Archive | May 2018

A Booming Success: Prairie Chickens and Trail Cameras

What looks like a chicken, lives in the prairie and has one of the most phenomenal displays of courtship in the animal kingdom? You guessed it, the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)! Earlier this spring, Snapshot Wisconsin teamed up with WDNR biologists in the Buena Vista Grasslands area to implement a prairie chicken trail camera monitoring project in Wisconsin.

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Greater prairie chicken males display on “lekking” grounds, which typically consist of a mound just a little higher up than the surrounding area. The males strut their stuff, including tufts of feathers that look like ears and orange air sacs the males use to “boom”.

In the 1950’s, the greater prairie chicken was close to extinction in the state of Wisconsin. The WDNR, in partnership with conservation groups, established a prairie chicken management program. Every year in early spring, WDNR biologists begin thoroughly surveying known greater prairie chicken lekking grounds to track population size and locations of leks.  The protection and monitoring of the species has helped the comeback of the prairie chicken in Wisconsin. Currently, a few thousand chickens can be found in the central part of the state.

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Photo of a male greater prairie chicken taken from a Snapshot Wisconsin camera.

This year, Snapshot Wisconsin deployed 15 cameras to help supplement monitoring efforts. Trail cameras can efficiently and continuously survey known lekking grounds to count peak numbers of males at each lek.

Group Photo

Snapshot Wisconsin team members and WDNR biologists stand behind the traditional surveying blind and a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera.

The team had a blast deploying trail cameras at lekking grounds. For those of you who own trail cameras, you may be familiar with the walk test. In the chicken camera test, we ended up crawling to test if a chicken would be detected on camera. This resulted in a lot grass in our clothes and an equal amount of laughter.

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For more information on Wisconsin’s prairie chickens check out this link.

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Deer behavior research

Have you ever wondered about the scientific applications of your deer behavior classifications? Check out this recent article from NASA featuring Snapshot Wisconsin researcher John Clare! The work compares the “vigilant” and “foraging” deer behavior classifications from Zooniverse across space. In some areas, deer tended to be vigilant more often than they foraged, in other areas it was the other way around, and in still other areas deer tended to exhibit each behavior equally. The research can’t yet determine the “why” behind these patterns (likely a combination of vegetation, predator and weather patterns), but it’s great to see the Zooniverse behavior classifications used this way! Traditionally, behavior studies like this would require researchers to go out in the field and directly observe animals. You can imagine that to undertake a statewide study would require lots of eyes and travel hours! Thanks to Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera hosts and the people powered Zooniverse platform, we have a way to collect these data across larger swaths of space and time than was possible before.

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April #SuperSnap

Spring has finally arrived! In celebration of the warmer weather and spring flowers here in Wisconsin, our April #SuperSnap goes to this ballerina deer jumping for joy. Thanks for the nomination @momsabina!

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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.