Featured Researcher: Hannah Butkiewicz

One of the remarkable elements of the Snapshot Wisconsin program is our ability to work closely with University collaborators across the state. When trail camera hosts upload and classify their photos, they provide valuable data for our program. Research collaborators can then use this data to answer critical questions about our state’s wildlife.

Hannah Butkiewicz is one of Snapshot Wisconsin’s current collaborators. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Hannah became interested in wildlife during a high school internship. From monitoring Karner Blue butterflies, to tracking wolves, planting prairies, and sampling fresh-water mussels, Hannah describes that summer as “life-changing.” Thanks to the mentorship of one of her teachers, she went on to pursue her interests in wildlife research. Hannah is currently working towards her M.S. at UW-Stevens Point’s Natural Resources program under the supervision of Professor Jason Riddle.

Hannah is investigating three main questions that will provide important information for wildlife management decision support:

  1. What are the estimated ratios of poults (young turkeys) to hens (adult female turkeys), and what is the average brood (group of offspring) size?
  2. Is there a difference in wild turkey reproduction and population growth between habitats that are more than 50% forested or less than 50% forested?
  3. What is the effectiveness of using Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera images to assess wild turkey reproduction and population growth?
Wild turkey and group of young

A hen and her brood of poults captured on a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

In order to answer these questions, Hannah’s research will use two different data sources. First she will analyze wild turkey data that our volunteers have collected from all over the state. These turkey photos are from April through August of 2015-2020. So far, Hannah and her research assistant have reviewed nearly 50,000 of these photo triggers. When they look at each photo, they document the number of hens, poults, toms (adult males), and jakes (juvenile males). This information will help her answer her first research question relating to hen-to-poult ratios and average brood size. It will also help her determine if there is a difference in reproduction and population growth between habitats that are more than 50% forested or less than 50% forested.

The other side of Hannah’s research involves working with a select number of Snapshot Wisconsin volunteers to place additional cameras and sound recording equipment near existing Snapshot trail cameras. A single trail camera is limited in how many animals it can capture because it only detects what passes directly in front of its view. In order to better compare the Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera triggers to the turkeys present outside of the camera’s range, three additional cameras were placed around several deployed Snapshot cameras to form a 360-degree view of the surrounding area (see Figure 1). The automated recording unit will be used to record any turkey calls from individuals that are not within view of the trail cameras, either due to foliage or distance. Hannah plans to check these extra cameras and recording units once a month for the rest of this summer. Having additional trail camera photos and sound recordings of turkeys will help her determine the efficiency of using Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera images for monitoring wild turkey reproduction and population growth. It will also allow her to adjust her hen-to-poult ratio estimates.

Hannah Butkiewicz's Camera Graphic

Figure 1. Created by Hannah Butkiewicz.

When describing her experience as a graduate student working on this project, Hannah said, “The overall experience so far has been great! I am enjoying all my classes and have developed professional relationships with my advisers, graduate students, campus professors and other professionals. Graduate school requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but it sure helps to have a great team!”

Hannah plans to finish her research in August of 2021 in order to have time to write her thesis and graduate by December of next year. We wish Hannah the best of luck in continuing with her graduate studies and we look forward to providing updates on final research findings in the future!

Bald Eagles in Wisconsin

Happy Fourth of July!

The bald eagle serves not only as a national symbol, but also as a conservation success story. Bald eagles were at high risk for extinction in the early 1900’s due to habitat destruction, illegal shooting, and contamination of their food sources. They have since made a comeback both in Wisconsin and across the United States through the Bald Eagle Protection Act, federal listing under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the banning of the pesticide DDT, and conservation actions by the public. Over the last 40 years, they have recovered from the brink of extinction and their range has expanded to 71 out of 72 counties in Wisconsin. There are plenty of ways for anyone who is interested to continue supporting bald eagles in Wisconsin and across the country. Members of the public can purchase an endangered resources plate or participate in the Adopt an Eagle Nest program. More suggestions from the American Eagle Foundation can be found here!

Check out some of our favorite bald eagle photos captured on Snapshot Wisconsin cameras from across the state!

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June #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a bird that we don’t see too often on our Snapshot Wisconsin cameras: the Ring-necked Pheasant. Brightly colored plumage, such as on this bird, indicates a male, while females are mostly brown and spotted with black. Pheasants can often be found looking for food in open fields and at the edges of woodlands.

ring-necked pheasant

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant JoyKidd 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.

Fawn Twins

Who doesn’t love fawns, especially twins? Check out this sweet scene captured on an Oconto County Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. Deer usually raise one to three fawns, though two is the most common number.

