The annual spring spotlight survey by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is underway.
The DNR’s Tyler Harms says the survey focuses on what are called furbearers. “Things like skunks, raccoons, badgers, and also whitetail deer statewide. So, there’s a survey route that runs in each of Iowa’s 99 counties,” Harms says. He says the heavy snow and cold weather this winter may’ve had an impact on some animal populations.
“In years past we have seen some differences in numbers following a particularly severe winter like we had this winter,” according to Harms. “For whitetail deer for example, we might see a light drop in numbers.” He says the survey may confirm some of the reports of deer which did not make it through the winter. “We have been receiving some reports from around the state of mortality likely caused by the severe winter conditions,” he says, “so, we might see some drops in counts in some areas, but that remains to be see and we’ll see what the data say.”
He says the survey provides them a valuable look a the populations of the animals.”This is actually one of the only surveys that we have for a number of these critters, and so it’s a very important data source for helping use track population trends of these critters. And people do target these for harvest — things like raccoons and skunks are trapped each year,” Harms says.
Harms says the survey doesn’t allow them to count every animal out there, but does give them a good estimation of their population. The survey will run through this month. “Because it’s a spring spotlight survey — we try to run the survey before things start green up — because visibility starts to be impaired once we get leaves on trees and things like that. So, usually the survey finishes up in late April or early May,” Harms says.
Parts of Iowa have been flooded or still have flood waters, and Harms says they will do the best they can to do surveys there. “We’re simply just going to have to run the surveys in areas that we can, and in areas that we can’t, we won’t survey and will adjust accordingly. It will be interesting to see what we see for wildlife trends in those counties,” Harms explains.
The survey begins an hour after sunset, preferably on a night with a clear sky, low wind and high humidity. Harms says the survey routes were designed to include all types of habitats found on the Iowa landscape in an effort to not skew the number of animals counted in either way.