Lakeshore Nature Preserve Feature

As long-term Snapshot Wisconsin team member, Vivek Malleshappa, transitions to his new role in California with Esri, we wanted to share a newsletter article that he wrote for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve where he hosted his own Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. Thank you, Vivek! 

The Lakeshore Nature Preserve has been a sanctuary for me since I started my master’s degree in Environmental Science at UW-Madison. Living ‘next door’ in Eagle Heights Apartments, whenever I needed a break from schoolwork, I hopped out to the Preserve with my binoculars. Watching a downy woodpecker chip away at a tree was enough to unwind. I still live here with my wife and we are grateful for the easy access to a natural area as beautiful as the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. I wanted to volunteer for the Preserve and decided to host a trail camera with Snapshot Wisconsin, where I work. Before I talk about all the cool wildlife we are seeing from the trail camera, I want to introduce you to Snapshot Wisconsin.

Snapshot Wisconsin is a volunteer-based trail camera project managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Volunteers across the state of Wisconsin participate in the project by hosting a trail camera on their private land or public lands to collect data, which is used in wildlife management decision support.

I have been operating the camera at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve since December 2018 and it has already captured some amazing pictures. From commonly seen raccoons and opossums, to the somewhat secretive red fox and the less common deer, there is a variety of wildlife passing by the camera.

While deriving wildlife population insights from this one camera is difficult, at a minimum it tells us about what species occupy this landscape. And, all the cameras across the state of Wisconsin together are helping us paint a picture of wildlife presence and populations. To find out more about the statewide project and possibly get involved, at the Snapshot Wisconsin website.

I look forward to seeing many more interesting pictures from the camera at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Here are some of my favorites so far and I hope you like them as much as I do.

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Un-deer the Weather

Snapshot Wisconsin cameras capture tons of deer throughout the year. In fact, deer account for nearly two-thirds of the wildlife captured on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras. Since there are so many photos of deer taken, we see some deer that look like they might be hurt or have a disease. Here are a few examples of deer who are looking a little under the weather and what might be ailing them:

Swollen chest

Nancy (or known by her Zooniverse handle @NBus) is a wildlife health expert here at the Wisconsin DNR who let us know that a swollen chest like this is not unusual in deer. Nancy shared the following response to this image, “It is likely either an abscess (pus-filled) from a penetrating wound that carried bacteria under the skin or a seroma (serum-filled; serum is the non-cellular portion of the blood, not the red and white cells) from a blunt trauma to the chest. The chest is a common part of the body for deer to injure as they run and impact something. And gravity then allows the accumulated pus or serum to gather in a bulge on the lower chest. In either case, the body will likely be able to resolve it and the deer will be fine.”

Warts

Another example that shows up semi-frequently is warts. Like many mammals, deer are susceptible to warts caused by a virus. These growths, called cutaneous fibromas, are caused by the papilloma virus. Usually the deer’s immune system can keep the warts in check or get rid of them. Sometimes if the warts appear in areas that obstruct the deer’s ability to eat, they could become a larger issue (source).

Thin and scraggly

Finally, we will touch on thin or scraggly looking deer. Especially in the spring, deer can start looking very skinny and ragged. This one above is shedding its winter coat and is probably a little thin since this was taken in the middle of May in Wisconsin, when food can be hard to come by. However, this is not outside the norm for deer this time of the year. We are often used to thinking of an image of plump deer, but in reality, the appearance can vary greatly based on time of year and food availability. 

If you want to see more examples of common deer health issues please visit our previous deer health blog titled, “Is this deer sick?” from February 2018. Learn more about Wisconsin health by visiting this DNR link

Bugling Elk in Wisconsin

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. 

Wisconsin elk may be a marvel to see, but witnessing the sound of their bugling is an unforgettable experience. Elk begin bugling in late August, and you can hear their bellows through the end of September.

This Snapshot Saturday features a bull elk captured on camera in the Flambeau River State Forest. If you’re near one of the elk reintroduction areas this month, be sure to keep an ear out!

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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/.

Sandhill Crane Family in Adams County

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. 

This Snapshot Saturday features a family of sandhill crane from Adams County. Sandhill cranes select their mates at four years of age and can live as many as 25 to 30 years with the same mate. These cranes only make their appearance on Snapshot Wisconsin cameras during the warm Wisconsin months before families migrate south together to their wintering grounds.

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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!

August #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a pair of wood ducks from Richland County! Their colorful head makes them stand out against the early spring growth in this vernal pool. The wood duck (Aix sponsa) does not have any close relatives in North America (Audubon). This makes it a unique bird that prefers the shaded waters in woodland areas. 

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Thank you Zooniverse volunteers Kjreynolds1957 and Nsykora for nominating these birds. 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.

How It Feels to Discover a Rare Species on Camera

On Friday, April 12th, Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer John came across something extraordinary. After making routine checks of his elk cameras in Black River Falls, he headed home to upload his photos.  During the standard process of review and classification, one photo in particular stood out amongst the sea of deer and turkeys. John recognized it immediately. “That’s a big white crane with a red head!” he exclaimed. “Woah, this is a whooping crane!”

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John knew how rare they are, having only seen them at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. That was 30 years ago, when his kids were young. John wanted to verify his discovery before sharing his excitement with the Snapshot team. “I went to my smartphone to verify that I was seeing the correct animal, and I said, ‘Yup, that’s a whooping crane!’” Sure enough, not only had John captured a rare species, but he had photographed the first whooping crane in the history of Snapshot Wisconsin.

He couldn’t believe how spectacular the image was. “It was a beautiful photo! It was at 8 in the morning, and it must have just landed. It had its wings up – it looked like it was dancing in front of the camera! I thought wow, what a perfect picture.”

John has been involved in the project for one and a half years, and currently maintains five cameras in the Black River Falls elk reintroduction area.  John’s passion for the outdoors and interest in Wisconsin elk motivated him to become a Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer after retirement. “I like to get out into new locations and explore. It’s kind of a spiritual experience for me to be in the outdoors.” He also appreciates the opportunity to stay active. “I get a little exercise. I don’t like to be on a treadmill, I would rather be walking in the woods and seeing things. [Snapshot Wisconsin] is a good fit for me.”

When asked about his favorite part of participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, John shared that he enjoys being in the woods, seeing the wildlife and exploring new areas. He also welcomes the challenge of finding his camera sites. “Navigation is challenging,” he explained, “finding a camera based on a certain grid coordinate is kind of exciting.”

Capturing the memorable photo of the whooping crane has only added to John’s experience as a volunteer. “I’m glad I got an animal that was interesting. I have gotten bear, wolves, and bobcats [and] of course a lot of deer and turkey. But the whooping crane was kind of the icing on the cake. I am looking forward to getting other interesting animals.”

John also recognizes how this whooping crane sighting is significant in terms of the conservation of this endangered species. When asked what it means to him to be a part of this crane’s story, John said, “It’s kind of interesting. I think my job is kind of small but sometimes it ends up being a big production. It shows how small the world is and how everybody can make a difference no matter what they do.”

2019 Spring Fawn Survey

The goal of the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study is to comprehensively examine factors that could impact deer survival and deer population growth in southern Wisconsin. Those include Chronic Wasting Disease, predation, habitat suitability and hunter harvest. In late May and early June, members of the Snapshot Wisconsin team had the opportunity to help out with the project’s spring fawn search. Snapshot staff joined the CWD team and volunteers from across the state to search for fawns in the study areas near Dodgeville.

Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study Areas

Study areas to the east and west of Dodgeville, WI.

On each day of the 3-week survey, DNR employees and volunteers assembled into a line spread fingertip to fingertip to sweep across the survey area. It takes a keen eye and diligent searching to spot a fawn, as newborn fawns can be as small as a football. When less than 5 days old, fawns stay bedded down and in hiding amongst tall grass and brush. Does often leave their fawns for hours at a time to give the fawn a better chance of survival.

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When a staff member or volunteer came upon a fawn, they rested their hands on the fawn’s back to gently keep the fawn from getting up. A children’s sock was then placed over the fawn’s eyes to keep it calm as DNR employees promptly fitted the fawn with ear tags and a radio collar. These collars are made of elastic material with pleats sewn into them that pop, expand, and eventually fall off as the fawn grows – usually within 18 months. Important information such as the fawn’s sex, weight, and rear leg length was recorded before carefully placing the fawn back where it was bedded down.

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The Snapshot Wisconsin team learned a lot about fawns, CWD, and how the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study gathers valuable data about white-tailed deer. This unique fieldwork opportunity also gave our team an up-close look at the wildlife we usually see in trail camera images!

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For more information, please visit the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study’s webpage.

Check out these other Snapshot Wisconsin blogs related to the project:
1) Southwest Deer and Predator Study
2) In the Field with the Southwest CWD, Deer and Predator Study

Science Update: Whooping Crane Sighting

The following piece was written by OAS Communication Coordinator AnnaKathryn Kruger for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

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Whooping crane 1-17 is, according to his personal biography, a natural-born leader. He is confident, vigilant, quick to take a jab at a potential threat and allegedly able to spot a worm at 50 yards.

This two-year-old crane, born and raised from captive breeding stock at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, is one of a rare species that has been newly restored to North America after overexploitation in the mid-20th century nearly drove them to extinction.

