Surveys uncover surprising species

The discovery June 16 of a flower never before found in Hubbard County is the result of an intensive state study of rare and regional plants, plant communities and animal species.

The discovery June 16 of a flower never before found in Hubbard County is the result of an intensive state study of rare and regional plants, plant communities and animal species.

Plant ecologist/botanist Tim Whitfeld recently uncovered a Dragon's Mouth Orchid near Pine Lake, and he says the plant, which grows essentially in bogs, is found frequently across the north and northeastern parts of Hubbard County.

"It's just an interesting plant," Whitfeld explains. "It's interesting to see it grows this far west."

The orchid is found in the northeast United States and southeast Canada. Although related to other orchids, it is purple-colored and bigger than most.

Whitfeld is the sole Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff person working on the study of rare plants in Hubbard County. He previously worked on surveys in Clearwater, Ottertail, Douglas, Pope and Kandiyohi counties.


His study is part of the Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS), which began in Hubbard County in the spring of 2005, and is being conducted by the DNR. The survey began in 1987.

Tentatively scheduled for completion after next summer, Whitfeld says the survey has already produced some intriguing finds.

"There's a lot of diversity of forest types," he says, like jack pine. "It's an interesting county."

Another flower Whitfeld takes note of is the Bog Adder's Mouth Orchid, which he found at Itasca State Park.

"The significance of it is, Minnesota is the only state (that has it) in the lower 48 states," he says. "There're only a handful of locations." It is located in Becker, Beltrami and Clearwater counties as well.

Although it is impossible to survey and identify every plant and plant community in the county, Whitfeld says, he uses GIS mapping software to locate site boundaries and does the best job he can with unfragmented vegetation.

Whitfeld says while out on his survey, he has spotted wolf tracks, lynx and black bear.

"That still implies there is a lot of high-quality habitat," he says.


After completion of the survey, explains Whitfeld, "the ultimate product will be a map of all the native plant communities.

"We hope it will help the county with their land use planning," he continues. "The main focus is to help the county make good management decisions. Another purpose of the survey is to identify potential problems, like unplanned development and invasive species."

Gerda Nordquist, animal survey coordinator and mammologist, and other DNR staff completed the Hubbard, Becker, Clearwater and Wadena counties animal survey last summer.

Nordquist says the three main groups surveyed were birds, amphibians and reptiles and small mammals.

"We surveyed that area for breeding season birds, amphibians and reptiles, small mammals and jumping spiders," she says. "When we had the expertise, we use the people we can to survey."

Several specialists were involved with the animal survey, including a herpologist, omithologist and zoologists.

"We didn't find as many rare species as we do in other parts of the state," reported Nordquist, although she points out the Red-shouldered Hawk and Eastern Hog-nosed Snake were interesting finds.

According to the 2005 animal survey, rare animals potentially occurring in hardwood hills, pine moraines and outwash plains subsections of Becker, Clearwater, Hubbard and Wadena counties are as follows:



Threatened** - Eastern Spotted Skunk

Federally threatened - Lynx

Special concern*** - Northern Long-eared Myotis, Eastern Pipistrelle, Gray Wolf, Least Weasel, Mountain Lion, Plains Pocket Mouse, Prairie Vole and Northern Bog Lemming

Others of regional interest - Eastern Red Bat, Hoary Bat, Silver-haired Bat, Franklin's Ground Squirrel, Northern Grasshopper Mouse and White-tailed Jackrabbit.

Breeding season birds

Endangered* - Henslow's Sparrow

Threatened - Trumpeter Swan, Wilson's Phalarope and Loggerhead Shrike


Special concern - Greater Prairie Chicken, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow Rail, Marbled Godwit, Forster's Tern, Short-eared Owl, Cerulean Warbler and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow

Others of regional interest - American Bittern, Sandhill Crane, Upland Sandpiper and Lark Sparrow.


Threatened - Blanding's Turtle

Special concern - Four-toed Salamander, Common Snapping Turtle, Gophersnake and Western Hog-nosed Snake

Others of regional interest - Mudpuppy, Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Great Plains Toad, Bullfrog, Common Map Turtle, Spiny Softshell, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake and DeKay's Brownsnake


Threatened - Dakota Skipper


Special concern - Powesheik Skipper, Arogos Skipper, Regal Fritillary and Phlox Moth

Others of regional interest - Bog Copper and Pawnee/Leonard's Skipper.


Special concern - Pugnose Shiner and Least Darter

Others of regional interest - Weed Shiner, Ninespine Stickleback and Longear Sunfish.

Tiger beetles

Endangered - Cicindela limbata nympha

Threatened - Cicindela lepida


Special concern - Cicindela patruela patruela

Jumping spiders

Special concern - Marpissa grata and Pelegrina arizonensis

*A species is considered endangered if the species is threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range within Minnesota.

**A species is considered threatened if the species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range within Minnesota.

***A species is considered a species of special concern if, although the species is not endangered or threatened, it is extremely uncommon in Minnesota, or has unique or highly specific habitat requirements and deserves careful monitoring of its status.

Source: DNR

The MCBS is funded by the Environmental Trust Fund (the state lottery) and other sources, including the general fund (taxes).

For more information about the MCBS, visit cal_services/mcbs/index.html. Nordquist recommends the AniMap interactive mapping tool on the right-hand side of the site.

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