The end of September is a beautiful time to travel around Wisconsin. This fall we have had a lot of opportunity to get out and enjoy the fall colors as we travel around doing in person trainings across the state. Taylor and I traveled up to Crandon and Merrill for a few days for trainings and gave a talk about Snapshot to the Lincoln County Sports Club. We were fortunate to have Friday afternoon off so we took the opportunity to check out Council Grounds State Park just outside Merrill. We had a lovely walk along the lake shore and as usual found ourselves checking out animal sign along the way. We found bear sign but didn’t see any bears. We did see some late season harebell flowers, lots of fly mushrooms, a white throated sparrow and possibly a migrating magnolia warbler.
Whenever we travel we like to take the opportunity to try the locally owned restaurants. We were fortunate to have a really good Mexican restaurant, Los Mezcales right next door to our hotel in Merrill. We have been keeping a journal of our travels since we started the project back in 2016. It is fun to look back and remember our adventures over the past 2 plus years.
On Saturday, we left Merrill to head to Black River Falls where we met up with Joe to lead a Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Field Trip out to a couple of our elk monitoring cameras. The fall colors around Black River Falls were even prettier than they were farther to the north. About a dozen attendees met us at the Black River Falls WDNR office parking lot for a preview of our trip and a brief introduction to the elk reintroduction and monitoring programs. There are about 200 or so cameras around the Jackson County Forest specifically for monitoring the elk herd that was reintroduced to the area in 2015. These cameras are all maintained by volunteers with the Snapshot Wisconsin Elk Monitoring project.
After our discussion about the elk we drove about 20 minutes outside of town to reach the camera locations. A short hike into the woods brought us to our first camera location. Taylor showed the attendees how to perform a camera check, which includes recording the date and time of the camera check, the number of photos recorded on the SD card in the camera and changing out the SD card and batteries. We took another hike to a camera nearby and one of the field trip attendees took over doing the camera check. One of the other attendees found some wolf sign in the area, and the camera did have a wolf proximity sensor associated with it. We will have to wait and see if any wolf pictures show up at this camera site.
We plan to host this field trip for NRFW again next year. Folks local to the Wisconsin area should check out the field trips offered by NRFW every year. Many are led by DNR employees or employees and volunteers of other conservation groups across the state. They are a great way to learn more about conservation and get an inside look at what is going on in Wisconsin. Curious to learn more about elk? Check out this page on the WDNR website: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/elk.html To signup to participate in the Snapshot Wisconsin elk monitoring project send an email to DNRSnapshotWisconsin@wisconsin.gov with the subject line “Elk Monitoring”.
Stewart Lake County park outside Mount Horeb was the setting for our first volunteer recognition event of 2018. It was fun to see some of our volunteers again who we haven’t seen since training or who we might never have met in person at all. We had about 60 people turn out for a lovely evening. Jen and Taylor gave a presentation that included some of our science updates from the last year of the project. Sarah got the privilege of handing out the recognition certificates to the volunteers. I was able to share some of the changes we have planned for Phase 2 of the project, including much needed improvements to our IT system. We had been planning on cooking the food ourselves but at the last minute decided we had enough on our plate without that and opted for catering. Some of our volunteers brought dishes to pass and the Snapshot crew brought some desserts. Thanks to all for contributing to a successful event!
Unfortunately, we had to cancel our 2nd event planned for September 20th at Lake Wazee due to forecasted severe weather. We are looking for alternate dates (and an inside location!) for later this fall/early winter. We will let folks know when it is rescheduled.
We are looking forward to transitioning to more of these types of events in future as we transition more fully to online training and don’t have to travel so much for in person training. All of our trail camera hosts who have participated for at least a year receive an invitation to our recognition events. Getting close to your one year anniversary? Keep an eye on your mail for a letter from us and a special gift!
