Archive by Author | Claire Viellieux

May #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a barred owl swooping across the frame with a squirrel clutched firmly in its talons. Owls usually hunt from dusk until dawn, so we are very fortunate to have captured this bright daytime image.

Barred owls can easily be recognized when they give their infamous, “who-cooks-for-you?” call. Their namesake comes from the bar pattern on their feathers.

A barred owl flying through the woods with a squirrel in its talons

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant msyfoopoo99 for the #SuperSnap nomination!

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.

Wildlife Yoga

Many of us are looking for activities to pass the time as we have been keeping ourselves safe at home these past few weeks. Yoga is a great physical activity for all ages! It can help stretch out stiff muscles, calm a worried mind, and give you an appreciation for what your body is capable of. Inspired by the Bird Yoga activity created by Madison Audubon, Snapshot Wisconsin has created a sequence of Wildlife Yoga poses for you and your family to try out!

Some things to keep in mind as you work through the poses are to try to be aware of your breathing and take deep breaths. It is ok if your pose looks different from someone else’s—variation is one of the beautiful things about yoga. Have patience with yourself if you find some movements more difficult than others. Finally, don’t forget to laugh and have fun!

Downward Fox

A red fox stretching in the snow

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists aligned under your shoulders. Curl under your toes and lift your hips up and back until you are standing on the balls of your feet with your hands firmly planted on the ground. Continue to push into the ground and reach backwards like a stretching fox.

Bobcat Marching in the Snow

A bobcat walking through snow

Start on your hands and knees with your wrists aligned under your shoulders. Slowly stretch out your left hand in front of you and your right leg behind you. Keep reaching to stretch out opposite sides of your body. Return your hand and knee to the floor and stretch out your other hand and foot.

Flying Sandhill Crane

A sandhill crane with wings open

Stand up straight with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Slowly lift up one of your legs so that your knee is bent into a right-angle. Hold your arms out to the sides for balance. Slowly lean forward and push your lifted leg straight out behind you. After a few seconds, straighten back up, return your leg to the ground, and repeat on the other side.

Startled Turkey

A wild turkey with wings open

Stand up tall and stretch your arms out to the sides. Take a long deep breath into your belly while slowly raising your hands over your head. Touch your palms together overhead and exhale.

Leaping Deer

Three deer running through a field

Stand up tall and stretch your arms straight overhead. Spread your fingers wide like antlers. Keeping your arms extended, slowly bring your arms out in front of you, and then bend over and touch the floor (you can bend your knees as much as you need to).

Floating Wood Duck

Two wood ducks floating on a pond

Lay flat on your stomach with your hands near your shoulders. Use your back muscles to lift your chest a few inches off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower back down.

Playful Otter

An otter rolling on its back

Lay flat on your back. Hug your knees to your chest and rock side to side. Straighten your legs back out on the ground, raise your arms overhead and rest them on the ground as well. Then, grab your left wrist with your right hand. Staying flat on the ground, slowly arch to your right in a crescent shape to stretch out your left side. Come back to the center and repeat on your other side.

Sitting Fox

A red fox sitting in the snow

Sit down cross-legged on the ground. Rest your hands comfortably on your knees. Take three long, deep breaths. Notice what is around you. What sounds do you hear? What scents can you smell?

April #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a juvenile bald eagle from Dodge County. This camera location had so many great bird photos and #SuperSnap nominations that it was difficult to pick one!

Once this immature eagle is fully grown, it will have a wingspan of up to 7ft! Females usually lay their eggs within the first couple weeks of April, so in the next month there should be plenty of eagle chicks hatching. Eagles can often be seen soaring above bodies of open water, searching for fish to eat.

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A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant eaglecon for the #SuperSnap nomination!

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.

Rare Species Sighting: Cougar

The following piece was a collaboration between Sarah Cameron and Claire Viellieux. A summarized version was published in the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link. 

Another species has joined the list of rarities captured on Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras, a cougar from Waupaca County. The image was confirmed as containing a cougar by the Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Management team, who have confirmed other rare Snapshot Wisconsin species, including moose, American marten and whooping crane.

A cougar

Confirmed cougar captured on a Waupaca County trail camera.