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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!

The Tick App! ‘Your Tick Expert On-The-Go!’

The following article was written by Bieneke Bron, a post-doctoral researcher for the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector Borne Diseases. 

Do you ever wonder why you are always finding ticks on yourself or around you, but your friends never do? Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison have developed a mobile application that allows users to share their experiences with ticks to help prevent future tick bites.

After an initial 5 minute survey to gather information about a user’s environment, Tick App participants are encouraged to tell researchers about their daily activities and tick encounters (or lack thereof) during peak tick season in the “Daily Log” feature of the app. When you start your logs during the peak tick season, you can get daily reminders, so you remember to check for ticks and tell the researchers about your outdoor activities.

If someone does encounter a tick, the app has a “Report-A-Tick” function where users can share information about where the tick was found, on whom it was found, and what kind of tick they think it is. They also have the ability to send in a photo of the tick to receive an expert opinion (or confirmation) on what tick species it is.

Along with the features mentioned above, the Tick App also provides individuals with information about how to identify different kinds of ticks, good ways to prevent tick exposure, and facts about ticks and the diseases they transmit. The Tick Activity function provides information on the local activity level of blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) throughout the year.

So, ready to help scientists figure out why some people seem to pick up more ticks than others? You can download the mobile application by searching “The Tick App” in both the Google Play or App Store. The Tick App is compatible with a variety of devices and can be joined online through your web-browser too (www.thetickapp.org/ web-app/).

Explore our websites www.thetickapp.org and www.mcevbd.wisc.edu. Questions about the Tick App can be directed to the UW-Madison Research team in the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases through tickapp@wisc.edu or 608-265-4741.

The Tick App

Sawyer County Bobcat

This Snapshot Saturday features a beautiful bobcat captured on a trail camera in Sawyer County!

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Interested in hosting your own Snapshot Wisconsin camera? Visit our webpage to find out how to get involved: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/research/projects/snapshot/.

The Native Plants that Impact Wisconsin Wildlife

With summer just around the corner, Wisconsin’s foliage is nearly in full bloom. These green trees, shrubs, weeds, and flowers not only provide a gorgeous background when classifying Snapshot photos, but are also critical for the health of our wildlife species. Plant cover provides food and habitat to these animals, and even reduces stress in humans. They are an irreplaceable part of the food chain as many of these plants feed insects, which in turn become food for bird, bats, fish, and so on up the line. Recognizing local plants can lend a new appreciation for the complexity and beauty of nature.

Here are just a few of the native Wisconsin plant species you may find this summer in state natural areas or even your own backyard!

Bee balm (Monarda sp.)

Bee balm (or wild bergamot) is a great food source for bees and other pollinators. You can usually see it covering large expanses in tallgrass prairies. This plant grows to about four feet tall and flowers in late July. The flowers can be pink, purple, and even red depending on the species. Bee balm is part of the mint family and its leaves are used in herbal teas. Native Americans have used wild bergamot for centuries as a medicine.

Stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Goldenrod is another common prairie plant. When their flowers bloom in the fall, they attract butterflies and bees. This plant even has its own species of beetle that has evolved along with it. The Goldenrod Leaf Miner (Microrhopala vittata) depends on the leaves of this plant for protection, food, and habitat to lay their eggs. If you look closely at the leaves of a goldenrod plant, you can often see the brown tracks and holes left by young munching larvae.

 

 

 

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Wild geranium can most often be spotted when walking through the woods in areas where the trees are sparse. These plants can be recognized by their uniquely shaped leaves with long lobes. Individual plants can grow up to 18 inches wide and 28 inches tall, and often grow in clusters. Their flowers bloom in late spring to early summer, so now is the perfect time to spot these woodland beauties!

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

A milkweed plant

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Milkweed is perhaps one of the most popular native plants. It has received wide acclaim as an essential place for Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. With Monarch populations drastically decreasing, many home owners have opted to let milkweed sprout up in their lawns and gardens. But these five-foot-tall plants aren’t just nurseries for Monarchs, they also serve as food and shelter for hundreds of other species of insects, beetles, and                                                                                           caterpillars.

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

These graceful plants bloom white flowers in spring that turn into luscious dark berries. These berries are a great food source for many bird species, but are not palatable to deer. They are part of the asparagus family and they like growing in wet, shady areas of the woods. A large plant can get up to three feet tall.

 

 

 

Click here for more information on native Wisconsin plants, including how to grow them in your own yard.

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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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!

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.