Through carefully-designed methods, Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge plant and animal communities are continually being studied. Research is conducted regularly at the refuge to determine animal and plant baseline data, to monitor trends in populations and changes in the natural communities, and to measure management effectiveness.
Bird Surveys Studies
Throughout each year, formal field surveys are conducted by refuge staff and volunteers. Waterfowl surveys, including bald eagle counts, to collect data on populations, are conducted refuge-wide every week from September through March. Western burrowing owl surveys are conducted every July to determine number of nesting pairs within the black-tailed prairie dog colonies. Other surveys are conducted on International Migratory Bird Day, Breeding Bird surveys and the annual Christmas Bird Count.
Vegetation Mapping Studies
In order to understand the community response to prescribed burns on shortgrass prairie, a series of vegetation transects have been established. Prior to and then at predetermined intervals after a prescribed burn, transects are monitored and species richness is determined. These surveys help the refuge make management decisions on shortgrass prairie restoration efforts.
Deer Research Studies
Starting in 2009, refuge staff began surveying the deer to monitor the population density on the refuge. Early morning surveys are conducted four times a month from August to December each year. These surveys will assist the staff in determining whether management actions should be taken on the herd. The refuge is working in cooperation with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Black-tailed Prairie Dog Studies
Prairie dogs have been reduced to less than one percent of their original range. This species is considered a critical link or keystone species of the shortgrass prairie as its presence can significantly influence the distribution, abundance, and/or diversity of other species. There are 6 separate prairie dog colonies on the refuge encompassing approximately 145 acres. In 2011 staff began monitoring colony size both in number of individuals and areas the colony has expanded into. This annual survey was initiated because of the prairie dogs' importance to grasslands and other species.
Page Photo Credits Sandhill cranes / L. Wilkins, USFWS, Mallard in flight/Leann Wilkins, Blue grama/Bennette Jenkins, Mule deer fawn/Bennette Jenkins, Black-tailed prairie dog pups/Bennette Jenkins, Grasshopper sparrow / © Robert Shantz, All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted.
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2015