Welcome to Snapshot Wisconsin! We are only 24 hours in and are already nearly 20% complete. Thanks for all you do!
As you’ve probably already noticed, white-tailed deer and elk are captured frequently on our trail cameras. This is because both species are abundant in the region of Wisconsin where the trail cameras are located. In addition, deer and elk are large, mobile animals that travel the visible wildlife trails along which the cameras are placed. By classifying deer and elk in terms of adults and young, you are helping us to understand the population dynamics of the species.
But there’s more to learn from the trail camera photos, including an understanding of deer and elk behavior. Having additional information on behavior will allow us to investigate the impact predators have on the behavior of deer and elk. Trail cameras are unique in that they allow us to look at both the behavioral response to predators, in addition to the population response.
This Season we’re asking for your help to identify 5 behaviors for deer and elk: foraging, vigilance, interaction between individuals, resting, moving, and staring at the camera. How we are defining each of these behaviors is listed below, as well as in the field guide (tab on the right hand side of the page).
Foraging: Head down or below shoulder height and eating something or, rarely, a deer/elk obviously eating foliage above the shoulder
Vigilant: Head is up, ears erect, and alert posture
Interaction: Any direct physical interaction with another deer/elk; can be aggressive (fighting), play, or grooming
Camera Stare: Looking directly at the camera
Resting: Deer/elk has bedded down in front of the camera
Moving: Traveling by either walking or running
We are so very excited to launch Snapshot Wisconsin, a volunteer-based effort to monitor wildlife using trail cameras. This project is run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), with the help of wonderful collaborators and volunteers like you. Those of you who participated in this project’s precursor – Wisconsin Wildlife Watch – will be familiar with the general idea of Snapshot Wisconsin. For the newbies, let’s get you oriented!
The goals of this project are to:
- Increase public engagement with natural resources and the outdoors.
- Provide data needed to make wildlife management decisions.
To accomplish these goals, we are establishing a statewide network of trail cameras. Each camera is hosted by a volunteer who sets up the camera, collects the camera’s SD card at least every three months, uploads photos, and screens the photos. Then, we transfer the photos to Zooniverse where users can identify and count the animals they see in the photos.
This process is immensely helpful to us. Once the project is rolled out across the state, we will potentially be handling millions of photos each month – far too many for WDNR staff to classify on our own!
We are interested in all the wildlife species found in the photos, but a special focus of Season 1 is to learn more about Wisconsin’s elk population. The first set of cameras were set up in two areas of Wisconsin where elk have been reintroduced (more detail here and on our Research page), and Season 1 photos are from these elk reintroduction areas.
Future Snapshot Wisconsin seasons will include photos from different counties around the state as we enroll volunteers on a rolling basis. (If you live in Wisconsin and would like to apply to host a trail camera, please visit our official project page.)
Stay tuned to this blog for updates and feel free to frequent our Talk boards to communicate with researchers and other users.