DEEP: WCRP Projects in Connecticut

Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program

{Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program} The Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program (WCRP) was established to provide state wildlife agencies with funding to address important wildlife issues that have traditionally been under funded. Funds were available in Connecticut from 2001 to 2004. The grant was allocated to states as a subaccount of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.

The projects undertaken in Connecticut represented a good mixture of surveys, research, and wildlife-related education and recreation. From songbirds to shorebirds, bears to rabbits, mussels to dragonflies, these projects addressed a diversity of birds, mammals and invertebrates that had been largely neglected. Increased technical assistance to urban communities and schools, municipal planners, landowners and the public is always in great demand and several of the projects were focused in that direction. Projects were also initiated to do some additional early successional stage habitat management, conduct comprehensive inventories and improve wildlife viewing opportunities.

Federal Grant Provides Funding Connecticut Wildlife Jul/Aug 2001 (PDF 390k)

Migratory Bird Stopover Habitat Survey

Project Objective: To document the use of Connecticut’s major river corridors as stopover habitat for spring and fall avian migrants.

Project Background: Most avian management has focused on breeding and wintering birds. Little information exists on critical stopover habitats used by migrating birds. Loss of these critical habitats can result in greater distances between “refueling” stops for migrating birds, which can significantly increase their mortality. This project helped in identifying priority sites for protection and contributed to the Partners In Flight national goal of identifying such areas throughout the country.

Project Links:
Volunteers Needed
Migratory Bird Surveys Continue Connecticut Wildlife May/Jun 2004 (
PDF 874k)
Migratory Bird Surveys Provide Insight Connecticut Wildlife Sep/Oct 2003 (
PDF 681k)
Migratory Bird Stopover Project's First Year Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2002 (
PDF 932k)
Migratory Bird Stopover Project (July 2002)

Master Wildlife Conservationist Program

{Master Wildlife Conservationist emblem} Project Objective: To train volunteers to deliver wildlife-related programs for education outreach and technical assistance.

Project Background: The public’s demand for wildlife-related programs far exceeds the Wildlife Division’s capabilities. By developing an intensive training course, the Division is creating a pool of highly trained volunteers to educate others about issues related to wildlife and natural resource management.

Project Links:
Fourth MWC Program Series Completed Connecticut Wildlife Jul/Aug 2004 (PDF 666k)
MWCs Donate 1000+ Hours of Service Connecticut Wildlife May/Jun 2003 (PDF 657k)
MWCs Volunteers Take to the Field Connecticut Wildlife Sep/Oct 2002 (PDF 725k)
First Training Sessions for Master Wildlife Conservationists Held
(May 2002)
Would You Like to be a Master Wildlife Conservationist? Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2001 (PDF 432k)

Grassland Bird Studies

Project Objective: To document the extent of grassland bird nesting habitat in Connecticut and, at larger nesting areas, to learn more about essential habitats and limiting factors.

Project Background: Many species of grassland birds are declining throughout the Northeast and grasslands are one of the most rapidly disappearing habitat types in Connecticut. Study results were to help identify critical habitats for acquisition or protection and assist in the development of a long-term grassland bird conservation plan.

Project Links:
Volunteers Needed
Grassland Birds Surveyed with Help of Volunteers Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2002 (PDF 932k)

New England Cottontail Rabbit Conservation

Project Objective: To evaluate the home range size, habitat and distribution of New England cottontail rabbits.

Project Background: Limited research suggests that populations of the New England cottontail (Connecticut’s only native cottontail rabbit) have declined dramatically over the past century as a result of habitat fragmentation and competition from the eastern cottontail. More needs to be known about the status of the New England cottontail and its habitat requirements. The study has improved knowledge of New England cottontail distribution and is identifying specific habitats that can be managed to improve suitability for New England cottontails.

Project Links:
Cottontail Fact Sheet
Cottontail Collection Effort Providing Clues Connecticut Wildlife Sep/Oct 2003 (PDF 681k)
New England Cottontail Study Hops Along Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2002 (PDF 932k)
Radio-collared Rabbits Being Followed (May 2002)
The Tale of Two Rabbits Connecticut Wildlife Sep/Oct 2001 (PDF 722k)

Dragonfly and Damselfly Surveys

Project Objective: To collect the information needed to develop a statewide dragonfly and damselfly conservation plan.

