Archive | February 2019

February #SuperSnap

For this month’s #SuperSnap we couldn’t pick just one! Volunteers classifying Snapshot Wisconsin images on Zooniverse may have noticed a boom in bear photos this season, which not only is helping researchers catch up on important bear data – but also bringing an influx of un-bear-ably awesome bear photos!

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the only species of bear found in Wisconsin. The current population estimate for the state is around 28,000 bears, whose primary range is restricted to the northern third of the state. These critters previously held the title of “largest resident mammal” until elk were reintroduced, bumping them into second place. Keep an eye for them during Wisconsin’s warm months, before they dip into their winter slumbers.

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. We can bear-ly wait to see what other neat photos arise!

WCBM at 15: Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network Turns 15

The following post is by a guest blogger, Eva Lewandowski,  the Citizen-based Monitoring Program Coordinator at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Thank you, Eva!

The Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring (WCBM) Network is celebrating its 15th cbmHistoryLogoanniversary this year! Citizen-based monitoring, a form of citizen science, is the participation of volunteers in the long-term monitoring of our natural resources. In 2004, over a century of successes in volunteer efforts had demonstrated their utility for research, conservation management, regulation, and education throughout the state. This led DNR staff to explore ways to link together the many organizations and individuals involved in citizen-based monitoring programs. Partnering with organizations such as UW-Extension, Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Beaver Creek Reserve, and more, they organized and held the first Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Conference in 2004, which was attended by over 120 people.

One of the major takeaways from the conference was the need for a statewide infrastructure to facilitate networking opportunities, the sharing of resources, funding, and communication within Wisconsin’s growing citizen-based monitoring community. Attendees decided that the next step should be to form a statewide group, and the WCBM Network was born!

The WCBM Network’s mission is to improve the effectiveness of volunteer efforts that monitor our plants, animals, waters, and habitats. It supports these efforts by offering resources for volunteers, project staff, researchers, land managers, and other members of the citizen-based monitoring community. The network’s website offers a searchable directory of monitoring projects and groups, an event calendar, and resources for starting a citizen-based monitoring project, selecting monitoring protocols, and even finding equipment and funding. Conferences, trainings, and frequent communications help the WCBM Network’s partners network and stay up to date on the latest news and resources.

Snapshot Wisconsin is proud to be a partner of the WCBM Network. Other partners in the WCBM Network include projects like the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program, and the Rare Plant Monitoring Program. Many organizations are also partners, including DNR, the Wisconsin Master Naturalists, and nature centers throughout the state.

You can help celebrate the WCBM at 15 anniversary by learning about the history of citizen-based monitoring in Wisconsin and by pledging to volunteer your time for one of the state’s many monitoring projects at wiatri.net/cbm.

Snapshot Saturday: February 23rd, 2019

Snapshot Wisconsin cameras capture a variety of animals across the state. From robins soaring through fields in Dane County to moose tromping in northern Wisconsin, what wildlife could you capture on a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera?

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View and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at https://www.SnapshotWisconsin.org.

February Science Update: Fawn to Doe Ratios

One of the major Wildlife Management implications for Snapshot Wisconsin is the project’s contributions toward a system the DNR uses to calculate the size of the white-tail deer population in Wisconsin. Fawn-to-doe ratios, or FDRs, are found by dividing the number of does by the number of fawns seen during the summer months and are summarized by the (82) management units across the state.

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In total, three programs contribute to FDR estimates: Snapshot Wisconsin, Operation Deer Watch, and the Summer Deer Observation Survey.  An advantage of incorporating Snapshot Wisconsin data in these estimates is that Snapshot cameras tend to be placed in secluded, natural areas, whereas the other two collection methods are opportunistic, meaning they’re biased toward counting deer seen near roadways.

One challenge associated with trail camera data is that the same individual animals may walk by the camera multiple times throughout the data collection period. To account for this, we average the total number of does seen in photos with at least one doe, and then average the total number of fawns in each photo containing at least one fawn.  We then take the average number of fawns and divide it by the average number of does.

Fawns and does may or may not be in the same photo to contribute to their respective averages. Defining a single camera-level average for each site drastically reduces the amount of data involved but ensures that the FDR is not skewed toward does, which tend to appear much more frequently on Snapshot cameras.

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2017 and 2018 Snapshot Wisconsin cameras contributing to FDR estimates. Thin grey lines delineate the deer management units, bold black lines define deer management zones.

