Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘2014’

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey “2014 Annual Report” Released

Friday, March 27th, 2015

CWF Releases its First Annual Report Ever Using a Story Map Format: “2014 Annual Report

By David Wheeler, Executive Director

Technology has proven to be vital to Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s work protecting rare wildlife species over the years. Our biologists depend greatly on modern technologies to band, track, and share online the journeys of wildlife. Our webcams broadcast the most intimate behaviors of nesting birds and bats across the web. And we seek out ever-evolving communications technologies to spread the word about the inspiring stories of wildlife, from social media and infographs to e-books and Story Maps. These technologies offer newfound abilities to share complex data on multiple levels, while still incorporating the awe-inspiring photography and videos that bring wildlife’s stories to life.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is excited to offer our 2014 Annual Report in a unique format that utilizes one of those technologies – Story Maps. In the past year, we have explored the wonders of American oystercatchers with our first Story Map – and now the annual report allows all of our projects to be highlighted in this interactive format.

A screen capture of one of the pages of the CWF 2014 Annual Report Story Map.

A screen capture of one of the pages of the CWF 2014 Annual Report Story Map.

Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s many projects and partnerships in 2014, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2014 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!


 

Soaring High: A Month Long Celebration of the Eagle’s All-American Comeback

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Happy New Year from Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey! January 2015 is the Month of the Eagle! CWF is kicking off the new year by celebrating all things eagle. Follow us on social media and be sure to check your email (sign up for our list) for weekly stories on these amazing raptors from our own eagle biologist Larissa Smith. Larissa, a wildlife biologist who has been working for Conserve Wildlife Foundation since 2000, coordinates the New Jersey Bald Eagle Monitoring Project. This month, she will involve 80 volunteers in the monitoring of 175 territorial eagle pairs in New Jersey!

By: Larissa Smith, Wildlife Biologist and Volunteer Manager

Shark River eagle pair preparing nest @ Tom McKelvey

Shark River eagle pair preparing nest @ Tom McKelvey

 

Why is January the Month of the Eagle? Besides the fact that eagles are an awesome way to start out the new year, now is the best time of year to see eagles in New Jersey, and it’s the month when New Jersey bald eagles start laying their eggs.

 

The New Jersey bald eagle population is increasing every year. 2014 was a record setting nesting season with 156 eagle nests being monitored! One hundred forty-six of these were active (with eggs) and ten were territorial or housekeeping pairs. In 2014, New Jersey nesting eagles broke the 200 mark and produced 201 young! The 2014 NJ Bald Eagle Project Report has more details on the 2014 nesting season.

 

During the months of January and February, not only are New Jersey’s nesting eagles around but wintering eagles are also in the area. Eagle pairs are busy preparing their nests for the 2015 nesting season. The majority of eagles begin incubation in February, but a handful do start in January. Last year, the first New Jersey pair began incubating on January 12th.  In January and February, birds from more northern states come down to New Jersey where the winters are milder. The Delaware Bay and River are rarely frozen solid, allowing birds to continue finding food during the winter months.

 

The two counties in New Jersey with the largest number of eagle nests are Cumberland and Salem, so these are good areas to spot wintering eagles. Mannington Meadows in Salem County is a hot spot for eagle viewing, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Atlantic County and the Delaware Water Gap in northern New Jersey. This time of year you could spot an eagle in any county in New Jersey!

3rd year eagle @ Kristen Nicholas.  Immature eagles plumage is variable before reaching adult hood

3rd year eagle @ Kristen Nicholas. Immature eagles plumage is variable before reaching adult hood

 

Don’t forget when eagle watching, eagles don’t have a full white head and white tail until around five years of age when they are mature. In their first four years, they can be a bit trickier to spot since their feather coloration is varied at different age stages. Please remember to respect the eagles when viewing them. Eagles are very sensitive to human disturbance during the nesting season, keep your distance from eagle nests and perched eagles. For more information on being a good eagle watcher see our brochure “Bald Eagles Nesting in New Jersey.”

 

Duke Farm eagle pair work on their nest December 30, 2014

Duke Farm eagle pair work on their nest December 30, 2014

Even if you’re not able to get out to see an eagle, you can watch them from the comfort of your home. Conserve Wildlife Foundation partners with Duke Farms to broadcast a live Eagle Cam.  This gives everyone the opportunity to see a pair of New Jersey eagles raise their young and learn about eagle behavior. There is also an interactive page where Eagle Cam viewers can post comments, observations and ask questions.

 

As you can see, January is a busy month for New Jersey eagles!  We’ll keep you updated as the month progresses and detail some of our current projects such as using telemetry to track eagles. Stay tuned for more Month of the Eagle posts!

 

 

Photo From the Field

Monday, December 29th, 2014
Male eastern tiger salamander found 12/19/14 in vernal pool complex in Cape May.

