June 2021 - 2

The summer field season
By Brian Nesvik
he best way to get an accurate
count of black-footed ferrets
is to wait until a late-summer
night. Once darkness completely
envelops the prairie dog towns they inhabit,
these nocturnal mammals pop out from their
burrows. Biologists can see them in the night's
shroud scanning with a spotlight, searching for
the ferret's distinctive green eyeshine.
Surveying for these endangered critters isn't easy. It takes several
days at each location to complete the tasks - counting, capturing some
ferrets and giving them vaccinations for plague and canine distemper.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers have to
become nocturnal, too, switching their working hours and sleeping
during the day, sometimes spending weeks on the road. This type of
on-the-ground, daily work is exhausting, but it's also exhilarating.
This is the summer field season.
The summer is the best time of the year for Game and Fish to
spend extra time outside on projects like these, and it's no secret why.
The weather is the best for the bulk of our field work. This year, like
others before, Game and Fish will be busy.
Many nongame animals, like black-footed ferrets, are most active
in the warmer months so there's lots to study in a short timeframe.
Additionally, some of this work was suspended last year to limit the
spread of COVID-19 and the unknown impact the virus could have on
wildlife. This year, our nongame group is back afield to count ferrets in
Meeteetse and Shirley Basin, monitor bat populations across Wyoming
and survey raptors over the Thunder Basin National Grassland, among
many other projects. Nongame work is important. Game and Fish
manages more than 800 species of fish and wildlife, and spending
time conserving the tiniest and uncommon creatures is still our duty.
The hottest months also are more favorable for habitat projects.
One high priority is treating invasive grasses during the summer in
an effort to quell their spread to new areas. The herbicide treatments
biologists use must be applied pre-germination, and for plants like
cheatgrass, that means before the fall so the seeds won't grow when
they hit the soil. Warmer weather also makes it more feasible to do
2 | June 2021
treatments for aspen forests that mule deer rely on, like prescribed
burns and conifer removal. This work happens at high elevations with
bulky equipment, so passable roads are important.
We're also getting a start on some construction projects in the
warmer months when the dirt is soft and moveable. As usual, we'll
be replacing fences across the state with wildlife-friendly designs to
help keep animals on the move. In Cody, our subcontractors broke
ground on the new regional office. That work will take about a year
to complete. Game and Fish also will be starting on the basics for
our employee housing project in Jackson on the South Park Wildlife
Habitat Management Area. Both these infrastructure projects are
important so we are able to serve the local communities and meet the
ever-expanding wildlife management needs.
Finally, there is nothing better than summer fish stocking and
surveys. The 10 Game and Fish hatcheries and rearing stations across
Wyoming spent all winter raising fish and growing them to a size
suitable for stocking. Some of the fish we plan to stock this year will be
catchable and some will be meant to grow bigger in their destination
water for next year. Annually, we stock over 450 waters with nearly
5 million fish of both cold and warm-water varieties. Additionally,
fisheries biologists spend significant time monitoring native and
naturally reproducing populations. During a recent sampling effort
with our Green River fisheries biologists at Flaming Gorge, I learned
firsthand that trophy lake trout are doing quite well.
If you see our red shirts in the field this summer, say hello and
introduce yourself. We're always excited to talk about our work and
share how it makes a difference for Wyoming.
Getting accurate counts of black-footed ferrets is just one example of the important field work
the Wyoming Game and Fish Department does during the summer months. (WGFD photo)

June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of June 2021

June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - 2
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