May #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a barred owl swooping across the frame with a squirrel clutched firmly in its talons. Owls usually hunt from dusk until dawn, so we are very fortunate to have captured this bright daytime image.

Barred owls can easily be recognized when they give their infamous, “who-cooks-for-you?” call. Their namesake comes from the bar pattern on their feathers.

A barred owl flying through the woods with a squirrel in its talons

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant msyfoopoo99 for the #SuperSnap nomination!

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Watch for Fawns

Snapshot Saturdays are a weekly feature on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Facebook page. Give them a Like to keep up with recent DNR news and to view the weekly Snapshot Saturdays. 

Keep an eye out, May is the time of year that fawns start making their grand appearances. Many volunteers express the joy of watching fawns grow right before their eyes through the lens of a trail camera.

Check out this sweet scene captured in Marquette County last May!

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Birds of Snapshot Wisconsin

With migration in full swing and breeding season upon us, you may be noticing more feathered friends passing by your Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

While volunteers are not required to identify most birds down to the species level, we know that many volunteers are curious of what exactly is showing up in front of their trail cameras. According to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology around 250 bird species can be regularly found in Wisconsin, though more than 400 have been recorded in the state. Of this diverse variety of birds, there are a few that make frequent appearances on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras.

Check out the below slideshows to learn the ID’s of some of the common species found. More information about the species can be found in their linked names below. Please note the birds are not accurate size ratios.

Species that volunteers are required to ID:

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Learn more about Sandhill Crane, Whooping Crane, Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheasant and Ruffed Grouse.

Common woodpeckers:

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Learn more about Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker.

Common water birds:

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Learn more about Wood Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose and Great Blue Heron.

Common raptors:

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Learn more about Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk.

Other common birds:

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Learn more about American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Woodcock, American Crow, Hermit Thrush, Common Grackle and Red-winged Blackbird.

For those interested in exploring more Snapshot Wisconsin birds, this year the Snapshot Wisconsin team embarked on a new project with all the “other bird” photos showing up in front of the trail cameras. Snapshot Wisconsin Bird Edition is a collaboration between Snapshot Wisconsin and the Wisconsin DNR Natural Heritage Conservation. The goal is to identify all of Snapshot Wisconsin’s bird images to a species level and to look for evidence of breeding. Breeding observations will be reported to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II and observations of uncommon, rare, or endangered species will be reported to the Natural Heritage Conservation. Learn more and get started at birds.snapshotwisconsin.org.

Turkey Fight Captured on Camera

Snapshot Saturdays are a weekly feature on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Facebook page. Give them a Like to keep up with recent DNR news and to view the weekly Snapshot Saturdays. 

One of Snapshot Wisconsin’s educators, Skylar from Marquette County, managed to capture quite the epic turkey fight in front of their classroom’s trail camera. Skylar shared, “Judging from the time stamps, the altercation lasted for at least 3 minutes. I imagine that it would be really terrifying in real life.”

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Certainly a scene you wouldn’t want to stumble upon in the woods, but a great one to observe from a trail camera!

Wildlife Yoga

Many of us are looking for activities to pass the time as we have been keeping ourselves safe at home these past few weeks. Yoga is a great physical activity for all ages! It can help stretch out stiff muscles, calm a worried mind, and give you an appreciation for what your body is capable of. Inspired by the Bird Yoga activity created by Madison Audubon, Snapshot Wisconsin has created a sequence of Wildlife Yoga poses for you and your family to try out!

Some things to keep in mind as you work through the poses are to try to be aware of your breathing and take deep breaths. It is ok if your pose looks different from someone else’s—variation is one of the beautiful things about yoga. Have patience with yourself if you find some movements more difficult than others. Finally, don’t forget to laugh and have fun!

Downward Fox

A red fox stretching in the snow

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists aligned under your shoulders. Curl under your toes and lift your hips up and back until you are standing on the balls of your feet with your hands firmly planted on the ground. Continue to push into the ground and reach backwards like a stretching fox.

Bobcat Marching in the Snow

A bobcat walking through snow

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists aligned under your shoulders. Slowly stretch out your left hand in front of you and your right leg behind you. Keep reaching to stretch out opposite sides of your body. Return your hand and knee to the floor and stretch out your other hand and foot.

Flying Sandhill Crane

A sandhill crane with wings open

Stand up straight with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Slowly lift up one of your legs so that your knee is bent into a right-angle. Hold your arms out to the sides for balance. Slowly lean forward and push your lifted leg straight out behind you. After a few seconds, straighten back up, return your leg to the ground, and repeat on the other side.

Startled Turkey

A wild turkey with wings open

Stand up tall and stretch your arms out to the sides. Take a long deep breath into your belly while slowly raising your hands over your head. Touch your palms together overhead and exhale.