Cougars (also called mountain lions or pumas) are the largest species of wildcats in North America, with males weighing up to 160 lbs and standing roughly 30 inches tall at shoulder height. Their coats are often yellowish-brown while their belly, inside legs, and chin are white. Another distinguishing characteristic is the black tip at the end of their long tails.

Cougars once roamed the landscapes of Wisconsin and played a key role in the ecosystem as one of the few apex predators, but by 1910, cougar populations had disappeared from the state altogether. While there have been several verified sightings in recent years (with the majority identified as males), there is currently no evidence of a breeding population. Biologists believe that cougars spotted in Wisconsin belong to a breeding population from the Black Hills of South Dakota. That’s over 600 miles these felines have hiked in order to make it to Wisconsin!

This sighting brings Wisconsin’s number of confirmed cougars for this year to a total of three, with the other sightings being reported from trail cameras in Price and Portage Counties. Tom, who initially identified the cougar on this Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera, shared, “[I’m] glad to have been part of it and hope to find something interesting in front of my camera again in the future.”

To learn more about cougars in Wisconsin, check out this episode of the DNR’s Wild Wisconsin podcast.

Whether you are a Zooniverse volunteer or a trail camera host, please let us know if you see a rare species in a Snapshot Wisconsin photo. If you spot them in the wild or on a personal trail camera, report the observation using the Wisconsin large mammal observation form.

Sources:
Cougars in Wisconsin
Wild Wisconsin: Off the Record Podcast Ep. 24

Translating Trail Camera Images into Deer Population Metrics

The following piece was written by project coordinator Christine Anhalt-Depies, Ph.D. for the Snapshot Wisconsin newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter, visit this link

The sight of deer fawns and their mothers along roadsides and in fields may be a sign to some that summer has arrived in Wisconsin. For an ecologist, fawns represent the new “recruits”, or the number of individuals that are added the deer population each year. Understanding the number of fawns on the landscape is an essential part of estimating the size of the deer herd in Wisconsin. Since launch of Snapshot Wisconsin, trail camera photos have played an increasingly important role in this process.

Fawn-to-doe ratios, along with information collected from harvested animals, are the primary way the Wisconsin DNR determines the size of the deer population prior to harvest. Simply put, a fawn-to-doe ratio is the average number of fawns produced per adult doe. This important metric varies across the state and year to year. The number of fawns produced per doe can depend on food availability, winter severity and resource competition, among other factors. For example, cold temperatures and deep snow in a given year can be difficult on the health of does, resulting in fewer fawns come spring. Southern Wisconsin farmland, on the other hand, provides good food sources for deer, and fawn-to-doe ratios are typically higher in these regions compared to northern forested areas.

 

Maps of wisconsin

Number of camera sites contributing to Fawn-to-Doe ratios by year.

 

Traditional surveys used to gather information about fawns and does, such as roadside observations, can have limitations due to factors like weather, topography, or time. Snapshot Wisconsin helps fill critical gaps by contributing additional data and providing improved spatial coverage. Eric Canania, Southern District Deer Biologist with the Wisconsin DNR, explained, “Snapshot’s camera coverage differs from traditional [fawn-to-doe ratio] collection methods by allowing access to observations within the heart of private lands… Although the state of Wisconsin boasts a fair amount of public land, the primary land type is still in private ownership. This means that it’s very important for us to provide [fawn-to-doe ratio] values that come from private and public lands alike and can be collected in various habitat [and] cover types.” In 2019, Snapshot Wisconsin data contributed fawn-to-doe ratios in every single county — the first time this has happened since Snapshot Wisconsin’s launch. In fact, 2019 marks a 50% increase in data collection by Snapshot trail camera volunteers compared to the previous year.

 

Map of Wisconsin

2019 fawn-to-doe ratios estimated from Snapshot Wisconsin photos.

 

To calculate fawn-to-doe ratios, researchers look across all photos at a given camera site during the months of July and August. Having already survived the first few weeks of life in early summer, fawns seen in these months have made it through the riskiest time in their lives. July and August are also ideal for detecting fawns. They are no longer hiding from predators but instead moving around at the heel of their mother. Their characteristic spots also make them easily distinguishable from yearling or adult deer. With the critical help of volunteers, researchers identify and count all photos with does and/or fawns in them from a given camera. They then divide the average number of fawns in these photos by the average number of does. This accounts for the fact that the same doe and fawn(s) may pass in front of the same camera many times throughout the summer months. Averaging all the data from across a county, researchers can report a Snapshot Wisconsin fawn-to-doe ratio.

