Identification Introduction

Knowing how to identify species of Idaho's wildlife can be a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. It is thrilling to be out in nature and spot an organism, then be able to identify it, know something about it, and even be aware if your sighting represents a range extension or some other bit of interesting data.  Learning how to properly identify Idaho's species can be a very important skill. Without knowing what species an organism is, you will be unable to fill out an observation report to contribute data to the Idaho distribution database.   Likewise, if you are trying to conduct surveys or answer questions about what type of organism someone has, you won't be very effective if you can't identify the species.

  There are a number of strategies that are generally employed when a person is attempting to identify an unknown organism. The most important factor to consider is the morphology or structure of the organism.  Based on an organism's general shape, coloration, and patterns, etc., you should be able to work down through the taxonomic hierarchy. (Many dichotomous keys are designed this way).  A second factor to consider is the geographic area where the organism was found.  A third factor is what type of behavior the organism displays (e.g. mode of locomotion, calling, etc.). And a final factor is what type of habitat the organism inhabits.

Written by John Cossel Jr., 1997