Project Background: The development of dragonfly and damselfly identification materials and workshops, the creation of on-line resources and the resulting data collection will improve the knowledge of the status of damselflies and dragonflies and will help guide habitat protection for uncommon and rare species.

Connecticut Coastal Birding Trail

{Coastal Birding Trail Logo} Project Objective: To provide the public, through a recreational framework, with the guidance and information that will allow them to learn more about Connecticut’s bird resources and the conservation issues they face.

Project Background: There is a growing public interest in bird viewing and bird conservation, but limited information to guide citizens to the best observation sites or to inform them about the birds and habitats they are viewing. This project is establishing a network of key birding sites along the coastline, providing information about the birds and habitats at each site, and identifying wildlife educational opportunities.

Project Links:
Nominate a Site for Connecticut's New Coastal Birding Trail Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2002 (PDF 932k)
CT Coastal Birding Trail Update Connecticut Wildlife Jul/Aug 2002 (PDF 664k)
Connecticut Coastal Birding Trail Website

Town Planning Workshops and Manuals

Project Objective: To develop a series of land managers’ workshops and manuals that will include information on landscape-level resource management.

Project Background: Many of the land use decisions that affect wildlife are made at the municipal level. There is a need to provide local decision makers with helpful, productive guidance and to promote cooperation on a regional basis to address wildlife conservation issues. Training and a land managers’ manual developed by this project will provide municipal officials with guidance for making informed land use decisions and promote a landscape-level perspective for addressing smart growth and sustaining viable wildlife populations.

Wildlife Management Area Comprehensive Inventory

Project Objective: To conduct comprehensive natural resource inventories on two wildlife management areas.

Project Background: The Wildlife Division has not had the resources to conduct intensive natural resource inventories on most of the 90 wildlife management areas that it administers. Improved inventory data would assist in guiding habitat management decisions and evaluating management actions. This project evaluated floral and faunal inventory techniques and developed a detailed natural resource database for two of Connecticut's largest wildlife management areas.

Urban Schools Small Habitat Project

Project Objective: To provide technical assistance and plantings to at least 10 urban schools to enhance schoolyard habitats.

Schools that Participated

 Bridgeport  New Haven
 - Saint Ann Elementary School
 - Central High School
 - Quinnipiac Elementary School
 - East Rock Global Magnet School
 - Saint Bernadette School
 Hartford  Waterbury
 - Quirk Middle School
 - Hartford Public High School
 - Mary Hooker School (spring 2003)
 - Saint Margaret McTernan School
 - Carrington Elementary School

Project Background: As Connecticut’s landscape continues to become more urbanized, smaller habitat parcels become increasingly important to wildlife. Schoolyard habitats offer an excellent opportunity to teach students, teachers and parents about urban wildlife and small-scale habitat enhancement techniques. This project enhanced wildlife habitat at 10 urban schoolyards by providing plantings. These schoolyard habitats also serve as demonstration sites for local communities.

Project Links:
Create Habitat and They Will Come Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2002 (PDF 932k)
Urban School Project Update Connecticut Wildlife Jul/Aug 2002 (PDF 664k)

Freshwater Mussel Key and Surveys

Project Objective: To develop a identification key for freshwater mussels and train volunteers to assist in stream surveys.

Project Background: Six of Connecticut’s twelve freshwater mussel species are listed as endangered, threatened or special concern. Systematic surveys have not been conducted and better data is needed to assess the status of these species. The development and distribution of the identification key will enable individuals to assist the Division in documenting the occurrence of rare species.

Project Links:
The Freshwater Mussels of Connecticut
Freshwater Mussel Guide Published Connecticut Wildlife Sep/Oct 2003 (PDF 681k)

Informational and Educational Exhibits

Project Objective: To create new exhibits at the Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods Conservation Education Center that highlight the importance of habitat to Connecticut’s birds and to inform the public about endangered species and their management.