The above maps show the camera sites that contributed to FDR estimates in 2017 and in 2018. Photos from exclusively July and August were analyzed. A site only contributes to the estimate if there were at least 10 doe observations in one of the two months, but can be counted twice if it had at least 10 doe observations in both months. Statewide, 897 cameras contributed to 2018 FDR estimates, a 44% increase from the 622 sites that contributed in 2017.  Some deer management units decreased in sample size from 2017, but

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2017 and 2018 Snapshot Wisconsin FDR estimates. Thin grey lines delineate the deer management units, bold black lines define deer management zones.

Above are the results of the 2017 and 2018 FDR estimates using Snapshot Wisconsin data. Only deer management units with a minimum of 5 camera sites were included in the analysis. In 2018, the range of FDR was 0.75 – 1.2, which is an overall increase from the range of 0.62 – 1.13 in 2017. Snapshot Wisconsin was launched statewide in August 2018, meaning most cameras in the newly open counties were not deployed until after the data collection period. We expect that the number of cameras in the 2019 analysis will increase again, which would give us even more accurate estimates.

Snapshot Saturday: February 16th, 2019

Check out this red fox captured on a Grant County Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera!

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View and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at https://www.SnapshotWisconsin.org.

Take Me to the Limit: What Restricts Species’ Ranges?

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A cold opossum. Photo by USFWS.

Recently, I was running, lost in my thoughts, and—WHOOPS—almost tripped over a shivering opossum crossing the bike path! After we both recovered our wits, I jogged in place and watched it waddle away, naked tail dragging through the snow. I rubbed my gloved—and still cold—hands together and wondered, why the heck do opossums live in Wisconsin?

When I got home, some Googling revealed an interesting fact: Wisconsin is at the limit of the opossum’s geographic range. In turn, this got me wondering—what governs the limits of a species’ range?

Ecologists typically classify range-limiting factors as either abiotic or biotic. Abiotic factors do not involve living organisms; climate is the quintessential example. Biotic factors are interactions with other organisms. A classic example is competition between organisms, which is a direct biotic interaction. However, biotic interactions can also be indirect, such as when one species improves or degrades habitat for another. Abiotic and biotic factors usually work in concert to limit an organism’s range.

The opossum I saw behind Olbrich Gardens bespeaks both. Opossums, with their naked tails and ears, have a difficult time surviving cold environments. And yet, opossums live in snowy Wisconsin! However, this is a relatively new phenomenon—opossums did not occur in Wisconsin until the 1850’s, when their range expanded northward. The opossum’s conquest of Wisconsin has been aided and abetted by another organism, namely Homo sapiens. Humans provide extra resources (like trash), which help opossums survive Wisconsin’s cold winters. A biotic interaction has helped opossums overcome an abiotic limitation.

Regardless of the exact cause, opossums reach the northern limit of their range in Wisconsin. Several other species reach range limits in the state, a fact that can come in handy while classifying Snapshot Wisconsin photos. Look a photo’s metadata—what county was it taken in? In some cases, this can narrow down identification possibilities. For example, any rabbit-looking creature in Waueksha County is likely an eastern cottontail, since snowshoe hares do not occur in southern Wisconsin. A good source for species range maps is NatureServe Explorer.

For more information about opossums, see this recent Snapshot Wisconsin blog post by Emily Buege.

For more information about the opossum’s range expansion northward, I recommend reading Walsh and Tucker (2017).

Snapshot Saturday: February 9th, 2019

We are throwing it back to summer last year for this Snapshot Saturday featuring a bobcat and her three kittens caught on a Vilas County camera. Can you spot them all?

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View and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at https://www.SnapshotWisconsin.org.

February Volunteer of the Month

February’s Volunteer of the Month is
Mike from Iowa County!

February’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Mike from Iowa County, one of the first two counties where Snapshot Wisconsin started recruiting volunteers. Mike was no stranger to trail cameras when he joined the project two years ago—he had spent his career as a biologist in the tropics where he used trail cameras as one technique to study and conserve wildlife.

“Camera trap techniques motivate me because the photos are a fantastic way to learn about wildlife. The pictures are a moment in time of critters’ daily movement that is captured forever,” Mike said.

Birds are among his favorite critters captured at his site, including sandhill cranes, pileated woodpeckers and a great horned owl (who Mike noted doesn’t appear to have caught the squirrel repeatedly triggering his camera). Check out this awesome photo below that Mike shared of a squabbling pileated woodpecker and crow. In addition to participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, he is also involved with wintertime roosting eagle counts with the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council.

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Thank you, Mike! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.

Snapshot Saturday: February 2nd, 2019

If you don’t look closely, you may easily overlook this white doe captured on a Marathon County Snapshot camera. Happy Snapshot Saturday!

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View and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at https://www.SnapshotWisconsin.org.