Elk Monitoring Opportunity

Snapshot Saturdays are a weekly feature on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Facebook page. Give them a Like to keep up with recent DNR news and to view the weekly Snapshot Saturdays. 

Are you curious to see what Wisconsin elk are up to? Get an up-close look at the elk herds in the Flambeau River State Forest, Clam Lake or Black River Falls areas by monitoring a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. Trail cameras provide valuable data for herd management and give volunteers a unique window into Wisconsin’s woods.

No experience necessary, all training and equipment are provided. Volunteers must be able to participate for at least one year and check the camera at least once every three months. Submit a volunteer application today at www.SnapshotWIElkSignup.org.

Advertisements

Past Pieces: “Wisconsin’s prickly rodent”

The article below, “Wisconsin’s prickly rodent” by Alan D. Martin, was originally published in Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine in February 1996. We hope this article gives you a newfound enthusiasm for the “barbed quill-pig of the woods” as well! 

The common porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is a wonderful, necessary member of Northwoods wildlife, and I’m glad it is here in large numbers. Throw stones if you want, but I’ll stand by porkies.

They kill trees, you say? Well, owls, wood ducks, hooded mergansers and woodpeckers need homes too, and porcupines are part of nature’s snag-making team.

Porcupines hurt my dog, you say? Well, most dogs learn from that first painful mistake and don’t go near porcupines again. Only one of my family’s six hunting dogs hasn’t gotten a snootful of quills in recent years, and only one needed a second dose to learn the lesson. The other grousers now bark, from a distance, at the quill-pig.

Because of such mishaps, some porcupines are shot on sight. That’s a real shame because the porky isn’t only the prickliest resident of the Northwoods, it’s also one of the most interesting.

Porcupine_VilasCo_20180506

Porcupine captured on a Vilas County Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera

Porkies are the second-largest rodent in Wisconsin after the North American beaver. They can weigh 30 pounds or more in summer but their weight drops dramatically during the lean months of winter. Porcupines live in the northern two-thirds of the state in a territory that extends in a V-shape from about the Ellsworth area in Pierce County down to Wisconsin Dells and back up toward Green Bay.

Porcupines, like most rodents, are vegetarians. Their winter diet consists of conifer needles, buds and the bark of pines, hemlock, maples and birch. How these critters survive on foods with a protein content of only two to three percent is truly amazing.

Porcupines are sloppy eaters who drop a lot of greenery that provides a welcome snack for white-tailed deer during deep snows. If you spot a small pile of freshly-snipped branches on a winter walk, it’s likely porcupines are nearby. Their winter dens are easy to find – just follow your eyes and nose. Porcupines winter in caves and hollow logs. They travel the same paths every day. Near their dens you’ll see distinctive fecal piles and smell the strong scent of concentrated urine.

In spring, abundant food allows the porcupines to roam more freely, and they grow fat and healthy while dozing in the dog days of summer. Porkies consume tender shoots, succulent twigs, roots, seeds and (often to the dismay of gardeners) apples, melons, carrots, potatoes and other juicy produce. Nor are the gardener’s tools immune to the porcupine’s gouging incisors. The animals need sodium to rid their bodies of high levels of potassium from leaves and bark. Axe handles, hoes, canoe paddles, gloves and anything else touched by salty human hands are porcupine magnets.

When defending itself, a porcupine sits very still, faces away from its enemy, raises up, bristles and rattles its quill-studded tail, protecting vital areas from potential predators with up to 30,000 barbed quills.

M2E47L130-130R401B372

Porcupine captured on a Sawyer County Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera

Although porkies are slow, ambling creatures, it’s not always easy to keep your distance. A deer-hunting friend of mine still talks about his close encounter. Gary was sitting in his tree stand one day when a young-of-the-year porcupine climbed up the same tree and took a seat directly adjacent to Gary’s face. He was kind of cute (the baby porky, that is), as he sat there making little noises with his teeth and watching this newcomer to the tree. Somehow Gary didn’t find much to admire. He just kept a real close eye on the porky’s tail and slowly, calmly eased out of his stand and made his way down the tree. His heart was pounding pretty hard as he reached the ground and looked up at the porky still perched on a branch.

Only one predator poses a significant threat to porcupines – the fisher. These large weasels will wait for the right moment and inflict quick bites to the porcupine’s face and nose, areas that can take little abuse before the injury is fatal.

The porcupine is relatively silent throughout its life, so many people don’t recognize the whining squeal that sounds like a cross between a piglet and a crying baby. The sound varies in pitch and is most often heard in areas with rocky knobs and a good mix of conifers and hardwoods – prime porcupine habitat.

Native Americans had both respect and use for the porcupine. Its quills were incorporated in elaborate embroidered pieces, baskets and artwork. Porcupine quills were bartered and traded with plains tribes who had less frequent contact with the woodland creature.

So keep an eye out for the barbed quill-pig of the woods on your next winter walk. And if one finds you, show some respect.

To view the full posting of the article in the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, click this link.