Whooping crane 1-17 appeared this spring on a Snapshot Wisconsin camera in Jackson County, much to the excitement of the Snapshot Wisconsin crew and the researchers stewarding 1-17’s journey across the landscape. View an interactive story map outlining 1-17’s journey here

“The conservation story behind [whooping cranes] is a marvelous story, involving a lot of effort and a lot of money,” said Davin Lopez, conservation biologist with the National Heritage Conservation Bureau in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Although they’re recovering, they’re an incredibly rare species – I mean, people come from far and wide to see them – they’re a big, five-foot-tall, charismatic, pure white bird, so they’re pretty striking out there, very visible on the landscape. People find them very beautiful.”

Efforts toward the reintroduction of migratory whooping cranes to eastern North America began in 1999 with the formation of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP). WCEP was founded as a collaborative project between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the International Crane Foundation, Operation Migration, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the United States Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

The whooping crane is critically endangered in North America and has only one major migratory population, the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWBP). This flock breeds in Canada, winters in Texas and comprises 505 birds as of December 2018.

Per the stipulations of the International Whooping Crane Recovery Plan, which outlined the need to establish one or more migratory crane populations in addition to the AWBP, WCEP has overseen the successful establishment of an eastern migratory population (EMP) of whooping cranes. In 2001, 7 individual cranes were guided in their migration from Wisconsin to Florida by aircraft, and 6 were guided back in the spring. As of July 2019, the estimated population size of the EMP is 87 individuals.

One significant barrier to the growth of wild whooping crane populations is the high mortality rate amongst wild chicks. Since 2002, WCEP has supplemented the wild crane population with chicks raised in captivity. These chicks were originally raised through costume-rearing, wherein the chick is raised by a human in costume. In recent years, researchers have transitioned to parent-rearing, where birds are raised in captivity by adult cranes, with minimal human intervention. 1-17 himself was a supplemental, costume-reared chick.

“Depending on the year, we get a certain number of chicks to release to supplement our wild population, and the bird in question, 1-17, is one of those birds. We also rely on natural reproduction, though historically we haven’t had a lot of it. That’s been one of our major struggles,” said Lopez. “Ultimately, we want to get to the point where we have a self-sustaining population out there that is above 100 birds at least, where we wouldn’t have to supplement any more birds.”

Crane 1-17 began his journey in the fall of 2017 in White River Marsh in Wisconsin with his sisters 2-17 and 8-17. When the birds failed to migrate on their own in a timely manner, they were relocated to Goose Pond in Indiana, and from there the trio flew to Talladega County in Alabama, where they spent the winter.

Come spring, the three cranes aimed north, but it swiftly became clear to researchers that they did not know the way back to Wisconsin. They spent some time in Illinois, and then 1-17 and 2-17 split from their sister and moved on to summer in Iowa.

At the end of November 2018, 1-17 and 2-17 took off from a stint in Northern Illinois and headed for the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. Though they were met with a snowstorm en route, the pair persevered and were briefly reunited with 8-17 before she migrated to Tennessee in December.

In spring of 2019, 1-17 and 2-17 were observed wandering north and south through Indiana and Illinois, and eventually they found their way back to Wisconsin. The pair went their separate ways in April of 2019, and 1-17 was soon after captured on a Snapshot Wisconsin camera in Jackson County.

There is something of a learning curve when it comes to migratory behavior, and, as demonstrated by crane 1-17, there is sometimes a significant amount of wandering before whooping cranes grow to a reproductive age and settle.

The privilege of seeing one of these magnificent birds may be reserved for the select few who happen upon them out of sheer luck, but the population has been stable for several years and researchers look to the future of this species with optimism. Rare species like the whooping crane also become more visible as the state’s capacity for monitoring wildlife expands, and Snapshot Wisconsin spearheads this mission with a growing network of trail cameras posted throughout the landscape. As the project progresses, it will become easier to track the species that typically go undetected in wildlife surveys, better informing conservation efforts as well as broadening the public’s experience of Wisconsin wildlife.

“If you want to see a crane, we hope that you’re able to go out and find one,” said Lopez. “They may be rare in Jackson County, but we hope they’re a permanent fixture on the landscape in Wisconsin during the summer.”

Piebald Deer 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. 

Piebald deer make for quite the spectacle, but what is responsible for their unique coloration? Recessive genes must be inherited from both parents to produce a piebald deer, making them quite rare. In fact, only 2% of deer present this coloration! Although it is illegal to shoot a white deer, piebald deer are legal to harvest during regulated seasons in Wisconsin.

Check out this piebald buck captured on a Snapshot Wisconsin camera in Iowa County last fall.

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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/.

July #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a coyote (Canis latrins) as it approaches a Snapshot Wisconsin camera deployed in Racine County. Snapshot Wisconsin recently surpassed 30 million trail camera images – staff members and volunteers alike are consistently amazed by some of the images coming out of the project. Thank you to Zooniverse volunteers WINature and Swamp-eye for nominating this series!

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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.