Male eastern tiger salamander found 12/19/14 in vernal pool complex in Cape May.

Eastern tiger salamanders are starting to move to their breeding pools. The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, the State Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program, and a dedicated group of volunteers will be surveying the pools over the next few months to determine populations.

Learn more about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s amphibian projects:

 

New Jersey Ospreys Banded for Scientific Study at All Time High

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Releases Results of 2014 Osprey Report

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Three Osprey Young Wearing Red Bands. Photo by Ben Wurst.

Three Osprey Young Wearing Red Bands. Photo by Ben Wurst.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) today released the 2014 Osprey Project Report, highlighting the number of nesting pairs, active nests and nest productivity for the raptors throughout New Jersey with data collected by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists, CWFNJ biologists and dedicated volunteers. A new all-time high number of young osprey were banded for future tracking.

 

“The comeback of these magnificent birds continues to inspire us, especially in combination with the parallel recoveries of bald eagles and peregrine falcons,” said David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director. “Ospreys depend on a strong fish population and healthy waters, so they are a strong indicator of our recovering coastal and inland waters in New Jersey.”

 

To keep track of the health of New Jersey’s osprey population, biologists and volunteers conduct surveys each year. These surveys focus on the most densely populated colonies of nesting ospreys in New Jersey. From the Meadowlands to Cape May and along Delaware Bay, a sample of each area is recorded. The data is used to determine the health of the population. While surveys are conducted, osprey nestlings are also banded with United States Geological Survey (USGS) bird bands for future tracking.

 

2014 Report Highlights:

  • In 2014, 420 active osprey nests were recorded. A total of 25 new nests were recorded this year.
  • With this data and last year’s census, the overall 2014 population is estimated at 567 pairs, up from 542 pairs in 2013.
  • 339 known-outcome nests fledged an average of 2.02 young per active nest, which is a slight increase from 1.92 in 2013.
  • A total of 526 young, a new all-time high, were banded by volunteers and staff with USGS leg bands for future tracking.

 

This season, weather conditions and prey availability were favorable for ospreys. Temperatures and precipitation were both average this summer. A common item in New Jersey osprey diet continues to be Atlantic Menhaden. The productivity of the ospreys is dependent on the health and abundance of coastal fisheries.

 

To help engage citizen scientists for the first time in over 20 years, young ospreys have been marked with an auxiliary color band in New Jersey. The new band, which is a red anodized aluminum rivet band, bears an alpha-numeric code. This coded band allows birders, osprey watchers and wildlife photographers the ability to identify individual birds. This new project, “Project RedBand” is focused on ospreys that nest in the Barnegat Bay watershed from Point Pleasant to Little Egg Harbor.

 

“The use of the auxiliary ‘red bands’ will help us learn a lot about the ecology of ospreys nesting on Barnegat Bay,” stated CWF Habitat Program Manager Ben Wurst. “Project RedBand will also help us engage local communities in osprey conservation and management by encouraging citizens to report re-sightings of banded birds. We are hopeful that this project will instill in New Jersey residents a long lasting appreciation for birds of prey and the habitat they require to survive.”

 

Learn More:

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

“New Jersey’s Little Lion”: Biologists Shed Light on Elusive Bobcat

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

By: David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director

MountainLionBlog

With our eastern landscape largely devoid of top carnivores, bobcats are a throwback to the wild predators that once ruled our forests. No one understands that better than our partners from the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP). The bobcat was listed as a state endangered species in June 1991, and habitat fragmentation in our densely populated state has made their recovery especially challenging. Biologists Mick Valent and Gretchen Fowles study bobcats in the wild, and here they generously share their insights on this remarkable creature.

 

What do you find most compelling about working with bobcats?

Mick Valent: I have worked with many species during my tenure with the Division of Fish and Wildlife including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, Allegheny woodrats and timber rattlesnakes, to name a few. However, to me, none epitomize the “wild” in wildlife the way that bobcats do. To me, they are the ultimate New Jersey predator – highly adaptive, perfectly camouflaged, keen senses of sight and sound, blazing speed and quickness, razor sharp claws and teeth, and the ability to stalk their prey quietly or overrun them! Fierce and unyielding, when captured, they are truly New Jersey’s little lion!

 

Can you describe the feeling of your first bobcat sighting?

MV: As chance would have it, I went many years without seeing a bobcat in the “wild” in New Jersey – even as the population was apparently increasing. Despite spending many days afield tracking and trapping bobcats, it wasn’t until 2011 that I saw my first bobcat (aside from the ones that I trapped and collared). I was in Allamuchy Township in January of 2011 searching for a suitable area to trap, when an adult bobcat bolted from a pile of tree stumps and logs right in front of me. A perfect spot for a bobcat to seek shelter during the daylight hours. And by the way, we were never able to catch that animal!

