Each fall, Zoo Boise Conservation Fund narrows a big field of animal research grant applicants down to nine, and then lets the public vote on which of them to fund. Last year, the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness wolverine study proposal got more votes than any other proposal. In response, the Fund awarded FSPW $27,000 to assist Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a rare carnivore study that stretched from the Selkirk Mountains across the Panhandle and into the Scotchman Peaks and Montana. Now, FSPW has been nominated again, and are calling on all of their Friends and friends of Friends to visit the Zoo Boise web site and vote for this year’s proposal.
“We have a big opportunity to keep the field work on this study rolling along,” says FSPW Executive Director Phil Hough. “Fish and Game will not be able to put as much effort into the field as they did last year, so it’s doubly important that FSPW continues the data stream we started working on with them two years ago.”
The first year of the study, 2010-11, was marked by a modest study involving just a few camera stations that caught an amazing variety of critters, but particularly rare forest carnivores; martins, fishers, ermine, bobcats, and even a wolverine and a lynx. “We started small,” says Sandy Compton, FSPW program coordinator, “but the volunteer response was amazing. Lots of people were interested in getting involved with setting up and monitoring the camera stations.”
With that encouragement, Hough wrote the grant proposal for the 2011-12 season, and it was the top vote getter of the 9 finalists. With the grant in hand, FSPW bought two dozen-plus top-grade Reconix cameras and all the other accoutrements to set up monitoring stations, and hired Kelsey Brasseur for 30 hours a week to be project coordinator. Brasseur, with a Bachelor’s in Biology and fresh off of a summer of marine research in Glacier Bay, Alaska, started in November and very ably ran the project through the first of April.
“Kelsey was a great fit for the job,” Compton says, “but, boy, did she have her hands full.”
Brasseur and Friends of Scotchman Peaks, partnered with Idaho Conservation League (ICL) and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education (SOLE), took primary responsibility for more than 40 stations, and, before it was over, fielded over 140 volunteers, all of which Brasseur had to keep track of. But, the payoff was huge. The “citizen science” initiative yielded thousands of pictures of rare forest carnivores — not to mention squirrels, rabbits, moose, deer and wolves — as well as hundreds of hair samples destined for DNA analysis. It also led to being invited to apply again to the Conservation Fund.
“When we wrote the grant, we asked for just a little less this year than last,” Hough said. “We have much of the equipment to continue the study, and will partner with ICL and SOLE again, but we budgeted for a full time project coordinator.”
Will it happen? “It will if we can mobilize our Friends base to go vote for us on the Zoo Boise site,” says Compton. “We have until October 28 to get votes in, so vote early and often.”
To vote, go to www.zooboise.org/zbcfprojects.aspx