Acquiring all the necessary permits from various governmental agencies to conduct a seismic data acquisition program can be a particularly time consuming, expensive and tedious process.
Once the permits are in hand, considerably more time and money is expended in implementing the appropriate procedures in the field -- particularly when it comes to protecting any endangered species that reside (or are thought to reside) in the area to be surveyed.
Perhaps one of the most unusual examples of this sort of activity comes from Oklahoma and involves the American Burying Beetle (ABB), which is on the endangered species list.
The ABB is an annual species, so population levels depend solely on the reproductive success of the previous year.
To protect the ABB during a seismic survey, contractors must implement a kind of beetle relocation program.
“You have to get a biologist to look at the survey area, and if it’s a habitat important to these beetles to procreate, then you can’t disturb the top six inches of soil,” said John Schneider, manager of prospect planning and permitting for USA operations at Global Geophysical. “If you want to bulldoze, then you have to bait them away.”
The bait? Dead chicken carcasses.
Here’s the way it works:
Traps are set out in the evening and loaded with the bait to attract the nocturnal beetles. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office, un-skinned chicken is the bait-of-choice for surveyors because it is inexpensive and remains moist longer than other baits, because most of its fat is in the skin. The birds are, however, plucked.
But these aren’t just any chicken carcasses.
The bait must be rotten and emit a truly pungent odor to attract the ABBs -- fresh meat is a total turnoff.
Traps are checked in the morning, and the captured ABBs should be released along the transect where they were captured or within roughly 500 feet from the transect, according to the Service. They need to be released a minimum of about 100 feet from vehicular or foot traffic and outside the pathway of vehicular and foot traffic.
Any ABBs that appear to be dead must be collected and monitored for at least 20 minutes. For the ABBs who don’t make it, an accidental mortality form must be completed and submitted to the Service.