorr attended the 2015 PIT Tag Workshop in late January at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington. Holfelder is being assisted by Schorr and Amy Greenwell in the development of STReaMS (Species Tagging, Research, and Management System), which will be the new database for the Upper Colorado and San Juan river basins rare fish data. These data are used to monitor some of the West’s rarest fish species, including Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), humpback chub (Gila cypha), bonytail chub (Gila elegans), and razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus). The meeting sponsors, PTAGIS, presented the evolution of the database used to house Columbia River rare fish data, and it gave Holfelder and Schorr a chance to identify needs or modifications to the developing STReaMS.
Kirstin Holfelder in front of Multnomah Falls.

Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington.

View of the Columbia River from Skamania Lodge.