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hosted their annual Bugle Days Rendezvous this past weekend to celebrate the RMEF volunteers and elk in Wisconsin! This year the event was hosted in the Flambeau River State Forest, one of the sites where elk have been reintroduced in the state. Bugle Days Rendezvous offers RMEF volunteers a unique opportunity to partake in a weekend of “elk camp” including exciting field trips, herd updates, comradery, and importantly the sights and sounds of bugling Wisconsin elk.
Snapshot Wisconsin team members Sarah Cameron and Taylor Peltier were granted the opportunity to partake in the festivities this year, and give a presentation about elk monitoring with Snapshot Wisconsin. Although the two missed out on spotting any early morning elk with the rest of the RMEF, they still were able to witness the sounds of howling wolves, discovered several elk tracks along back roads, and even found a sneaky tree frog hiding behind one of the Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras they visited. It was a weekend well spent!
Find out more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Wisconsin, including upcoming events and how you can get involved!
On our way up north for a recent outreach event, Taylor_Peltier and I swung through Black River Falls to check two Snapshot Wisconsin cameras deployed for the elk reintroduction project. Black River Falls, located in central Wisconsin, is one of the three locations where Snapshot Wisconsin has a dense network of trail cameras to monitor the reintroduced elk populations. Trail cameras support data needed to make management decisions at the WDNR, all while capturing captivating photos of local wildlife.
Being relatively new to the project, this was my first time doing fieldwork – and I couldn’t have been more excited! While our amazing Snapshot volunteers do the majority of fieldwork, we never shy away from an opportunity to get out in the woods as well. We suited up and grabbed our gear: a handheld GPS with coordinates entered for each camera site, swamp boots, bug nets, and camera equipment. We replaced one camera at the previously utilized camera site and moved the other to a better location, free of tall ferns and at the intersection of three wildlife trails. This was great opportunity for me to gain experience in the field and I look forward to future fieldwork opportunities!
As a graduate student, conferences are an opportunity for me to share my research and connect with others doing similar work. Recently I had the opportunity to travel to beautiful Utah for the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management. This conference brings together scientists and practitioners to share research on the interaction between society and natural resources.
I learned about many innovative research efforts – a study aiming at making camping more sustainable by decreasing the impact on the natural environment (Marion et al.) and another that used survey data to understand what sources of scientific information were most trusted by the public (Schuster et al.).
Some of my favorite sessions were workshops I attended on how to be a better collaborator and communicate with journalists. I also had the opportunity to present some of my research on volunteer’s experiences participating in Snapshot Wisconsin (stay tuned to find out more!)
Of course the views weren’t shabby either. Now back to data analysis and writing!
After two days of meticulous searching in the rain, a crew of about ten people (including two Snapshot team members) dejectedly walked out of the forest. We were searching for elk (Cervus canadensis) calves in the Clam Lake and Flambeau River State Forest regions of Wisconsin, and had not had any luck thus far. Just as we were leaving, a biologist on the crew softly yelled “elk!”. Nestled into the side of a tree was a small brown creature perfectly camouflaged with the surrounding dead leaves. We estimated that we had walked by the little calf three times without noticing her!
The elk biologists put a blindfold over the elk calf to keep her calm. With hushed voices, they took measurements, applied ear tags, fitted her with a VHF (very high frequency) collar for location tracking and then moved away. Collars provide information on mortality, movement and herd interactions throughout the calves’ lifetimes. Collectively, this data can be used to help inform management decisions for Wisconsin’s elk herds.
For more information about Wisconsin’s elk herds, check out this link.
The 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!
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.
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.
While up north recently, the Snapshot Wisconsin Team had the opportunity to go out and check cameras in the Flambeau River elk monitoring grid. The weather was a balmy 27 °F, and the fresh air was much needed after long hours of travel. We split up into two groups of two, and headed out in separate directions to check cameras in different areas of the grid. Flambeau River State Park is a known dead zone for cell service, so we chose a time to reconvene before we split up. Both teams took two full hours longer than expected to complete their camera checks – which at least brought us back to the van at the same time! During the morning adventures, the team was reminded of some of the challenges unique to winter camera checks:
Waterproof boots will always be your friend. Melted snow, recent rainfall, or areas that are naturally wet may “dampen” your overall camera checking experience. If you have a pair of waterproof boots, or thick socks, you may want to consider bringing these along! Soggy shoes are never fun, especially in below freezing temperatures.
