Alrighty, pretty much all we have done the past two days is meeting after meeting after meeting. We’re trying to get everything organized and meet all of our contacts so we can start the real work.
I found out what I am going to be doing this summer. The majority of the summer we’ll be focusing on the human dimension element. We have modified an existing survey that we will hopefully have USDA Wildlife Services mail out to people who have filed complaints against beavers in the past. We will use the same survey to interview anglers we approach at boat docks, and along side the shores of the Missouri River system. The beaver survey will also be mailed out to local Ducks Unlimited members for another view point. Another aspect is we will be meeting with local Native American tribes to learn about their views and historical tribal significance of river otters. We will also be sending out a survey to game wardens to find out information pertaining to furbearer (otter, beaver, mink, marten, fisher, etc) sightings. And another project we are going to be working on is a survey of anglers to see how much knowledge they have pertaining to the Pittman-Robertson and the Dingell-Johnson Acts.
For those of you who don’t know, the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (P-R Act) established in 1937 is an11% tax on firearms and ammunition. This money is distributed to each state based on the size of the state and how many licensed hunters it has. This money is used for hunter education, research, management of wildlife, purchase of habitat lang, and other wildlife restoration efforts. P-R money is usually mixed with money from hunting licenses sales and stamps, and can only be used for wildlife purposes through state agencies. The Dingell-Johnson Act is very similar to the P-R Act except for it is an 11% tax on tackle and fishing gear and the money is used for fishery purposes. Not as many hunters, anglers, or general people know these acts even exist, even though in my opinion they are very important.
My personal favorite project we will be working on this summer: we will be doing bridge surveys where we will walk 500 meter sections on both sides of all the bridges we can access in the area in search of beaver and otter signs (scat, tracks, slide marks, tree damage, lodges, etc.) If we find signs of river otter we will then set up trail cameras in the area and try to get a good shot of it. The purpose of this is that river otters have not been documented thoroughly in this part of the state. They have been documented in the Northeastern parts, however. So we are trying to find out if they exist here and what the population size might be. We will also be checking out reported sightings of otters from our human aspect surveys.
It is going to be a very busy summer. And most likely my thesis will come from these projects, somehow.
With all that being said today we had meetings with North Dakota Game and Fish (which is easy because we are living on their property), USDA Wildlife Services, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Our meeting with NDGF was mainly to let them know of our plans for the summer and bounce ideas off each other. They will be providing the contact information for the ND game wardens. I really enjoyed meeting John Paulson of the ND USDA Wildlife Services. He recently did a “tour” in Kandahar, Afghanistan where he helped to establish a USDA office their to aide the US Air Force in keeping the Bagram Airfield safe from golden jackals, and various birds which have been causing major damage (in the multi-millions of dollars range) to aircraft such as F-16 and unmamed drones. I never new such an operation existed for wildlifers and would love to try to find out more information and see if I have a few months available that I might be able to go over and help! John agreed to talk to other members at the Wildlife Services office about trying to help us mail out our beaver survey to individuals who have filed complaints about beaver in the past, we are meeting again with them tomorrow to further discuss things.
We met conservation officer, Jeff Kelly of the Sioux today as well. He was very helpful and took us to be LaDonna, their tribal historian and tourist person who told us some of the tribal significance of the otter to the Stand Rock Sioux. Apparently otter are very important to them. A long time ago, the people would watch the otter go and seek medicinal plants to cure his aliments and then the natives would know what plants were medicinal and their medicine man would use those plants to cure people. Thus otter pelts became very important and were used by medicine men for bags to carry their medicines, but only after that medicine main obtained a prestigious status. LaDonna was very excited to hear that we are doing research on the otter and are hoping to find them still in this area and offered her help to look up their old stories about the otter for us. Dr. Serfass also agreed to giving a presentation tomorrow morning to the tribe’s conservation officers about the work that he is doing in North Dakota on river otters, beavers, American marten, and fishers.
So it was over all a pretty successful day. I am excited to meet with Ducks Unlimited (hopefully tomorrow) and establish contacts with them.