nine burrowing owls standing around a burrow

 Mapping and monitoring Burrowing owl nests allows Refuge habitat managers to avoid disturbing the birds during their summer breeding season.


Wildlife Research/Surveys

Biological research provides invaluable scientific knowledge about the numerous resident and migrant wildlife species found on the Refuge. Researchers from universities and other agencies, along with Refuge staff, study the health of wildlife, habitat restoration, wildlife populations, and ecology. The data gathered provide important information to help maintain and manage the natural resources and ensure the natural resources and ensure the continued conservation and protection of wildlife.

Annual research include bald eagle roost counts and nest surveys in January, the breeding bird and fish surveys in June, mourning dove banding in July, deer and prairie dog surveys in the fall, and the Christmas Bird Count. Furthermore, wildlife of specific interest to this Refuge, such as bison, burrowing owls, and grassland birds will have additional studies.

Bison, introduced to the refuge in 2007, are vital to the wellbeing of the short grass prairie ecosystem. Thus, the health of the herd must be assessed regularly by conducting a bison roundup in the fall. Animals are individually marked, weighed and examined.

In the Great Plains ecosystem, burrowing owls are dependent on prairie dog colonies present on the Refuge to raise their chicks. Mapping and monitoring the owl nests allows habitat managers to avoid disturbing the birds during the breeding season.

Each grassland bird species is searching for the best combination of vegetative elements to raise their young. Whether it is the type and height of the vegetation, the amount of bare ground between plants or the insects a certain plant might support, the presence or absence of certain birds in a particular habitat during the breeding season can indicate which grassland is prevalent.


Vegetation Monitoring

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been performing vegetation monitoring on all of the Refuge sites restored to a native condition. Prior to restoration, a base line survey is conducted on the site to determine which techniques may work best for that area. It can take several years of management techniques such as weed control and soil preparation through dicing or plowing before a site is ready to received seed. After the site has been planted, vegetation surveys are conducted on the third growing season, the fifth growing season and every fifth year thereafter until the site has been deemed successful according to established guidelines.