Leaping Deer

Three deer running through a field

Stand up tall and stretch your arms straight overhead. Spread your fingers wide like antlers. Keeping your arms extended, slowly bring your arms out in front of you, and then bend over and touch the floor (you can bend your knees as much as you need to).

Floating Wood Duck

Two wood ducks floating on a pond

Lay flat on your stomach with your hands near your shoulders. Use your back muscles to lift your chest a few inches off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower back down.

Playful Otter

An otter rolling on its back

Lay flat on your back. Hug your knees to your chest and rock side to side. Straighten your legs back out on the ground, raise your arms overhead and rest them on the ground as well. Then, grab your left wrist with your right hand. Staying flat on the ground, slowly arch to your right in a crescent shape to stretch out your left side. Come back to the center and repeat on your other side.

Sitting Fox

A red fox sitting in the snow

Sit down cross-legged on the ground. Rest your hands comfortably on your knees. Take three long, deep breaths. Notice what is around you. What sounds do you hear? What scents can you smell?

Connections Across Volunteer Opportunities: An Interview with Al

The following piece was written for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

Like many of our state’s residents, Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera host, Al from Marinette County, wears many hats when it comes to his involvement in Wisconsin wildlife. “I’ve been interested in wildlife since childhood, and I’ve been deer hunting for 50 years.” Al shared in an interview with the Snapshot Wisconsin staff, “[Volunteering with Wisconsin DNR] is one way for me to give back a little something, by being on committees or participating in research projects.” Al’s background meant that he was no stranger to trail cameras when he enrolled in the project, which holds true for many of Snapshot Wisconsin’s volunteers.

Back when the Snapshot Wisconsin project was only enrolling volunteers in a subset of counties, Al signed on to the waitlist for Marinette County and received one of the very first cameras deployed in northeastern Wisconsin. Al joked that if you can think of a species, it has passed in front of his trail camera. His site is frequented by many deer and bear but also joined by a larger variety including bobcats, skunks, porcupines, and more. In fact, one of his favorite memories involved spotting a sow and her two cubs as he approached his camera for a routine check.

In addition to monitoring a trail camera in Marinette County, Al has served on his local County Deer Advisory Council since the program’s inception in 2014, where he is currently the hunt/conservation club representative. Al’s history as a co-chair for the Northeastern Wisconsin Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation made him a perfect selection for this seat. In the same year that Al joined the Marinette County CDAC, he also decided to enroll his 400 acres of land in the Deer Management Assistance Program.

Just as wildlife serves as a connection between Wisconsin residents, Al is able to see the connection between the different programs that he volunteers his time for. Monitoring both a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera and being a member of his local CDAC means that his data is making a full circle back to him, especially regarding fawn-to-doe ratios. Al shared, “Our CDAC pays close attention to all the deer metrics and is especially interested in fawn-to-doe ratios.”

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Some of Al’s favorite deer images captured on his Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

April #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a juvenile bald eagle from Dodge County. This camera location had so many great bird photos and #SuperSnap nominations that it was difficult to pick one!

Once this immature eagle is fully grown, it will have a wingspan of up to 7ft! Females usually lay their eggs within the first couple weeks of April, so in the next month there should be plenty of eagle chicks hatching. Eagles can often be seen soaring above bodies of open water, searching for fish to eat.

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A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant eaglecon for the #SuperSnap nomination!

Continue classifying photos on Zooniverse and hashtagging your favorites for a chance to be featured in the next #SuperSnap blog post. Check out all of the nominations by searching “#SuperSnap” on the Snapshot Wisconsin Talk boards.

Rare Species Sighting: Cougar

The following piece was a collaboration between Sarah Cameron and Claire Viellieux. A summarized version was published in the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link. 

Another species has joined the list of rarities captured on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras, a cougar from Waupaca County. The image was confirmed as containing a cougar by the Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Management team, who have confirmed other rare Snapshot Wisconsin species, including moose, American marten and whooping crane.

A cougar

Confirmed cougar captured on a Waupaca County trail camera.

Cougars (also called mountain lions or pumas) are the largest species of wildcats in North America, with males weighing up to 160 lbs and standing roughly 30 inches tall at shoulder height. Their coats are often yellowish-brown while their belly, inside legs, and chin are white. Another distinguishing characteristic is the black tip at the end of their long tails.

Cougars once roamed the landscapes of Wisconsin and played a key role in the ecosystem as one of the few apex predators, but by 1910, cougar populations had disappeared from the state altogether. While there have been several verified sightings in recent years (with the majority identified as males), there is currently no evidence of a breeding population. Biologists believe that cougars spotted in Wisconsin belong to a breeding population from the Black Hills of South Dakota. That’s over 600 miles these felines have hiked in order to make it to Wisconsin!

