Snapshot Wisconsin: Hosting a trail camera


Fawn selfie – Clam Lake Camera Grid – photo credit Wisconsin DNR trail camera

Season 1 and Season 2 of Snapshot Wisconsin feature images from our elk trail camera networks near Black River Falls and Clam Lake, Wisconsin.  These cameras were setup and have been monitored over the last year by WDNR staff as well as partners such as Jackson County Forest and Parks and Ho-Chunk Nation DNR.  Recently the majority of these cameras were transitioned to volunteers for future monitoring.  Our project staff enjoyed the opportunity to get out in the field when the cameras needed to be checked but having the cameras managed by volunteers will allow the cameras to be checked more consistently.


Bull Elk resting – photo credit Wisconsin DNR trail camera

Future seasons of Snapshot Wisconsin will feature images from trail cameras setup and monitored by volunteers on their own land across the state.  Anyone in Wisconsin with access to private land can sign up to host trail cameras to capture images of wildlife that may be present on their property.  The only requirements for trail camera hosts are that they have access to at least 10 acres of contiguous private land, and agree to maintain a trail camera on that land for at least one year.

Training is provided for the trail camera hosts by Snapshot Wisconsin project staff either in person in the county where they live or via online instructional videos.  During training the volunteers learn about the goals of Snapshot Wisconsin, how our data will compliment other monitoring efforts across the state and support wildlife management decisions.  The volunteers will have their own MySnapshot account which is the portal used by trail camera volunteers for uploading, viewing and classifying their photos.  We only require trail camera volunteers to review their photos in order to remove any photos of humans that may have been missed by our automated human detection process.  The volunteers may view and classify the remainder of their photos within MySnapshot if they choose.

Iowa County Training

Iowa County Training Session – photo credit Wisconsin DNR

Equipment including the trail camera, rechargeable batteries, battery charger, SD cards and mounting unit are provided.  Trail camera hosts need to have a computer with reliable access to the internet and a smart phone or hand-held GPS device for capturing camera location coordinates.  Along with retrieving the SD cards and replacing the batteries 4 times per year we also ask that volunteers clear the vegetation from a 10-15 foot area in front of their camera.  We have been continually working on reducing the number of blank photos that we have to manage and removing vegetation is an important step.

Enrollment for trail camera hosts is open state wide for educators and tribal affiliates on tribal land, while general enrollment for volunteers on private land is open in Iowa and Sawyer counties.  Four additional counties will follow by the end of this year, with the rest of Wisconsin to enroll over the next few years.  Those who are interested in hosting a camera on private land in counties that are not open yet are encouraged to apply and they will be notified when enrollment opens in that county.  When it is fully rolled out across Wisconsin, Snapshot Wisconsin will be the largest citizen science project in the state.


Sandhill Crane in flight – photo credit Wisconsin DNR trail camera

Trail camera hosts began putting their cameras out this spring and have been calling and emailing Snapshot Wisconsin staff to excitedly report the animals they have been seeing on their cameras.  One volunteer said this about seeing a coyote: “I wanted to get a coyote and we finally got one!  I have never seen one here so that was very exciting for me personally”.

Visit the Snapshot Wisconsin webpage on the WDNR website for complete details and to sign up for the Snapshot Wisconsin e-newsletter.

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