Surveying for the Federally Endangered American Burying Beetle

The American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) is a federally endangered species—characterized by its large size and distinctive black and orange coloring. This nocturnal beetle utilizes carrion for its life cycle, and therefore competes with vertebrates many times its size. Within the Mid-Continent region of the United States, the American Burying Beetle (ABB) is most commonly found in open fields, prairie-like grasslands, oak-pine and oak-hickory ecosystems, and along edge habitat. When an endangered species or its habitat may be impacted by a project, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) often requires consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For projects where the ABB is concerned, presence/absence surveys are the first step of the consultation process. Apex has USFWS permitted surveyors on staff, who can perform surveys throughout the Mid-Continent region including; South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.

Apex conducts surveys using two-person teams during the ABB active season, which is from mid-May to mid-September. Two-person teams are utilized as they promote efficiency, safety, and scientific integrity. Live-traps, with an effective radius of 0.5 miles each, are monitored for three nights in good weather conditions, and must be checked by 10:00am in the morning to prevent injury to any beetles caught.

Certified ABB surveyors are a rarity, with less than 30 permit-holding individuals in the nation. Certified surveying personnel must operate under a Section 10(a)1(A) recovery permit, have extensive experience and familiarity with ABB protocols and conservation measures, and have a documented ability to identify ABB in the field.

Apex currently has one certified ABB surveyor on staff, with multiple personnel poised to become certified for the 2014 active season. The growth in Apex’s ABB program has been aided by the experience gained through extensive surveys conducted for major oil and gas clients. With such a large number of certified individuals ready and able to lead teams, Apex is capable of tackling large, interstate projects. This also provides our clients with a great amount of flexibility, as well as extensive, rapid, and accurate survey results.

Apex’s ABB and other threatened and endangered species (T&E) expertise can also be used in the early phases of project design, siting, and routing. Many T&E, wetland, and other biological issues can be identified from a desktop during the initial phases of projects—using Apex’s extensive experience. This expertise may be used to route projects around problem areas, minimizing the amount of survey and permit approval time necessary to get projects approved. Ultimately, early project input can result in cost savings and environmental permitting efficiency.

If you are in need of certified ABB surveyors, have questions on the ABB and the surveying process, or would like guidance on whether surveying is a step your project requires, feel free to contact us.

Apex Associated Press (Apex AP) represents contributions from various authors within the Apex professional community.

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