When Robert Seabloom published the first edition of “Mammals of North Dakota” in 2011, he didn’t expect a second edition of the book would be necessary less than a decade later.

The previous book on North Dakota mammals, Vernon Bailey’s “Biological Survey of North Dakota,” had stood as the authority since 1926.

Things are changing fast on North Dakota’s wildlife landscape, though, and the second edition of “Mammals of North Dakota” will be available Thursday, March 5, said Seabloom, a professor emeritus of biology at UND, where he taught Mammalogy, Vertebrate Natural History and other wildlife courses for 35 years.

The book is published by North Dakota State University Press.

Robert Seabloom
Robert Seabloom

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Since 2011, Seabloom said, there have been significant distribution shifts for 24 species -- more than one-fouth of the state’s mammals -- and three new documented species.

“I was trying to bring everything up to date in 2011, and I thought, ‘Well, this is it,’ ” Seabloom said. “It never even dawned on me at the time that there would be enough changes to justify another edition of the book just eight years later.”

Among the developments making the update necessary was the first wolverine to be documented in the state in more than a century. A ranch hand in western North Dakota shot the wolverine in April 2016, and subsequent study of the animal found it had been fitted with a radio transmitter in 2008 south of Yellowstone National Park.

Before that, North Dakota hadn’t had a confirmed wolverine since the mid-1850s, more than 150 years earlier.

Go figure.

In addition, Seabloom said, a new bat species, fringed Myotis, has been found in in the state, along with a water shrew, a small mammal native to Minnesota and Manitoba but never documented in North Dakota until last year, when the species was found in the Turtle Mountains.

Species such as spotted skunks and opossums also are expanding their range, Seabloom said. In January 2017, an opossum was confirmed in Grand Forks and appeared to be getting by just fine until it was killed by a homeowner.

News coverage of the opossum generated significant traffic on the Herald’s website, indicating there’s definitely an interest in such developments.

“There were no records or observations of the opossum except in extreme southeast North Dakota,” Seabloom said. “I think there was one record for the Hillsboro area and then from the southeast corner of the state. Then, a number of years ago, one turned up in Bismarck that got killed in a garage door opener.”

The Bismarck opossum likely worked its way up the Missouri River from South Dakota, where the species is common, Seabloom said.

“Now, we’ve got records of opossums scattered over 10 counties east of the Missouri River,” he said. “To me, that was exciting, and I think climate change might be a real factor there. Opossums are southern animals, and I’m surprised they survive the winter up here.”

The expansion of spotted skunks, another species associated with warmer climates, follows a similar path, Seabloom said.

“The only record for many years was in extreme southeast (North Dakota), and now again, there are confirmed observations from about 10 counties east of the Missouri River scattered around the whole eastern half of the state and one unconfirmed observation from Oliver County west of the Missouri River,” he said.

Another recent change of note, Seabloom said, is the documenting of bats hibernating in the Badlands of western North Dakota, a development he certainly didn’t expect.

“I used to tell my students that there are no known places for bats to hibernate in North Dakota -- they all have to migrate out,” Seabloom said. “I just kind of preached that as gospel for many years, and then I got proven wrong a couple of years ago when this group from NDSU found bats in the Badlands flitting around in the middle of the winter.”

Most likely, he said, the bats are finding cracks and eroded openings in the buttes that go back deep enough for them to crawl in and survive the winter.

“If you’re interested in bats, that’s an exciting kind of thing,” Seabloom said.

In compiling the new edition, Seabloom credits Erik Fritzell of Grand Forks, a retired wildlife professor and biologist, and Game and Fish Department biologists Bill Jensen, Pat Isaacson, Sandra Johnson, Stephanie Tucker and Brett Wiedmann for their help with the book.

“Mammals of North Dakota, Second Edition,” retails for $42 and will be available through Amazon, NDSU Press and independent bookstores; ndsupress.org.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken