March Science Update: Greater-Prairie Chicken Lek Monitoring

One of Snapshot Wisconsin’s major goals is to alleviate some of the burden associated with time-consuming in-person survey techniques. This is possible because trail cameras can serve as round-the-clock observers in all weather conditions. Annual Greater Prairie-Chicken lekking (breeding) surveys were identified as having good potential to be supplemented by Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, and a pilot study was conducted in spring 2018.

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The Greater Prairie-Chicken (GPC) is a large grouse species native to grassland regions of central Wisconsin. During the breeding season each spring, males compete for female attention by creating a booming noise and displaying their specialized feathers and air sacks.  This ritual occurs on patches of land known as leks, as seen in the photo above. Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Management staff identify leks in the early spring and return to each site twice in the season to count the number of booming males. The number of males present on the leks is used as an index to population size. Three Snapshot Wisconsin cameras were deployed on each of five leks – one camera facing each direction except for east to reduce the number of photos triggered by the rising sun. The cameras were deployed from late March through mid-May, and all in-person surveying was conducted within the same period.

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As seen in the graph above, Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras recorded male GPC at all five of the study sites. This is significant because GPC were only detected on three of the five leks according to the in-person surveys. On leks A, B, and D, where both in-person and camera surveying detected GPC, the in-person maximum of male GPC was higher. However, when the trail camera maximum is averaged across all survey days, the maximum is nearly the same for both survey methods (8.5 in-person, 8.3 trail camera).

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In-person surveying requires the observers to arrive before dawn and remain in the blind until after the early morning booming has finished. Snapshot Wisconsin cameras record the hourly activity on the lek while minimizing the risk of disturbance due to human presence. The graph above displays the total number of male GPC photos captured by hour and shows a small uptick in photos around 7 p.m. Because the in-person surveys do not include evening observations, Snapshot Wisconsin data offer a way to examine the lek activity at all hours.

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Additionally, continuous data collection is not only useful in capturing the activity of GPC, but offers insight into the dynamics of Wisconsin’s grassland ecosystems. In total, Snapshot Wisconsin cameras collected over 3,000 animal images including badger, coyote, deer, other bird species, and more.  Some photos were even a little surprising.  Pictured above is a coyote just feet away from prairie chicken. We might expect the GPC to flee in the presence of a predator, but this one appears to be standing its ground. In the upcoming pilot year two, we hope to gather even more information about the interactions within and among species found on these leks.

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Snapshot Saturday: March 16th, 2019

As the song goes, “one of these things is not like the other.” Check out this shot captured on a Racine County Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera!

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Did you know you can view and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at www.SnapshotWisconsin.org? It’s a fun activity for the whole family!

What Wisconsin Animal Are You?

Some of us like to stay up late and others prefer to snooze, you might be a homebody or always on the move…in case you didn’t realize – animals are the same way too!

Have you ever wondered what Wisconsin animal best embodies your habits?  Now is your chance to find out!  Take our quiz to find out what Wisconsin animal you are.

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This quiz was developed by Sarah Cameron, Christine Anhalt-Depies, and Ally Magnin of the Snapshot Wisconsin Team. 

Snapshot Saturday: March 9th, 2019

White-tailed deer represent nearly 2/3rds of the wildlife captured on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras, ones caught with their tongues out represent a disappointingly lower proportion. Happy Snapshot Saturday!

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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/.

March Volunteer of the Month

March’s Volunteer of the Month is
Melanie and Trees For Tomorrow from Vilas County!

March’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Melanie and the Trees For Tomorrow staff in Vilas County! Trees For Tomorrow (TFT) is a nonprofit natural resources specialty school in Eagle River, WI whose mission is to promote sustainable management of our natural resources through transformative educational experiences. TFT’s field-based programs place students in direct contact with nature, providing the knowledge and skills to prepare today’s youth to be tomorrow’s stewards of our natural world. Founded in 1944, Trees For Tomorrow is proud to be celebrating 75 years of conservation education in Wisconsin. Melanie and TFT have been hosting a Snapshot Wisconsin camera since July of 2017.

Melanie, the Environmental Science Educator for TFT, shared, “Participating in Snapshot Wisconsin has allowed us to learn more about the wildlife that lives at Trees For Tomorrow as well as engage our students and guests in exciting, hands-on learning!” Trees For Tomorrow keeps their visitors updated on what critters are making appearances at the property on their phenology board, which you can see below. Additionally, their education team created a trail camera class where students can learn about cameras, how to scout for good sites, and analyze trail camera data to investigate life histories of local species.

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Thank you, Melanie and Trees For Tomorrow! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.

Find out more about Trees For Tomorrow by visiting their website here.

Snapshot Saturday: March 2nd, 2019

Can you spot the elusive Wisconsin native featured in this Snapshot Saturday? Hint: their winter coats make them experts at camouflage.

3.2.19 SnapshotSaturdayDid you know you can view and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at www.SnapshotWisconsin.org? It’s a fun activity for the whole family!

February #SuperSnap

For this month’s #SuperSnap we couldn’t pick just one! Volunteers classifying Snapshot Wisconsin images on Zooniverse may have noticed a boom in bear photos this season, which not only is helping researchers catch up on important bear data – but also bringing an influx of un-bear-ably awesome bear photos!

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the only species of bear found in Wisconsin. The current population estimate for the state is around 28,000 bears, whose primary range is restricted to the northern third of the state. These critters previously held the title of “largest resident mammal” until elk were reintroduced, bumping them into second place. Keep an eye for them during Wisconsin’s warm months, before they dip into their winter slumbers.

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. We can bear-ly wait to see what other neat photos arise!

WCBM at 15: Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network Turns 15

The following post is by a guest blogger, Eva Lewandowski,  the Citizen-based Monitoring Program Coordinator at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Thank you, Eva!

The Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring (WCBM) Network is celebrating its 15th cbmHistoryLogoanniversary this year! Citizen-based monitoring, a form of citizen science, is the participation of volunteers in the long-term monitoring of our natural resources. In 2004, over a century of successes in volunteer efforts had demonstrated their utility for research, conservation management, regulation, and education throughout the state. This led DNR staff to explore ways to link together the many organizations and individuals involved in citizen-based monitoring programs. Partnering with organizations such as UW-Extension, Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Beaver Creek Reserve, and more, they organized and held the first Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Conference in 2004, which was attended by over 120 people.

One of the major takeaways from the conference was the need for a statewide infrastructure to facilitate networking opportunities, the sharing of resources, funding, and communication within Wisconsin’s growing citizen-based monitoring community. Attendees decided that the next step should be to form a statewide group, and the WCBM Network was born!

The WCBM Network’s mission is to improve the effectiveness of volunteer efforts that monitor our plants, animals, waters, and habitats. It supports these efforts by offering resources for volunteers, project staff, researchers, land managers, and other members of the citizen-based monitoring community. The network’s website offers a searchable directory of monitoring projects and groups, an event calendar, and resources for starting a citizen-based monitoring project, selecting monitoring protocols, and even finding equipment and funding. Conferences, trainings, and frequent communications help the WCBM Network’s partners network and stay up to date on the latest news and resources.

Snapshot Wisconsin is proud to be a partner of the WCBM Network. Other partners in the WCBM Network include projects like the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program, and the Rare Plant Monitoring Program. Many organizations are also partners, including DNR, the Wisconsin Master Naturalists, and nature centers throughout the state.

You can help celebrate the WCBM at 15 anniversary by learning about the history of citizen-based monitoring in Wisconsin and by pledging to volunteer your time for one of the state’s many monitoring projects at wiatri.net/cbm.

Snapshot Saturday: February 23rd, 2019

Snapshot Wisconsin cameras capture a variety of animals across the state. From robins soaring through fields in Dane County to moose tromping in northern Wisconsin, what wildlife could you capture on a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera?

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View and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at https://www.SnapshotWisconsin.org.

February Science Update: Fawn to Doe Ratios

One of the major Wildlife Management implications for Snapshot Wisconsin is the project’s contributions toward a system the DNR uses to calculate the size of the white-tail deer population in Wisconsin. Fawn-to-doe ratios, or FDRs, are found by dividing the number of does by the number of fawns seen during the summer months and are summarized by the (82) management units across the state.

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In total, three programs contribute to FDR estimates: Snapshot Wisconsin, Operation Deer Watch, and the Summer Deer Observation Survey.  An advantage of incorporating Snapshot Wisconsin data in these estimates is that Snapshot cameras tend to be placed in secluded, natural areas, whereas the other two collection methods are opportunistic, meaning they’re biased toward counting deer seen near roadways.

One challenge associated with trail camera data is that the same individual animals may walk by the camera multiple times throughout the data collection period. To account for this, we average the total number of does seen in photos with at least one doe, and then average the total number of fawns in each photo containing at least one fawn.  We then take the average number of fawns and divide it by the average number of does.

Fawns and does may or may not be in the same photo to contribute to their respective averages. Defining a single camera-level average for each site drastically reduces the amount of data involved but ensures that the FDR is not skewed toward does, which tend to appear much more frequently on Snapshot cameras.

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2017 and 2018 Snapshot Wisconsin cameras contributing to FDR estimates. Thin grey lines delineate the deer management units, bold black lines define deer management zones.

The above maps show the camera sites that contributed to FDR estimates in 2017 and in 2018. Photos from exclusively July and August were analyzed. A site only contributes to the estimate if there were at least 10 doe observations in one of the two months, but can be counted twice if it had at least 10 doe observations in both months. Statewide, 897 cameras contributed to 2018 FDR estimates, a 44% increase from the 622 sites that contributed in 2017.  Some deer management units decreased in sample size from 2017, but

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2017 and 2018 Snapshot Wisconsin FDR estimates. Thin grey lines delineate the deer management units, bold black lines define deer management zones.

Above are the results of the 2017 and 2018 FDR estimates using Snapshot Wisconsin data. Only deer management units with a minimum of 5 camera sites were included in the analysis. In 2018, the range of FDR was 0.75 – 1.2, which is an overall increase from the range of 0.62 – 1.13 in 2017. Snapshot Wisconsin was launched statewide in August 2018, meaning most cameras in the newly open counties were not deployed until after the data collection period. We expect that the number of cameras in the 2019 analysis will increase again, which would give us even more accurate estimates.