Archive | February 2018

February #SuperSnap

It’s time to pick #SuperSnap for the shortest month of the year! This month’s sequence was shared by @Mitch56 and nominated by @cjpope. A beautiful wolf from Sawyer county which appears to be showing it’s funny side!

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Funny animals have their own awards, check out: https://www.comedywildlifephoto.com/. Pardon us for anthropomorphizing!

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.

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Is this animal albino?

From time to time, we find photos of animals with white coats that don’t typically have white coats. Are these animals albino?

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Albinism is caused by a genetic mutation whereby cells called melanocytes are “switched off” and fail to produce the pigment melanin. Melanin colors hair, skin, feathers, scales and eyes. Albinism can occur in any animal that has melanocytes, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish. Albino individuals may appear pure white, or may just be lighter overall than non-albino individuals.

Albinism is a rare condition, and there are several more common explanations for light coloration in animals. One is leucism, a condition caused by recessive genes that restrict the creation and/or distribution of pigment-making cells throughout the body during early development. Leucistic individuals may have light coloration overall, or they may have a light patch or patches scattered across the body.

Since either condition can result in individuals that appear white or very light in color, how can the casual observer tell the difference? It’s helpful to look at the eyes. Eye pupils normally look black because pigments at the back of the eye absorb light. In albino individuals unable to produce melanin, however, eyes appear red because light is reflected off blood vessels in the retina rather than being absorbed by pigment. This is why albino individuals experience a heightened sensitivity to light, and often some degree of blindness.  Since the melanocytes that produce eye color are not affected by leucism, leucistic individuals typically have normal eye color.

So, is the deer in the photo above albino or leucistic? Based on the dark eyes, it’s more likely leucistic.

White deer (albino or not) are protected from hunting in certain places, including Wisconsin. Why? White deer are not a special “breed” or subspecies, but they do hold social significance. People love seeing them, and some believe that they are good luck or magical. Certain areas of the state are now known for their white deer, and we are likely to keep spotting them on Snapshot Wisconsin cameras from time to time.

 

More info on color variation in animals:

 

 

Is this deer sick?

Our Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras capture images from all over the state and throughout the year.  Sometimes folks spot a critter that looks a bit different from the others and ask, “Is this deer sick?”  In most cases, the answer is “not likely.”  In this post we are sharing some of our most frequently asked questions about deer appearance and wildlife diseases.

M2E28L65-65R387B337This deer looks skinny!  Is it sick?  Could it have CWD? 

Winter in Wisconsin can be quite rough for a deer!  In summer food sources are abundant, but come wintertime deer have to rely on less nutritious forage like twigs, lichens, or leftovers in harvested crop fields. Because resources vary significantly with the season, a deer’s weight will also vary.  After particularly long winters, deer may look very skinny the following spring and even in to early summer.  But not to worry; they will put the weight back on in no time.

CWD (chronic wasting disease) is a fatal nervous system disease that affects deer, elk, and moose.  CWD has been found in wild deer in 23 Wisconsin counties, with highest prevalence in the southern part of the state. Clinical signs of CWD include diminished muscle tone and emaciation, but outward symptoms often do not appear for months or years after infection. The disease is best confirmed through a lab test for the disease; physical appearance based on trail camera images is not a reliable indicator.  More likely a deer is skinny because of poor food resources in winter and not because of CWD or some other disease.

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What is wrong with this deer’s coat? 

Each spring deer molt or lose their winter coats.  The thick grey hairs that make up the winter coat are replaced with a new reddish-brown summer coat.  This molting process can happen quite quickly and during the transition deer can look a little ratty and rough.  This is a normal process and nature’s way of making sure deer are “dressed” for the temperature.

M2E52L150-149R399B383This deer has an injury.  Can you notify someone or help this deer?

Sometimes deer with physical injuries show up in our photos.  This is common for wild animals. These injuries can be caused by any number of reasons, such as scraping against a fence or perhaps from a predator.  In many cases, the small injuries will heal quickly, leaving a scar or patch bare of hair.  In cases where the injury is major (say from a car collision) and the deer cannot recover, the animal will become an important food source for scavengers.

