Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Volunteers help with Northern Spotted Owl demographic monitoring

In my "in box" today is our division of natural resources' 2007 progress report on monitoring Northern Spotted Owls and their habitat within Mount Rainier National Park. The report is mostly methods and data, but it's the result of a lot of work by a lot of people. Like most things at Mount Rainier, those efforts include volunteers, especially since "demographic monitoring is labor intensive and often quite costly." A total of 166 visits were made to 31 monitoring sites in 2007.

Mount Rainier is one of the largest relatively undisturbed areas of Spotted Owl habitat in the western Washington Cascades. Declines in Spotted Owl populations have been documented throughout the region. Research here at Rainier and elsewhere suggests that factors in addition to habitat loss may be responsible, including possibly increased numbers of Barred Owls, climate change, and avian viruses. In addition, collisions with vehicles seem to be surprisingly common, with eight documented owl fatalities in or near the park over the past ten years, half of those Spotted Owls.

Last year's owl crew included Alyssa Herr and Emily Slayton, both of whom started surveying owls as volunteers a few years ago and then were picked up as paid rangers in 2007. Russel Gibbs has been helping with wildlife surveys of all kinds for years--Spotted Owls, Harlequin Ducks, etc.

By the way, if this sounds interesting to any of our readers, we're working on some new volunteer projects this summer surveying amphibians in backcountry locations. It would involve several days of work spread out over the summer. Watch this space or our job listings for an announcement, probably in June. (You can also e-mail me to get on our volunteer program mailing list.)

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