Although the weather has turned cold and snowy, the Zoo’s new BioDiscovery Project continues to press on, scouring the Zoo grounds for native wildlife. The BioDiscovery Project was initiated this past June to help people learn about and celebrate Minnesota wildlife through various research and interpretive programs focusing on the wildlife living in the Zoo’s undeveloped areas. The project’s coordinator, Katie Talbott, has some updates to share about this exciting program.
My gaggle of interns and volunteers was a common sight this summer, as we hiked, waded, and crawled our way across the Zoo grounds in search of wildlife. Now that the warm weather has come to a close, I’m often asked, “are you guys done for the year?” The answer is an emphatic, “no way!”
Sure, much of our wildlife has migrated south, dug into the mud, or found a warm spot to hibernate for the winter, but there are still plenty of animals to see. We often think of birds flying south, and mammals snuggling into a den to escape the cold, but in fact many of these animals remain active through the winter. Shrews and voles, for example, have metabolic rates so high, they can’t afford stop foraging long enough to hibernate! For some birds, Minnesota serves as a ‘warm’ southern refuge when their summer breeding grounds in Alaska, Canada, or the Arctic turn frigid. Be on the lookout for these migrant birds, which include northern shrikes, dark-eyed juncos, northern redpolls, snowy owls, pine siskins, and evening grosbeaks.
With this in mind, we are continuing to check our trail cameras, identify snow tracks, and take our binoculars out birding. You can keep up with our progress by joining our new Facebook group, where we’ll share plenty of wildlife photos and factoids, and keep you informed of future opportunities to participate in our conservation research. This winter, we’re also developing new workshops and programs to bring Minnesota wildlife directly to you! Stay tuned for more to come, but in the meantime, get outside and enjoy Minnesota’s fabulous wildlife!