The Return of Wildlife
As Sharing Our Roots restores land and water, we are seeing wildlife populations flourish where they have been declining or absent. Our 100-acre farm is now a sanctuary for the creatures with whom we share this world. In return, birds, amphibians and insects on the farm provide numerous ecosystem services that are beneficial to humans and farm operations, such as seed dispersal, pollination, nutrient cycling and pest regulation.
We are monitoring this exciting return of the wildlife. From May to August each year, we conduct amphibian and bird surveys to determine species diversity. Data from 2020 has provided us with a baseline to begin analyzing species abundance and density both seasonally and from year to year. We also document wildlife based on opportunistic sightings.
Bird and Amphibian Surveys
We collect amphibian data from seven water bodies on the farm. We monitor the presence/absence of egg masses, tadpoles, metamorphs and adult frogs. At least six of Minnesota’s 14 frog and toad species are found on the farm: American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), American toad (Anaxyrus americanus), Cope’s gray tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis), Green frog (Rana clamitans), Leopard frog (Lithobates pipians) and the Western chorus frog (Pseudacris triseriata).
We also conduct bird surveys at five farm locations selected from a random sample of possible points laid out on a grid. Thirty-three bird species have been identified by direct observation and song, including: American yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia), Dickcissel (Spiza americana), Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), Green Heron (Butorides virescens), Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) and Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis).
Monitoring Mammals and Reptiles
Although we have not yet begun our structured mammal and reptile surveys, we have been able to document the presence of eleven mammal species on the farm based on scat, tracks and other signs. Among them are: American badger (Taxidea taxus), Coyote (Canis latrans), Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) and the Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius) which is considered a Minnesota keystone species. As far as reptiles go, we have identified four including: Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) and Redbelly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata).
Our goal with this Wildlife Monitoring Project is to assess and demonstrate the positive impacts regenerative agriculture practices have on native wildlife species and vice versa. The data we are collecting will also help us develop an effective wildlife conservation and management plan for the farm.
Sightings and ongoing monitoring of “species of interest,” (list below) contribute towards community science projects and will be shared with Dakota County, the Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Reptile and Amphibian Survey and the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas.