By Alex Lippa
---- — The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is urging residents to keep their eyes peeled for many different wild animals around the state.
Fish and Game is conducting surveys for reptiles, amphibians, turkeys and more in an effort to explore just what is living in the Granite State.
“We want to get a much better understanding of the distribution of our wildlife,” said Emily Preston, wildlife biologist for New Hampshire Fish and Game. “When we started this, there was a big gap in our understanding of what is out there.”
The department put together a Wildlife Action Plan in 2005 to help fill those gaps. Part of that process was reaching out for help.
“We can’t just cover 10 counties and thousands of miles by ourselves,” said Ted Walski, a wild turkey biologist for the department.
In 2010, the department launched a wild turkey brood survey. Until Aug. 31, the department encourages people to send all sightings of wild turkeys to the department. Last summer, they received around 1,000 different sightings.
“It’s very easy to do,” Walski said. “They don’t hide like other animals. They can be found in open fields and you can see as many as a dozen together at one time.”
Anyone who spots a turkey is asked to go to Fish and Game’s website and enter basic information about where and when they found the broods and how many were spotted.
Based on what he’s received this year, Walski has concluded the turkey population is lower than in previous years.
“It hasn’t been a great productivity season with all the rain we’ve gotten,” he said. “It’s really hurt ground nesting birds.”
While turkeys are a seasonal breed, reptiles and amphibians are asked to be reported year-round.
“Our goal is to keep common species common,” Preston said. “People will give us information about where they are located and we can go there and do some more intensive monitoring.”
Last year, more than 250 volunteers participated in the reptile and amphibian reporting program. They logged 82 frogs, 56 salamanders, 176 turtles and 134 snakes.
“We have been focused on the black racer snake and the Blanding’s turtle,” said Preston. “We’ve been able to find out some more locations we would never have known.”
In addition to saving animals, the program also helps identify land for conservation purposes.
While the reptile and amphibian report program is more informal, Preston is still analyzing results from a more comprehensive survey which studied dragonflies. The department recruited and trained volunteers so they knew exactly which dragonflies to look for and where to find them.
“It turned out that some species were not as rare we believed they were,” she said. “The scarlet bluet for instance had five reported sightings before the survey. Since then there have been 40.”
The survey lasted from 2006 through 2011. There were 18,000 spottings in 1,200 locations.
“It was incredible,” Preston said. “We know so much more about dragonflies than we ever have before.”
While the survey is officially over, some of the 60 volunteers who participated still are keeping track informally. The volunteers have a Flickr site where they can post photos of dragonflies seen around the state.
With the dragonfly survey completed, Preston is considering taking the same approach with another flying insect.
“I’ve thought about looking at butterflies,” Preston said.
To report a sighting of an animal go to Fish and Game’s website at wildlife.state.nh.us.