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Nongame Birds, Small Mammals, Herptiles, Fishes:
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 1995-1996

by

William A. Meeks1 and Kenneth F. Higgins2


Little is known about the abundance and distribution of nongame species in their primary habitats in the northern Great Plains. This is due, in part, to the paucity of biological surveys on public and private lands.

Even fewer surveys have occurred on isolated ecosystems in this region. Narrative reports from the 60 years of 1935 to 1995, for example, are the only records of vertebrates on Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (SLNWR), Brown County, South Dakota.

To fill this void, a vertebrate survey emphasizing nongame birds and small mammals was conducted during two field seasons (1995 and 1996) at SLNWR. Initial inventories also were made for reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.

Breeding nongame birds were surveyed using fixed-width belt transects, following standard count methods, in terrestrial habitats. Forty-six nesting terrestrial bird species were identified on the refuge: 35 were found in woodland habitats, 18 in tame grasslands, 12 in native grasslands, and 7 in alfalfa fields.

Nongame wetland birds were also surveyed in temporarily and seasonally flooded forested (PFOC) and semi-permanently flooded emergent (PEMF) wetland habitats using a semi-circular plot method. Playback recordings were used to determine occurrences of secretive species such as rails (Rallidae). Bird counts were conducted on 116 plots: 32 breeding species in PFOC and 41 species in PEMF were counted.

Yellow-headed blackbirds (freq of occurrence 99%) and marsh wrens (freq of occurrence 70% [PFOC] and 89% [PEMF]) were the two most abundant species in both wetland habitat types. The first nesting of a common moorhen in South Dakota was recorded in 1995.

Small mammals were surveyed using snap traps and pitfall traps (3,362 trapnights combined) in woodland, grassland, cropland, and wetland-edge habitats: 800 small mammals of 11 species were captured.

Five reptile species were surveyed on the refuge. Included was a northern red-bellied snake, a state-threatened species.

Five amphibian and 16 fish species were recorded.

Detailed surveys such as this one will be useful in improving ecosystem management.


This resource is based on the following source:
Meeks, William A., and Kenneth F. Higgins.  1998.  Nongame birds, small 
     mammals, herptiles, fishes: Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 
     1995-1996.  South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 729.  
     South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota.  28 pp.

This resource should be cited as:

Meeks, William A., and Kenneth F. Higgins.  1998.  Nongame birds, small 
     mammals, herptiles, fishes: Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 
     1995-1996.  South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 729.  
     South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota.  28 pp.
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/wildlife/sandlake/index.htm  
     (Version 04AUG2000).

Table of Contents


1 Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department, South Dakota State University, Box 2140B, Brookings, SD 57007
2 U.S. Geological Survey/Biological Resources Division, South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, South Dakota State University, Box 2140B, Brookings, SD 57007
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