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State Wildlife Action Plan 2018 Revisions

As per the 2017 Guidance for Wildlife Action Plan Review and Revision, Indiana’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) recently underwent a minor revision. The following is a description of what led to the revisions and the actual revisions themselves:

The revisions include additions and deletions to the Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) as listed in the SWAP. Indiana maintains taxa specific Technical Advisory Committees (TAC). There is a TAC for each of the following taxa; Bird, Mammal, Fish, Herp and Mussel. The composition of each TAC is various academics, researchers and other taxa specific experts within the state. Each TAC is headed up by a Division of Fish and Wildlife Biologist who specializes in the respective taxa. The TACs meet annually to review the SGCN list, discuss the status of species, evaluate the most recent data from surveys and studies and make recommendations for adding/removing species from Indiana’s SGCN list. These TACs weighed heavily in the creation of the SGCN as listed in the 2015 SWAP and the criteria by which recommendations are made have not deviated significantly from the initial listing in the SWAP. Furthermore, the TACs review and consideration of recent data, surveys and observations help make the SWAP the living document it is intended to be.

In late 2017, the following TAC recommended and Indiana DFW approved changes were presented to Indiana’s Natural Resources Commission. The commission approved the changes and now Indiana DFW wishes to revise the SWAP accordingly.

The requested changes as approved by NRC in November 2017:

Species added to SGCN

  • Black Bear, Ursus americanus (recommended by staff, 9/6/17): Established black bear populations in the eastern US are increasing, including in adjacent Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio, and have begun to reclaim portions of their formerly occupied range. Two occurrences of bears moving into Indiana were documented in 2015 and 2016, and the definition of a special concern species best represents their current status in the state. Further, rules proposed in the DFW’s wildlife rule package would remove black bear from the exotic mammal rule and create an additional rule to govern the species’ management. Both actions would allow DFW to conduct necessary actions and provide greater protection for black bears that enter Indiana in the future.
  • Northern Bobwhite, Colinus virginianus (recommended by Nongame Bird TAC, 2/15/17): The first Breeding Bird Atlas project reported bobwhite quail from 507 priority blocks, but the second atlas found them in only 445, a decline in occurrence of 12% in twenty years. Data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), a survey coordinated by the United States Geological Survey since 1966, shows a 3.8% annual decline of quail in Indiana from 1966 to 2013, with this negative trend continuing in the most recent reported decade (-3.1% annual decline from 2003-2013). Both BBS trend models have high credibility values, which means the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service judges the models to be based on enough data to be confident in the reported trends. The Indiana state quail survey in 2015 (based on call counts) shows a steady decline since 1988-1990 with estimated populations roughly half of historic levels.
  • American Woodcock, Scolopax minor (recommended by Nongame Bird TAC, 2/15/17): Early successional species have had the greatest decline as a group of any set of breeding birds in the eastern U.S., with declines much greater than those of mature forest birds. In the first Indiana Breeding Bird Atlas, American woodcock were detected in 145 priority blocks, but the species was recorded in only 75 priority blocks in the second Breeding Bird Atlas. The probability of detecting breeding woodcock therefore declined by 48% in 20 years. The North American BBS reports a -2.6% annual decline across the species’ range from 1966 to 2013. These declines are even steeper in Indiana (-6.4% annual decline from 1966-2013; -6.3% annual decline in most recent decade, 2003-2013). However, the BBS models for Indiana are considered to have low credibility due to the lack of reports in most years. Therefore, nationwide declines may be more informative. The number of singing males in Indiana state surveys show a steady decline from 1977 to 2016, with the decline particularly sharp since 1992. Biologists generally conclude that these declines are due to forest maturation throughout the species’ range.
  • American Eel, Anguilla rostrata (recommended by Nongame Fish TAC, 9/28/16): Many more records coming in but people still kill them because they think they are invasive; good candidate for public education and outreach.

Species removed from SGCN

  • Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus (recommended by Nongame Bird TAC, 2/16/16): Red-shouldered hawks were first added to Indiana's Species of Special Concern list in 1984 “as a result of loss and fragmentation of upland and bottomland forests and competition with red-tailed hawks.” Since then, Indiana has seen a dramatic increase in the nesting population as evidenced by the comparison of its first and second Breeding Bird Atlases. The proportion of atlas blocks in which red-shouldered hawks were observed almost doubled from the first atlas period (1985-1990, frequency of occurrence: 15.8%) to the second atlas period (2005-2011, 29.4%). In addition, confirmed breeding evidence in priority blocks more than doubled between the two atlas periods (23 in 1985-1990 vs. 62 in 2005-2011). This was likely not just the result of increased effort to confirm breeding because the number of atlas blocks with Probable or Possible codes for this species also increased. Meanwhile, results from the BBS in Indiana from 1984-2013 show a positive trend estimate of 6.31 with high credibility. This increase is higher than trends recorded in most surrounding states and nationally. The current national trend is 3.14. Red-shouldered Hawks appear to be adapting to forested neighborhoods. In Indiana, they can often be found in suburban areas with mature trees. The Indiana DNR does not have any specific projects or research and monitoring efforts involving red-shouldered hawks. With this in mind, the status of the red-shouldered hawk is deemed secure and the species no longer warrants the status of species of special concern.
  • Longnose Sucker, Catostomus catostomus (recommended by Nongame Fish TAC, 9/28/16): Strictly a Big Lake species; supposedly found in northwest Calumet and Deep Rivers.
  • Ohio River Muskellunge, Esox masquinongy ohioensis (recommended by Nongame Fish TAC, 9/28/16): Not a true reproducing population, all stocked for put-and-take fishing; sub-species is not recognized and should be removed from list of Indiana fishes.
  • Lake Whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis (recommended by Nongame Fish TAC, 9/28/16): Strictly a Big Lake species with strong population, not just in Indiana waters. Big commercial fishery and numbers aren’t down just in northern waters.
  • Cypress Darter, Etheostoma proeliare (recommended by Nongame Fish TAC, 9/28/16): Hypothetical species with records in southern Illinois; also remove from list of Indiana fishes.
  • Tippecanoe Darter, Etheostoma tippecanoe (recommended by Nongame Fish TAC, 9/28/16): Species is under sampled because it buries itself deep in gravel. Now found in many more places than just the Tippecanoe River (i.e., Wildcat Creek, Little Wabash River, Wabash River, Deer Creek, East Fork White River).

The following changes were inadvertent omissions/inclusions in 2015 and were corrected in the 2018 revision.

Species added to SGCN

  • Ruffed Grouse, Bonasa umbellus. Ruffed Grouse was added to SGCN in September 2015 but failed to make the listing in the 2015 SWAP.

Species removed from SGCN

  • Eastern Spadefoot, Scaphiopus holbrookii. Eastern Spadefoot was found to be more common than previously thought and thus was removed from Indiana’s SGCN list in 2015 but that change did not make it into the 2015 SWAP.

Other revisions include:

  • In the original version, SGCN taxa were listed alphabetically by scientific name. In the 2018 revision each taxa has SGCN listed by taxonomic order. 
  • On page 33 (page 36 of 2015 version). The last sentence of the first complete paragraph was “…Special Concern status raises the survey and monitoring priority of these species and stimulates encounter reports from the scientific community, but these species have no official legal protection except that they cannot be harvested.” The bold portion of that sentence was not accurate and was deleted.
  • Chapter 10 was in the 2015 version twice. The duplicate chapter was deleted.
  • A few typos were corrected.