Long-billed curlew research
Long-billed curlews in Sublette County. Cat Urbigkit photo.
by Wyoming Game & Fish Department
March 24, 2017
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is excited to announce that they have received funding allowing them to continue their long-billed curlew research in Wyoming. The research, initiated in 2015, is being conducted in partnership with the Intermountain Bird Observatory of Boise State University and is part of a larger study including the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
Research to date has shown that some of the highest densities of nesting long-billed curlews can be found in the wet meadows of the Daniel/Pinedale area. Researchers have already collaborated with many area landowners to document nesting curlews and hope to partner with these and additional willing landowners to expand their research.
"We already knew that curlew numbers in this region were some of the highest recorded in Wyoming, based on a previous study of breeding curlews in Wyoming conducted in the Horse Creek and New Fork areas in the early 1980s," said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Nongame Biologist Susan Patla. "It was reassuring to learn that numbers remain robust and that the abundance of curlews we found in 2015 was higher in Daniel compared to the other study areas in the region."
New funding this year through the Wyoming State Wildlife Grants program will allow researchers the opportunity to revisit this landmark study from 2015 to add a second year of data collection to better understand how curlew abundance and reproductive success varies between years and different weather conditions. Thanks to support from many additional partners, including the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund, the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation, Teton Conservation District, Bureau of Land Management and private donations, researchers will also be able to study curlew reproductive success in the Jackson area in 2017 – specifically on the National Elk Refuge and the Kelly hayfields area of Grant Teton National Park. Researchers also plan to deploy up to 11 additional satellite transmitters on breeding curlews in several areas across the state.
"An important thread we’ve seen so far in our research is the importance of working lands, such as flood-irrigated fields, in both breeding and wintering grounds for curlews," says collaborator Jay Carlisle, Research Director at the Intermountain Bird Observatory. "Curlews defend territories during the breeding season and typically return to the same territory they held in the previous year. Traditional ranching and farming practices can be beneficial for curlews and these birds often do well in areas where the vegetation has been grazed to lower heights. Curlews also forage for insects on these agricultural lands."
Researchers will again be seeking permission from private landowners in the Pinedale area for a team of two field biologists to access their land in order to learn more about habitat important for curlews. "With landowner permission, we hope to collect information similar to what we collected in 2015, which was simply to look for and monitor curlew nests, and measure basic habitat features at those nest sites," says Carlisle. "We realize that access to private land is a privilege and would always respect the landowner’s rights and wishes at all times."
The research is planned to be conducted from about April 17th through the end of June and would involve traveling on foot to any off-road locations. "Our field biologists will plan to use minimal equipment and would not be altering or removing anything from the landscape or leaving any equipment behind," says Carlisle. "We would like to take photos, but again, only with the landowner’s permission."
For those landowners willing to participate in the study or wishing to speak directly with one of the researchers, they can contact Jay Carlisle, Research Director at Intermountain Bird Observatory, (208-830-3363). "As we continue to plan logistics, we may give you a call or stop by your property to discuss the project further once we arrive to the area," says Carlisle. "We sincerely appreciate everyone’s interest and willingness to consider providing access to their land."