Wisconsin Turkey

Snapshot Saturdays are a weekly feature on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Facebook page. Give them a Like to keep up with recent DNR news and to view the weekly Snapshot Saturdays. 

Restoration of the wild turkey population remains one of the greatest wildlife management success stories in Wisconsin. In fact, turkey are the fourth most common animal captured on Snapshot Wisconsin cameras accounting for 4% of the wildlife photos behind deer, squirrel and raccoon.

Check out this tom displaying in front of a Marathon County Snapshot Wisconsin camera!

To learn more about turkey management in Wisconsin, visit “Ecology of Wild Turkey in Wisconsin”. Interested in hosting your own Snapshot Wisconsin camera? Visit our webpage to find out how to get involved: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/research/projects/snapshot/.

Natural Design

The destiny of a Snapshot Wisconsin photograph is to contribute to a one-of-a-kind data set, ultimately supporting management decisions related to Wisconsin’s wildlife. However, the development of this data set is not the only goal of the project. The photos, through their collection and distribution, also serve to pursue the goal of public engagement. As the project has grown, as has our collection of incredible wildlife photos, and the photos have begun to speak for themselves. For me, personally, the fact that we can’t entirely control what the photos will look like (i.e. which animals will present themselves for a photo, and what they will be doing) adds to the appeal.  Trail camera photos show life uninhibited – especially with the increasing quality of the photos as technology improves. Many of our crowd-sourcing volunteers and trail camera hosts can attest that not every trigger captures a moment in time with crisp detail, however. That is the nature of trail cameras. Recently achieving the milestone of over 2,000 cameras on the landscape, Snapshot Wisconsin has learned some simple camera deployment tricks to increase the chances of catching a spectacular photo.

M2E62L184-182R399B404

This turkey photo captured in Waupaca County has some diffuse back-lighting, so no details are washed out on the subject.

A trail camera operator who wants to maximize the visual appeal of their photos can benefit from considering some properties of traditional photography. First, let’s talk about light. The camera will read the amount of available light and automatically adjust its settings, but the camera operator does have some control over the direction of light in the photographs.  Some Wisconsin animals have crepuscular activity patterns, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk, when the sun is low on the horizon. We often recommend positioning cameras to face north so that animals will never be back-lit and overpowered by the bright sun, as they may be if the camera is facing east or west. We recommend north over south because Wisconsin’s relatively high-latitude position in the Northern Hemisphere means that the sun will always be hanging in the southern sky, especially in the wintertime. The best compass bearing for the camera will undoubtedly vary from site-to-site, however. Take the above turkey photo, for example. This photo was taken at 10:42 AM, and the shadows cast by the trees indicate that the sun is behind the subject. This camera is likely facing east. In this case, the forest is dense enough to block out the light directly, and the trail appears to be coming up a slope. The key here is to consider where in the camera’s field of view the light will be coming from.

M2E53L156-157R391B311

A Jackson County bobcat entered the camera’s field of view at a distance of around 15 feet.

The next consideration, image sharpness, is a little more difficult to control. There are a lot of factors that can play into how crisp or soft an image will be, including how quickly the animal is moving, where it decides to enter the frame, and when it visits the camera site (sharp nighttime photos are notoriously rare).  For locations along a clearly defined game or maintained trail, a few helpful considerations can be made. Our cameras tend to take the sharpest images when the subject is around 10-15 feet away. Placing the camera at approximately this distance from where animals are expected to cross in front of the camera can increase the chances that the animal will be in focus.

M2E59L175-175R399B388

This red fox from Oneida County seems to pose for a portrait. The snow-heavy branches frame the scene nicely, and the fox’s red coat stands out in contrast with the white background.

The final element that I’d like to touch upon is composition. What makes the composition of a photo “good” is difficult to discuss, not only because it’s a matter of opinion, but also because the composition within the frame can change based on the time of year. Not to mention, we can’t always predict where in the frame the animal is going to be captured and in what position! This is tied to one of my sentiments at the beginning of the post – the composition is often special because we can’t control the details. This concept known as “natural design”. It’s familiar to most of us who have a fondness for nature; a glen of naturally-scattered ferns has a special quality that just wouldn’t be the same if they were hand-placed.  Our trail camera hosts often have a relationship with the natural design of their unique camera site, which has resulted in Snapshot staff curating individual collections of our own favorite snaps.  Of course, being aesthetically pleasing does not give a photo any more weight in our data set, but the potential for such photographs is another reason that Snapshot Wisconsin is such a special project.

Feeling artsy? Check out the past blog, “Getting artsy with Snapshot Wisconsin” to hear more about the creative side of the project.

June #SuperSnap

This month’s #SuperSnap features a mink from Waupaca county, stepping into ice cold water. Mink are amazing swimmers and divers. Even in the winter, you ask? Yes, thanks to insulation from a thick underfur & oily hair, minks maintain their aquatic lifestyle year round, although less so when it’s cold.

