Moving Through the Seasons: Annual Activity Patterns in Deer

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

M2E57L166-166R399B382

Wisconsin is renowned for being home to a well-established population of white-tailed deer. They are an undeniably important part of Wisconsin’s forests and farmland and are the animal that appears most frequently on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras. Since its inception in 2016 the project has accrued a massive supply of deer photos. This vital cache of information offers researchers the opportunity to make population-level observations about things like movement and activity patterns, and how these change with the seasons.

Deer_Age_Sex_Class_BreakdownOut of a sample of 1.4 million Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera photos of deer, antlerless deer take the lead at 63%. The remaining 37% comprises antlered (13%), adult unknown (15%) and fawns (8%).

In their ongoing analyses of these photos, scientists at the Wisconsin DNR have noted that deer show strong crepuscular patterns near both the summer and winter solstices. The word crepuscular refers to the interim between night and day, or both dawn and dusk. Deer are more active closer to sunrise and sunset than they are at any other time of day across any season. In winter, there is an observable preference toward sunset – most likely because afternoon is the warmest time of the day, and therefore the best for foraging. The opposite goes for the longer days in summer, when deer seem to prefer sunrise, as it is cooler and foraging at that time is less energetically expensive.

Crepuscular_seasonsDuring the summer, antlered deer are the most likely to stick to this crepuscular pattern. On the other hand, antlerless deer and fawns are a little more unpredictable. Fawns are generally more active throughout the day, as are antlerless deer, though to a lesser extent. Antlerless deer are also more active through the night. Assuming that most antlerless deer are does, their deviation from the crepuscular pattern can be attributed to their need to move to and from spots where they drop their fawns in the time following birth. Despite their penchant for daytime activity, after the first 12 weeks fawns begin to mirror the activity of their mothers, gradually falling into the recognizable crepuscular pattern.

 

Crepuscular_summerAs for winter, both antlered and antlerless deer are seen to be most active at sunset. At this point, fawns are indistinguishable from does and are therefore not differentiated from the rest of the population in the analysis. During the winter, antlered deer are more active during the night and less active during the day than antlerless. Predictably, the annual rut drives a significant uptick in activity for male deer in late October, a pattern familiar to Wisconsin drivers who may be liable to encounter deer more frequently around the same time.

Crepuscular_Winter1Snapshot Wisconsin’s growing cache of deer photos sheds light on deer activity as it varies through the seasons and even day-to-day. Recognizing these patterns bolsters our knowledge of how deer interact with and move through the landscape. These photos are also used to investigate population dynamics and determine fawn-to-doe ratios to better track the growth of the herd. Such a plentiful supply of information on an important species like deer is of great value to our researchers, whose analyses are a critical component of wildlife management decision-making at the Wisconsin DNR.

Advertisements

“The Velvet King”

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. 

Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera host Race from Polk County recently passed along a favorite image from their Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. In Race’s words, “I call him the velvet king”.

SnapshotSaturday_10.5.19

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/.

September #SuperSnap

September’s #SuperSnap features a Jackson County bobcat blending in quite nicely with the surrounding foliage! Bobcat are an elusive, nocturnal species – which makes the sight of them on trail cameras all the better.

M2E63L187-187R399B404

Thank you Zooniverse volunteer bzeise for nominating this image. 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.

Deer Trail Camera Selfie

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. 

Of all the species making appearances on Snapshot Wisconsin cameras, white-tailed deer have mastered the art of trail camera selfies. Check out this buck captured on an Iowa County camera!

M2E66L193-193R399B413

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/. 

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.

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!

SnapshotSaturday_9.7.19

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.

SnapshotSaturday_8.31.19

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. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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!”

M2E73L211-211R399B404

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.”