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Game & Fish

Game and Fish challenges all to "spot these species"

02/01/2008 - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is hoping Wyoming's citizens will look high and low this winter to help locate some special wildlife as part of the Species of the Season Challenge.

The winter challenge features the great gray owl, marten, northern pygmy owl and swift fox. Citizens who spot these species can log onto the Game and Fish Web site to report their findings.

"Information on the distribution and relative abundance of wildlife species in the state is valuable to the Game and Fish," explains Biological Services Supervisor Reg Rothwell. "It helps us better determine the distribution and abundance of a species, determine if a species may be in need of special attention, or if we need to increase baseline inventories."

These species are four of the 279 birds, fish, mammals and reptiles considered as Species of Greatest Conservation Need under the Game and Fish's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The strategy identifies what Game and Fish does know about these species, what information is needed and potential future management or conservation actions. "Wildlife observers can greatly increase our understanding Wyoming wildlife, whether they are a weekend enthusiast, an occasional visitor to the state, or a professional biologist by reporting sightings of these species," says Rothwell.

The great gray owl is the largest owl in North America. As its name indicates, it is a dusky, dark gray overall, with bars of light gray and white. It has a prominent white collar at its neck, and a dark chin spot above two white "moustaches." It is a year-round resident of Wyoming, living in dense conifer forests in the northwest corner and western edge of the state. The great gray owl is also the featured species for the upcoming Wyoming Conservation Stamp Art Competition, and will appear on about 300,000 conservation stamps in 2009.

The marten is a member of the weasel family. They are about the size of a house cat and have long, bushy tails and pointed snouts. Martens inhabit mature and old growth conifer forests and mixed stands, feeding on small squirrels, rodents, birds, fruits, nuts and insects.

The swift fox is only found in the Great Plains of North America. It is one of the smallest foxes in the world, weighing four to seven pounds. Its fur is orange-yellow with frosty or black tips. The swift fox has a black-tipped tail and is smaller than the red fox, which has a white-tipped tail. The swift fox inhabits the Eastern plains grasslands, but can be found as far west as the Shirley Basin area, and is closely associated with prairie dog colonies.

The northern pygmy owl is a very small owl, weighing less than 3 ounces. It has a grayish-brown head, wings and tail, and is covered with white spots. The northern pygmy has a round head and lacks the distinct ear tufts of some other owls. It can be found in coniferous and mixed coniferous/deciduous forests. It is a fierce predator of small mammals, birds and insects.

Rothwell encourages anyone who spends time in Wyoming's outdoors to visit the Game and Fish Web site to become familiar with these species and report any sightings.

Greg Johnson of Cheyenne won the Spring/Summer 2007 challenge with 4 submissions.

For more detailed species information, including photos, visit the Game and Fish Web site at http://gf.state.wy.us. Click on the Species of the Season Challenge in the "What's Hot" section.

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