All of the photos appear on Zooniverse many months after they have been taken, and the animal may no longer be in the area.  Although reporting the observation via Zooniverse will not be helpful, Wisconsinites who personally observe sick or dead animals can make a timely report to their local DNR office or contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Taylor’s Fisher Frenzy

An inquisitive fisher plays around with a non-invasive sampling box.

Before joining the Snapshot crew, I worked on a long-term fisher (Pekania pennanti) monitoring project in a beautiful section of Northern California, called the Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region.

Our study focused on one of two endemic populations of fishers on the West coast found in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Fisher populations declined in the 1800s and early 1900s due mainly to trapping and habitat loss. This study was undertaken 11 years ago in response to a petition to list the fisher as a federally endangered species (which was ultimately overruled).

The goals of the project are to better understand the size and robustness of the western fisher population, explore species interactions between meso-carnivores (such as gray fox and ringtail), and investigate fisher responses to wildfires. It’s a very dynamic and exciting project to work on, with lots of valuable questions to explore.

The red X marks the location of our study area within the fisher’s historical and current range.

We used baited, corrugated plastic boxes at 100 historical locations to track our fisher populations. The boxes were fitted with a metal track plate covered in contact paper and ink, along with a glue strip that caught hair from critters passing through the box.

An example of a fisher paw print compared to my hand. Tracks of fisher, gray fox, spotted skunk, ringtail, and other species were used to calculate occupancy estimates. Hair samples were used to calculate fisher density throughout the study area.

Every day for three months, my co-worker and I would set off into the woods to collect track plates and hair snares.  This usually meant 10-12 hour days of driving around the Klamath National Forest, punctuated by steep hikes to retrieve samples in the forest.

The Klamath-Siskiyou eco-region has one of the highest diversities of conifers in the world. The area is marked by steep, rugged terrain and deep, river gorges.

Even though we never outright saw the feisty fishers, we began to expect “visits” from them at our boxes. We collected tracks and hair from the same boxes every week. The fishers certainly appreciated the chicken and cat food we left as bait for them! Our weekly box checks became like meeting up with old friends. At one site, I collected a female’s tracks and hair every week for two months. She never made a mess of the bait or destroyed the box (which I greatly appreciated)!

All in all, I had a terrific experience that helped me to understand the importance of non-invasive sampling (i.e., sampling that does not require capturing animals – like the camera trap method used in Snapshot Wisconsin)!

If you are still curious about the non-invasive sampling boxes, check out this video of the box setup.

Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference

TeamPic-MidwestRevisedThe Snapshot Wisconsin team

Last week the Snapshot team traveled to Milwaukee to participate in the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference.  As a sponsor of the conference, Snapshot Wisconsin hosted a booth where we met and chatted with wildlife folks from around the Midwestern U.S.   We had a lot to show attendees, including some fun flashcards that the team put together to help people work on their classification skills. We were honored that our booth was chosen Best in Show!

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We also organized a Citizen Science symposium called “Collaboration with the Public for Natural Resource Research, Management and Conservation.”  The symposium focused on practical advice for citizen science project managers. Topics included protocol design, participant recruitment and training, data management, and evaluating program outcomes.  Presenters included WDNR project coordinators, a developer from Zooniverse, and the new director of the UW-Madison Arboretum.

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Christine Anhalt-Depies and Professor Tim Van Deelen

One of our Snapshot Wisconsin team members, Christine Anhalt-Depies, was chosen as the graduate student recipient of this year’s Leopold Scholarship from the Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society.  Christine was chosen based on her commitment to the wildlife profession and her exceptional commitment to her professional development in a way that honors the memory of Aldo Leopold.  Congratulations Christine!

Our new Snapshot Wisconsin mascot, Snappy the Snapshot Beaver, was a hit with students at the conference.  We were offering up a gift for anyone who posed with Snappy for a selfie and many students were happy to participate.

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January #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap was nominated by @eaglecon. Thanks for this fantastic photo series of a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileastus) in action from Waupaca county! Fun fact: the pileated woodpecker’s brain is completely protected by a reinforced skull and neck. This protection is important since the woodpecker pecks into trees for carpenter ant snacks and “drums” for mates.

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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.