This sighting brings Wisconsin’s number of confirmed cougars for this year to a total of three, with the other sightings being reported from trail cameras in Price and Portage Counties. Tom, who initially identified the cougar on this Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera, shared, “[I’m] glad to have been part of it and hope to find something interesting in front of my camera again in the future.”

To learn more about cougars in Wisconsin, check out this episode of the DNR’s Wild Wisconsin podcast.

Whether you are a Zooniverse volunteer or a trail camera host, please let us know if you see a rare species in a Snapshot Wisconsin photo. If you spot them in the wild or on a personal trail camera, report the observation using the Wisconsin large mammal observation form.

Sources:
Cougars in Wisconsin
Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record Podcast Ep. 24

A Sloth or a Bear?

Snapshot Saturdays are a weekly feature on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Facebook page. Give them a Like to keep up with recent DNR news and to view the weekly Snapshot Saturdays. 

A sloth or a bear? How about a sloth of bears!

Did you know that a group of bears may be referred to as a sloth or even a sleuth? Check out this sloth of black bear captured by a Douglas County Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer.

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Are you interested in exploring the wonders of Wisconsin wildlife from your home? Visit www.SnapshotWisconsin.org to view images captured from trail cameras across the state. It’s a fun and educational activity for all!

Translating Trail Camera Images into Deer Population Metrics

The following piece was written by project coordinator Christine Anhalt-Depies, Ph.D. for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

The sight of deer fawns and their mothers along roadsides and in fields may be a sign to some that summer has arrived in Wisconsin. For an ecologist, fawns represent the new “recruits”, or the number of individuals that are added the deer population each year. Understanding the number of fawns on the landscape is an essential part of estimating the size of the deer herd in Wisconsin. Since launch of Snapshot Wisconsin, trail camera photos have played an increasingly important role in this process.

Fawn-to-doe ratios, along with information collected from harvested animals, are the primary way the Wisconsin DNR determines the size of the deer population prior to harvest. Simply put, a fawn-to-doe ratio is the average number of fawns produced per adult doe. This important metric varies across the state and year to year. The number of fawns produced per doe can depend on food availability, winter severity and resource competition, among other factors. For example, cold temperatures and deep snow in a given year can be difficult on the health of does, resulting in fewer fawns come spring. Southern Wisconsin farmland, on the other hand, provides good food sources for deer, and fawn-to-doe ratios are typically higher in these regions compared to northern forested areas.

 

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Number of camera sites contributing to Fawn-to-Doe ratios by year.

 

Traditional surveys used to gather information about fawns and does, such as roadside observations, can have limitations due to factors like weather, topography, or time. Snapshot Wisconsin helps fill critical gaps by contributing additional data and providing improved spatial coverage. Eric Canania, Southern District Deer Biologist with the Wisconsin DNR, explained, “Snapshot’s camera coverage differs from traditional [fawn-to-doe ratio] collection methods by allowing access to observations within the heart of private lands… Although the state of Wisconsin boasts a fair amount of public land, the primary land type is still in private ownership. This means that it’s very important for us to provide [fawn-to-doe ratio] values that come from private and public lands alike and can be collected in various habitat [and] cover types.” In 2019, Snapshot Wisconsin data contributed fawn-to-doe ratios in every single county — the first time this has happened since Snapshot Wisconsin’s launch. In fact, 2019 marks a 50% increase in data collection by Snapshot trail camera volunteers compared to the previous year.

 

Map of Wisconsin

2019 fawn-to-doe ratios estimated from Snapshot Wisconsin photos.

 

To calculate fawn-to-doe ratios, researchers look across all photos at a given camera site during the months of July and August. Having already survived the first few weeks of life in early summer, fawns seen in these months have made it through the riskiest time in their lives. July and August are also ideal for detecting fawns. They are no longer hiding from predators but instead moving around at the heel of their mother. Their characteristic spots also make them easily distinguishable from yearling or adult deer. With the critical help of volunteers, researchers identify and count all photos with does and/or fawns in them from a given camera. They then divide the average number of fawns in these photos by the average number of does. This accounts for the fact that the same doe and fawn(s) may pass in front of the same camera many times throughout the summer months. Averaging all the data from across a county, researchers can report a Snapshot Wisconsin fawn-to-doe ratio.

Fawn-to-doe ratios and population estimates are key metrics provided to Wisconsin’s County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs). “CDACs are responsible for making deer management recommendations [to the Department] within their individual county,” explained Canania. In this way, “Snapshot provides an awesome opportunity for Wisconsin’s public to become involved and help us produce the most accurate deer management data possible.”