The next 25 years will be increasingly challenging for the Nongame Program, as NH citizens and their wildlife face increased development pressures, effects of climate change, invasive species and diseases. Already, major research projects are developing around the state, focused on securing a thriving future for New Hampshire’s wildlife and their habitats. These projects have begun to move toward multi-state, region-wide, in-depth conservation strategies involving determined teams of state wildlife biologists, university researchers, private conservation groups, town conservation commissions, students and educators, and excellent biologists from varied backgrounds. The Blanding’s turtle project is a perfect example of research that crosses political boundaries and allows for more complete conservation plans. Right now our team is analyzing two years of survey data from five states that participated in a cooperative effort to collect DNA from endangered Blanding’s turtles across their northeast range. As we begin to understand population dynamics, we can adequately protect critical nesting areas, facilitate movement between high quality sites, and reduce road mortalities.
As a major part of planning for the next stage, we will be revising and updating the NH Wildlife Action Plan. New challenges have surfaced since its initiation in 2006, such as the infestation of invasive Asian clams in several NH ponds, the deadly spread of white nose syndrome in bat species, and the continued decline of species listed as threatened or endangered, to name a few. Several species were identified as being of conservation concern in the first edition of the Wildlife Action Plan, including the impressive northern black racer snake. This prompted an investigation of NH’s snake population, and after three seasons of working with both public and private landowners to track snake movements and behavior, we are beginning to understand how to efficiently protect threatened snake species for the future. For the next 25 years, updated Wildlife Action Plans will guide the program’s cooperative projects, in order to keep our state’s wonderful common species common, and to continually improve the status of our rare species.
The many unknowns that make up the next 25 years will provide us with great possibilities. For example, each year we get closer to understanding the variety of insects that exist in New Hampshire, like in 2011 when we went from knowing very little about the abundance and diversity of dragonflies in NH, to having a statewide index of 157 species! Current research on New England cottontails continues, as captive-reared cottontails give us a chance to take a closer look at some of the things we don’t understand about the species, like nutritional impacts of invasive plants on reproduction and growth. Still in need of research are many bird species that are difficult to survey, such as insect-eating birds like swifts, swallows, and flycatchers. Swallows are among the most rapidly declining bird in the northeast, and we’re hopeful that in the next few years we can begin to figure out why. As you can see, current research is thriving within the Nongame Program, and we hope you’ll continue to proudly partner with us for the next 25 years of protecting New Hampshire’s unique wildlife diversity.
By Loren Valliere, NH Fish and Game Department
Taking Action for Wildlife Winter 2014 Newsletter