Summer 2008 Species Challenge Lists Two Birds, Two Mammals

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white-tailed prairie dogCHEYENNE-The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has named four more species for the 2008 Species of the Season Challenge, a program to help the agency gather information about distribution and abundance of some of Wyoming’s wildlife.

The species on the list for this summer are the white-tailed prairie dog, Abert’s squirrel, burrowing owl and the Lewis’s woodpecker. Outdoor enthusiasts encountering these species are asked to report their sightings to the Game and Fish Department.

As the name implies, white-tailed prairie dogs have a short tail with a white tip as opposed to the black-tailed prairie dog, which has a black-tipped tail. The white-tailed prairie dog is the most common of the listed species, occupying the western two thirds of the state.

The burrowing owl is generally found in open, dry grasslands and basin prairies. This small (7″-10″) ground dwelling owl is often associated with burrowing animals such as prairie dogs, badgers and ground squirrels.

BURROWING OWL The Lewis’s woodpecker is fairly large, (9″-11″) dark colored for the most part, and prefers open ponderosa pine forests, open cottonwood riparian woodlands and burned stands of Douglas fir and mixed conifers. It is found below 8,500 feet.

The Abert’s squirrel is probably the least common of this year’s species. It occurs in the Harriman area of the Laramie Range in the southeast portion of the state. Sometimes called the tassel eared squirrel, the Abert’s squirrel has tufts of hair extending beyond the tips of its ears, and is associated with ponderosa pine forests.

The species challenge is part of a Game and Fish effort to gather more information on the 278 species listed in Wyoming’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The CWCS is the state management plan for Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Most of the species are included in the listing because of a lack of basic information on their status and distribution.

Game and Fish supervisor of biological services Reg Rothwell said the Species of the Season Challenge enables citizens to help document locations and abundance of the 278 species of concern. “The species on the list are there not necessarily because they are few in number,” Rothwell said. “Many are there because we don’t know that much about them. Hopefully, the information we gain will help increase our knowledge about them and prevent some from federal listing in the future.”

Rothwell said the CWCS will be updated in the next two years and information will be provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by 2010.

To participate, wildlife viewers can go to the Game and Fish Web site, and click on Species Challenge in the “What’s hot” box. After locating one of these species, participants can return to the Web site and record their findings. (Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)