Thanks @Tjper for nominating this sequence!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Snapshot Saturday: June 29th, 2019

Did you know that black bear have short, curved claws that make them exceptional tree climbers? Climbing trees allows a bear to take refuge from predators, gather food and even take a break. Keep an eye out (or up) for bears this summer!

Check out this bear cub captured on a Polk County Snapshot Wisconsin camera learning the ropes.

6.29.19_SnapshotSaturday

Interested in hosting your own Snapshot Wisconsin camera? Visit our webpage to find out how to get involved: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/research/projects/snapshot/.

Snapshot Saturday: June 22nd, 2019

There are many telltale signs of summer, but our favorite here at Snapshot Wisconsin is the appearance of fawns on camera. Fawns are born with reddish brown coats and a collection of white spots; this coloration helps them blend in with the forest until they begin molting into their winter coats.

Have you “spotted” any fawns on your cameras yet?

M2E44L122-122R399B372

Did you know you can view and classify photos collected from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras across the state at www.SnapshotWisconsin.org? It’s a fun activity for the whole family!

Top 10 Reasons to Host a Snapshot Wisconsin Trail Camera

Rumor has it that summer is around the corner, which is the perfect time to sign up for a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera! Do you have access to public land or a private property at least 10 acres in size? A computer with internet? The ability to participate for a least a year? If you answered yes to these questions, congrats – you are already qualified! If you are thinking “But why should I apply?”, here are 10 commonly quoted reasons by our volunteers and project staff:

1. It’s free!

We provide all necessary equipment (including a Bushnell camera), training, technical support and replacements at NO cost! No previous experience is required, we are happy to teach you!

Zooniverse_Cam2

2. Use your trail camera see up close pictures of wildlife.

Feed your curiosity and learn what is on your property and public lands.

M2E64L189-188R399B393

3. Hosting a trail camera is a great excuse to get out into the woods.

And we’ll remind you to check your camera every three months. That way you’ll head outdoors in all seasons and be on track with the program.

vol

4. Contribute to wildlife monitoring.

Photos collected through Snapshot Wisconsin are turned into important data used for supporting wildlife management decisions at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

plot

5. Interact with the researchers.

Volunteers interact with the Snapshot Wisconsin research team at various outreach events, both in person and online. We also visit various groups across the state talking about the project and are available for questions on call or email.

6. Be in the know – get regular updates on data collected.

The research team provides regular updates aimed at volunteers – our monthly e-newsletter and blog are chock full of interesting information.

7. Socialize with other volunteers.

Our volunteers meet other citizen science enthusiasts at trainings, outreach and volunteer appreciation events. Discussions at these events can range from how the last hunting season went to secret birding locations, Packer football and so on.

Apart from the events, our Zooniverse forum allows you to interact with more 6500 volunteers from across the globe with the one thing that binds them all – interest in Wisconsin’s charismatic wildlife through the lens of a trail camera.

8. Improve your wildlife identification skills.

We provide a web-interface MySnapshot for volunteers to classify and view their pictures. Our Zooniverse forum is also a way to classify the pictures from across the state.

myss

 9. Educational outlet for students or nature center visitors.

Hundreds of educators participate in Snapshot Wisconsin. Snapshot Wisconsin is a great avenue to take your class outdoors and to bring the outdoors back into the classroom. Many nature centers also participate in Snapshot Wisconsin and are a great outlet for information on Wisconsin’s wildlife.

10. Provides an opportunity to bridge nature and technology.

Snapshot Wisconsin provides a great opportunity to bridge nature and technology. Trail cameras are non-invasive and providing a wealth of data about the secretive critters of Wisconsin. It’s a great technology for the good, connecting people and nature.

Convinced yet? Signup here: www.SnapshotWISignup.org!
Do you have a few more questions? Contact us at DNRSnapshotWisconsin@Wisconsin.org

 

 

Snapshot Saturday: June 15th, 2019

Think of the iconic, raspy scream you hear from a raptor during a television show or movie. Did you know that it often belongs to the red-tailed hawk? No matter the species on screen, the call is often voiced-over by this hawk’s mighty and distinctive screech.

Check out this red-tailed hawk captured on a Dodge County Snapshot Wisconsin camera (you’ll have to imagine the sound yourself!)

M2E70L203-203R399B408

Interested in hosting your own Snapshot Wisconsin camera? Visit our webpage to find out how to get involved: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/research/projects/snapshot/.

Snapshot Wisconsin and the WWOA

WWOAAre you interested in seeing more wildlife on your Snapshot Wisconsin camera? The Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association (WWOA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster and encourage sustainable management of Wisconsin’s private woodlands.

Improving the habitat on your lands is not only beneficial for you, but for the wildlife in your woods as well! Members of WWOA receive their quarterly publication of Wisconsin Woodlands filled with ways to improve your woodlands and be stay informed about workshops, conferences and educational field-days conducted by forestry professionals.

For more information, visit www.WisconsinWoodlands.org. To learn about other woodland owner organizations, visit this DNR webpage.