Fawn-to-doe ratios and population estimates are key metrics provided to Wisconsin’s County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs). “CDACs are responsible for making deer management recommendations [to the Department] within their individual county,” explained Canania. In this way, “Snapshot provides an awesome opportunity for Wisconsin’s public to become involved and help us produce the most accurate deer management data possible.”

March #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) from Vilas county making its way down a path of prairie flowers. It may seem surprising, but these stout, ambling creatures can often be found at the tip-top of trees snacking away on bark, stems, leaves, fruits, and other springtime buds.

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A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant LynnGrace for the #SuperSnap nomination!

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.

February #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a couple of curious opossums from Waupaca County. Opossums are usually solitary animals, however they will occasionally interact during the breeding season from February to September.

Two opossums stare at each other

A huge thanks to Zooniverse moderator gardenmaeve for the #SuperSnap nomination!

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.

A Brief History of Trail Cameras

Blog_Cam3The invention of trail cameras occurred further back in history than some might think. George Shiras III was a politician and lawyer from Pennsylvania who had an interest in using cameras to capture the first photos of wildlife in the 1880s. Most of Shiras’s photos took place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Since cameras at this time were bulky and cumbersome, carrying a camera out to the woods to take photos of elusive wildlife was not an idea that crossed most people’s minds. Shiras, however, had a brilliant idea for baiting a site and using a series of trip wires to trigger an automatic flash bulb and capture photos of animals at night.

A bull elk

A bull elk captured at night at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. July 1913. Photograph by George Shiras.

Another method Shiras used to capture photos of wildlife was a hunting technique he learned from members of the Ojibwe tribe referred to as jacklighting. Jacklighting is the practice of sitting out on a lake in a canoe at night and using a small fire to catch an animal’s attention without scaring them away. As the animals stood still and peered curiously towards the flames, Shiras would take his shot – with his camera that is.

Shiras’s photos were one-of-a-kind at the time, and National Geographic soon began publishing them in 1906. His collection of over 2,000 photos remains in their archives today. Click here to see some of George Shiras’s amazing camera trap photos.

A hundred years later, camera trap technology had evolved considerably. By the 1980s, camera traps were mostly being used by deer hunters, but wildlife researchers were starting to use these tools as well. These cameras worked using an infrared beam that, when broken, would open the shutter on a 35mm camera and snap a picture. The 35mm film resulted in crisp and sharply contrasted images, but the film was also costly and had to be replaced often.  

The advantages of today’s digital cameras show just how far we’ve come in film technology. Cameras are light, portable, self-triggering, hold thousands of images, and can snap photos in 0.2 seconds. The use of trail cameras by hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts make them a great tool for citizen science programs such as Snapshot Wisconsin because many people already have a familiarity with using them.

A volunteer checking his trail camera

A Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer checks his camera.

The Snapshot Wisconsin program currently has over 2,100 active trail cameras in all 72 counties of Wisconsin. We’ve certainly come a long way from George Shiras’s trip wires and flash bulbs. What remains unchanged is people’s enthusiasm for capturing wildlife in a single passing moment.

A red fox

A red fox captured on a Snapshot Wisconsin camera.

December #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features six sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) from Waupaca County. Did you know there are many different titles for a group of cranes? This group could be referred to as a “dance,” a “construction,” or a “swoop”. Sandhill cranes migrate across our state every year and can often be spotted in open prairies and marshes.

Thank you to Zooniverse volunteer Swamp-eye for nominating this photo!

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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.

November #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a tom turkey dressed up in his best bow-tie wattle and ready for Thanksgiving dinner! Turkeys use their wattles for a variety of reasons. This loose skin around their neck allows them to expel extra heat during the hot summer months. Male turkeys (toms) also use their wattle to attract female turkeys (hens) when blood rushes to the area, causing the wattle to turn a bright red color. If a turkey is frightened, blood may also rush out of their wattle, causing it to turn blue.

A tom turkey

Thank you to all our Zooniverse volunteers for nominating their #SuperSnaps. 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.