 

Are bobcats proving adaptable to New Jersey’s changing landscape and human development?

Gretchen Fowles: Bobcats seem to be increasing in northern New Jersey. In the past couple of years, there have been an increasing number of bobcat sightings south of Route 80 (though still north of Route 78), suggesting that they have been somewhat successful at passing through that tough Route 80 barrier. Our data suggest that bobcats are finding a way to move between core habitat areas in northern New Jersey. We have several males and females that have moved over 30 miles from year to year.

However, major roadways continue to be a problem. We have GPS collar data from a couple of bobcats that indicate that major roadways, such as Routes 80 and 206, seem to be perceived as complete barriers to these animals. The collars recorded movement patterns with location points going right up to and paralleling the road, but not crossing over it. We have been monitoring about 12 crossing structures under major roadways in northern New Jersey that bisect suitable bobcat habitat.

 

What are the worst threats to bobcats in New Jersey?

GF: Habitat fragmentation and roads are the worst threats, and they’re getting worse. A young bobcat was hit by a car and was found on the shoulder of westbound Route 78 last year. So, they are trying to cross that barrier, but are having difficulty doing so. Another bobcat was hit by a car in Parsippany when attempting to cross Route 46. The final quarter of each year, between October and January, tends to be the peak period for bobcat road mortality, and it is important that people report these incidents to the ENSP. We are working on a project called Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) that is aimed at reconnecting the landscape for terrestrial wildlife, like bobcats.

We have formed a multi-partner, multi-disciplinary working group to inform the development of this statewide connectivity plan that will help target local, regional, and state planning efforts and ultimately reconnect the landscape in New Jersey. We are mapping the core habitat areas in the state as well as the corridors that can serve to connect those areas together, and are working on a Guidance Document that will recommend ways in which those cores and corridors can be made more permeable through targeted land protection, habitat management and restoration, and road mitigation efforts. We are also developing a bobcat recovery plan.

The constant threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, changes in land use, the existence of barriers to free movement between suitable habitats, and automobile collisions on our busy and abundant roadways will likely limit the growth of New Jersey’s bobcat population. It is likely that bobcats will remain only locally abundant in areas of suitable habitat, primarily in the areas north of Interstate Route 80. Whether or not a few animals are successful at crossing our major roadways, they will always pose an impediment to free movement between suitable habitats and will continue to be a source of mortality to the population.

 

What are some of the ways you study bobcats in New Jersey? Are you still using dogs in this work?

GF: We continue to use Bear, a professionally trained working dog for wildlife who is used to locate and alert biologists to bobcat scats, to help us better understand the New Jersey bobcat population. Bear is now about 12 years old, but his nose still works!
DNA can be extracted from sloughed intestinal cells contained in bobcat scat and can provide a wealth of information. DNA analyses of scat, as well as the locations where the scats are found, allow biologists to identify individual animals, their sex and movements. The DNA data from scats and tissue samples that we collect from bobcats killed on the road, accidentally snared, or trapped by ENSP in order to fit with GPS collars, are being fed into analyses that will help use estimate survival rate, population size and structure, and sex ratio.

We also collared three bobcats this past winter near major roadways, and set the collars to collect locations every hour. We are excited to retrieve the data from these collars in a few months to evaluate how those major roadways may be influencing the cats’ activity patterns and determine if, when and where they are crossing them. This information will help validate our CHANJ mapping and inform our Guidance Document.

 

Is the big picture for bobcat populations any different nationally?

GF: A recent national status assessment conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service found that bobcats were generally increasing throughout their North American range. This appears to be holding true in New Jersey in areas where we have suitable habitat that is accessible to the population.

 

Tell me about your most memorable encounter.

MV: My volunteer and I had responded to a call from a trapper who accidentally caught a bobcat in his cable restraint during one of those January cold spells. The bobcat was caught on the bank of a medium-sized stream next to a footbridge. As we approached, the animal was pacing along the stream bank and jumping up on the foot bridge. As my volunteer distracted the animal, I came in from behind and jabbed the cat in the rump with a jab pole loaded with a tranquilizing drug. We immediately backed off to let the drug take effect so we could remove the cable from the animal’s neck. As the drug began to take effect the animal lost the ability to stand and slipped into the water – struggling to stay above the surface.

Without hesitation, we ran back to the stream. My volunteer arrived first, jumped into the frigid, chest-deep water, and grabbed the cat and pulled him to safety. Although the cat was not fully sedated, we were able to wrap him in a dry blanket, remove the snare from his neck and get him into the truck and off to a rehabilitation facility without incident. Everyone survived unscathed – although I’m certain the bobcat was much better prepared for going into the water than we were!

 

Learn more:

 

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