Tall waterproof boots (or waders) will always be your friend. No matter how waterproof your boots may be, they will only protect you for as high up as they cover. Also, what appears to be a puddle may actually be more like a miniature lake.
If you have a padlock for your camera, it may be frozen. If moisture gets inside the padlock and freezes, spinning the numbers can be difficult or impossible with fingers alone. To be on the safe side, bring an appropriate tool along to help thaw your padlock such as lock deicer, windshield deicer, or hand warmers.
Budget your time appropriately. Even if you think that your hike to your camera will only take thirty minutes, budget some wiggle room for inclement conditions. If you know you won’t have cell phone service in the woods, tell a friend or family member of your plans – this may include where you are parking your car, your intended route, what time you expect to be back, and what time to take further measures if you don’t return by. It’s easy to underestimate how long a camera check may take if you are comparing to previous checks during nicer weather.
Double check your GPS coordinates. Sometimes your phone and your personal GPS will tell you to go opposite directions, and you will find yourself circling around a swamp for thirty minutes. Sometimes it may be a technological glitch, but likely it will be human error. It never hurts to double check your GPS coordinates before venturing into the woods, especially if you know you won’t have good cell phone service, and especially if it’s cold outside.
Getting outside to check cameras was an overall great experience – and makes us even more appreciative of our volunteers and all their efforts they put forth for the project. Whether classifying photos online or hosting trail cameras, we couldn’t do this without all of you! Thank you!
It has now been a year and a half since Snapshot Wisconsin launched to the public in the first two counties, Iowa and Sawyer County! To commemorate the wonderful volunteers who have been with us since the beginning, the Snapshot Wisconsin team recently traveled to Dodgeville and Hayward to hold our very first volunteer recognition events.
The evenings included locally catered dinners, a presentation about project updates and scientific findings, as well as certificates and a prize basket drawing. It was great to reunite with volunteers that we haven’t seen since trainings, and to have face to face contact with those who are used to hearing from us solely by phone or email.
Overall it was a wonderful experience, and something that we look forward to putting together again in the future. We hope all who attended enjoyed their evening, and as always we welcome any and all feedback!
Last week we traveled to western Iowa County to help lead a Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin field trip showcasing one of our very first camera sites. Most Snapshot Wisconsin cameras are located in wooded areas, but this one is in a restored prairie/wetland. Over the last year this site has captured some incredible photos of birds, including spotted sand piper, sand hill cranes and great blue heron. We were thrilled that the landowner was willing to host and help lead the field trip, and it was a wonderful treat to spend the afternoon outside in such beautiful surroundings.
According to the landowner, the property was used for conventional agricultural up until 8 years ago when he began converting it to prairie. There is also a trout stream running through the property which has benefited from funding and restoration work by Trout Unlimited.
We were fortunate to have Darcy Kind along to help lead the trip. Darcy works for WDNR as a Conservation Biologist for the Landowner Incentive Program, which helps private landowners create and manage habitat for rare or declining species. Darcy has extensive knowledge of native plants and worked with this landowner on restoration projects throughout the 240 acre property.
Prescribed fire has played a key role in clearing brush and encouraging the growth of native plants on the property. Most of the native plant species we saw were not planted, but emerged from the existing seed bank that remained in the soil through decades of agriculture! During the trip we saw rare Hill’s thistle, four species of milkweed, Goat’s rue, lead plant, and many more native forbs and grasses. We also saw red and white oaks thriving in a restored oak savanna, and red headed woodpeckers which nest in at least two places on the property.
Thanks to Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin for providing the opportunity for us to share this beautiful property and promote Snapshot Wisconsin! Anyone who lives in or near Wisconsin should check out their upcoming field trips.
We hope to lead this trip or a similar trip next year. Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive this announcement and other updates from Snapshot Wisconsin.