Archive by Author | Claire Viellieux

June #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a bird that we don’t see too often on our Snapshot Wisconsin cameras: the Ring-necked Pheasant. Brightly colored plumage, such as on this bird, indicates a male, while females are mostly brown and spotted with black. Pheasants can often be found looking for food in open fields and at the edges of woodlands.

ring-necked pheasant

A huge thanks to Zooniverse participant JoyKidd 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.

The Tick App! ‘Your Tick Expert On-The-Go!’

The following article was written by Bieneke Bron, a post-doctoral researcher for the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector Borne Diseases. 

Do you ever wonder why you are always finding ticks on yourself or around you, but your friends never do? Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison have developed a mobile application that allows users to share their experiences with ticks to help prevent future tick bites.

After an initial 5 minute survey to gather information about a user’s environment, Tick App participants are encouraged to tell researchers about their daily activities and tick encounters (or lack thereof) during peak tick season in the “Daily Log” feature of the app. When you start your logs during the peak tick season, you can get daily reminders, so you remember to check for ticks and tell the researchers about your outdoor activities.

If someone does encounter a tick, the app has a “Report-A-Tick” function where users can share information about where the tick was found, on whom it was found, and what kind of tick they think it is. They also have the ability to send in a photo of the tick to receive an expert opinion (or confirmation) on what tick species it is.

Along with the features mentioned above, the Tick App also provides individuals with information about how to identify different kinds of ticks, good ways to prevent tick exposure, and facts about ticks and the diseases they transmit. The Tick Activity function provides information on the local activity level of blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) throughout the year.

So, ready to help scientists figure out why some people seem to pick up more ticks than others? You can download the mobile application by searching “The Tick App” in both the Google Play or App Store. The Tick App is compatible with a variety of devices and can be joined online through your web-browser too (www.thetickapp.org/ web-app/).

Explore our websites www.thetickapp.org and www.mcevbd.wisc.edu. Questions about the Tick App can be directed to the UW-Madison Research team in the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases through tickapp@wisc.edu or 608-265-4741.

The Tick App

The Native Plants that Impact Wisconsin Wildlife

With summer just around the corner, Wisconsin’s foliage is nearly in full bloom. These green trees, shrubs, weeds, and flowers not only provide a gorgeous background when classifying Snapshot photos, but are also critical for the health of our wildlife species. Plant cover provides food and habitat to these animals, and even reduces stress in humans. They are an irreplaceable part of the food chain as many of these plants feed insects, which in turn become food for bird, bats, fish, and so on up the line. Recognizing local plants can lend a new appreciation for the complexity and beauty of nature.

Here are just a few of the native Wisconsin plant species you may find this summer in state natural areas or even your own backyard!

Bee balm (Monarda sp.)

Bee balm (or wild bergamot) is a great food source for bees and other pollinators. You can usually see it covering large expanses in tallgrass prairies. This plant grows to about four feet tall and flowers in late July. The flowers can be pink, purple, and even red depending on the species. Bee balm is part of the mint family and its leaves are used in herbal teas. Native Americans have used wild bergamot for centuries as a medicine.

Stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Goldenrod is another common prairie plant. When their flowers bloom in the fall, they attract butterflies and bees. This plant even has its own species of beetle that has evolved along with it. The Goldenrod Leaf Miner (Microrhopala vittata) depends on the leaves of this plant for protection, food, and habitat to lay their eggs. If you look closely at the leaves of a goldenrod plant, you can often see the brown tracks and holes left by young munching larvae.

 

 

 

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Wild geranium can most often be spotted when walking through the woods in areas where the trees are sparse. These plants can be recognized by their uniquely shaped leaves with long lobes. Individual plants can grow up to 18 inches wide and 28 inches tall, and often grow in clusters. Their flowers bloom in late spring to early summer, so now is the perfect time to spot these woodland beauties!

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

A milkweed plant

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Milkweed is perhaps one of the most popular native plants. It has received wide acclaim as an essential place for Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. With Monarch populations drastically decreasing, many home owners have opted to let milkweed sprout up in their lawns and gardens. But these five-foot-tall plants aren’t just nurseries for Monarchs, they also serve as food and shelter for hundreds of other species of insects, beetles, and                                                                                           caterpillars.

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

These graceful plants bloom white flowers in spring that turn into luscious dark berries. These berries are a great food source for many bird species, but are not palatable to deer. They are part of the asparagus family and they like growing in wet, shady areas of the woods. A large plant can get up to three feet tall.

 

 

 

Click here for more information on native Wisconsin plants, including how to grow them in your own yard.

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.