Project Background: The number of visitors to the Center and habitat demonstration sites at Sessions Woods has been increasing annually. Development of these new exhibits is underway and will expose visitors to a variety of important messages related to birds, endangered species and wildlife habitats.

Project Links:
Sessions Woods WMA
New Exhibit on CT's Changing Landscape Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2003 (PDF 614k)

Grassland Habitat and Wildlife Viewing

Project Objective: To develop and enhance wildlife viewing opportunities at four early successional stage habitat sites.

Project Background: Grassland habitats are rapidly disappearing in Connecticut. The public needs a better understanding of how and why remaining grassland habitats should be conserved. This project will improve access, develop viewing blinds and provide interpretive signs at four state-managed grassland areas. The improved viewing opportunities will increase public awareness and appreciation of the management activities required to maintain grassland habitats.

Estimating the Black Bear Population

Project Objective: To develop a baseline estimate of the black bear population in Connecticut.

Project Background: The Wildlife Division uses sighting reports to monitor the distribution of black bears in the state. However, the sightings cannot reliably be translated into population trends. As the number of bears increases, it is important to have more precise information on population size and growth rates. By capturing, marking and releasing bears, the Division is increasing its knowledge of bear population demographics, physical condition, movements and dispersal.

Project Links:
Bear Sightings in Connecticut
Black Bear Fact Sheet
Reproduction and Survival Fuel Bear Population Growth Connecticut Wildlife May/Jun 2004 (PDF 874k)
Black Bear Dens Checked Connecticut Wildlife May/Jun 2003 (PDF 657k)
Be on the Lookout for Bears with Ear Tags Connecticut Wildlife Nov/Dec 2002 (PDF 932k)
Bear Research Continued through Summer
(September 2002)
Black Bear Project Update Connecticut Wildlife Jul/Aug 2002 (PDF 664k)

Heron and Egret Monitoring at Charles Island Natural Area Preserve

Project Objective: To provide on-site education about the rookery and monitor human use and impacts on nesting birds.

Project Background: The Charles Island rookery is one of the state’s largest nesting colonies for the great egret, snowy egret, black-crowned night heron and little blue heron. Despite educational signs, protective fencing and seasonal closures of the island, the colony continues to suffer annual mortality due to human disturbance. An on-site monitor educated site users about the rookery and its sensitivity to disturbance. The monitor also collected information on human-related disturbances that can be used in the development of a long-term rookery protection plan.

Control of Invasive Vegetation and Enhancement of Early Successional Stage Habitat

Project Objective: To enhance 60 acres of early successional stage habitat on three state wildlife management areas.

Project Background: Early successional stage habitat is declining throughout the Northeast due to development, natural succession, loss of farmland and absence of fire. In addition, invasive plant species, such as autumn olive, often dominate disturbed sites. Active management to create, maintain and enhance early successional stage habitats is needed to reverse the population decline of many species that require such habitats. As a result of this project, 20 acres of warm season grasses were enhanced, 30 acres of old field habitat was be restored and 10 acres of aspen was regenerated.

Red-headed Woodpecker Status Assessment

Project Objective: To document the occurrence of red-headed woodpeckers in Connecticut and to develop management recommendations for the species.

Project Background: The red-headed woodpecker is a state endangered species. Very little is known about its current status or habitat requirements in Connecticut. Data documenting the population status and habitat use was collected to develop a management plan for this species.

Shorebird Use of Horseshoe Crab Concentration Areas

Project Objective: To document the use of horseshoe crab concentration areas by migrating shorebirds.

Project Background: Little information exists on the use of critical stopover areas by migrating shorebirds. Recent studies in Delaware Bay have demonstrated the importance of horseshoe crab eggs as a food source for migrants, such as red knots. The data collected through this project will help determine the relative importance of horseshoe crab concentration areas to shorebirds, assist in evaluating the impact of horseshoe crab harvest levels on shorebird populations, and help guide management and land acquisition efforts in coastal areas.