We hope you take some time to chill with those who are deer to you. Warm wishes from all of us at the Snapshot Wisconsin team!
In the state of Wisconsin, we are lucky to have so many people who take interest in our natural resources. From the Snapshot Wisconsin project here at the Department of Natural Resources, to university professors conducting environmental research, to individual Wisconsinites, there’s no shortage of people who care.
Before I started working with the Snapshot Wisconsin team, I was fortunate enough to participate in another research project. The goal of the project was to look more closely at the impact that white-tailed deer have on Wisconsin forests when they browse on (or “eat”) sapling trees. My job was to use the Twig-Age method to help collect data across several forest patches in Southern Wisconsin, as well as to build a website to share this new method of data collection with other volunteers who wanted to participate in the research.
The Twig-Age method involves looking at a tree sapling, measuring its height, and counting the terminal bud scale scars along two of its branches. Terminal bud scale scars are what’s left behind on the twig when a bud falls off naturally during the growing process. Picture marking a child’s height on the wall each year. The more bud scale scars a twig has, the longer a twig has been able to grow without being browsed by a deer. We took hundreds of data points in order to paint a picture of what sort of browsing impacts deer were having on these forests.
While I was doing this field work, I found myself surprised by how many different species of trees we have in our forests. Usually when I walk through the woods, I don’t take the time to notice all the different plants around me. I notice the birds and the squirrels, but the plants have always been more of a beautiful backdrop. This research project gave me a stronger appreciation for the diverse vegetation that we have in our forests. I had time to get down at eye-level with these saplings and really look at them. It was like playing the part of a historian by recording the age of their twigs and whether or not a deer had eaten from them before. Each data point collected was a personal interview with a tiny tree.
By the end of the summer we created Our Wisconsin Understory, a citizen science project for monitoring deer impacts. The goal is to collect as much data as possible and to hopefully expand data points across the state. Anyone interested in learning more about the Twig-Age method and collecting data for the project can do so at the Our Wisconsin Understory website.
On Friday, April 12th, Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer John came across something extraordinary. After making routine checks of his elk cameras in Black River Falls, he headed home to upload his photos. During the standard process of review and classification, one photo in particular stood out amongst the sea of deer and turkeys. John recognized it immediately. “That’s a big white crane with a red head!” he exclaimed. “Woah, this is a whooping crane!”
John knew how rare they are, having only seen them at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. That was 30 years ago, when his kids were young. John wanted to verify his discovery before sharing his excitement with the Snapshot team. “I went to my smartphone to verify that I was seeing the correct animal, and I said, ‘Yup, that’s a whooping crane!’” Sure enough, not only had John captured a rare species, but he had photographed the first whooping crane in the history of Snapshot Wisconsin.
He couldn’t believe how spectacular the image was. “It was a beautiful photo! It was at 8 in the morning, and it must have just landed. It had its wings up – it looked like it was dancing in front of the camera! I thought wow, what a perfect picture.”
John has been involved in the project for one and a half years, and currently maintains five cameras in the Black River Falls elk reintroduction area. John’s passion for the outdoors and interest in Wisconsin elk motivated him to become a Snapshot Wisconsin volunteer after retirement. “I like to get out into new locations and explore. It’s kind of a spiritual experience for me to be in the outdoors.” He also appreciates the opportunity to stay active. “I get a little exercise. I don’t like to be on a treadmill, I would rather be walking in the woods and seeing things. [Snapshot Wisconsin] is a good fit for me.”
When asked about his favorite part of participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, John shared that he enjoys being in the woods, seeing the wildlife and exploring new areas. He also welcomes the challenge of finding his camera sites. “Navigation is challenging,” he explained, “finding a camera based on a certain grid coordinate is kind of exciting.”
Capturing the memorable photo of the whooping crane has only added to John’s experience as a volunteer. “I’m glad I got an animal that was interesting. I have gotten bear, wolves, and bobcats [and] of course a lot of deer and turkey. But the whooping crane was kind of the icing on the cake. I am looking forward to getting other interesting animals.”
John also recognizes how this whooping crane sighting is significant in terms of the conservation of this endangered species. When asked what it means to him to be a part of this crane’s story, John said, “It’s kind of interesting. I think my job is kind of small but sometimes it ends up being a big production. It shows how small the world is and how everybody can make a difference no matter what they do.”
The goal of the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study is to comprehensively examine factors that could impact deer survival and deer population growth in southern Wisconsin. Those include Chronic Wasting Disease, predation, habitat suitability and hunter harvest. In late May and early June, members of the Snapshot Wisconsin team had the opportunity to help out with the project’s spring fawn search. Snapshot staff joined the CWD team and volunteers from across the state to search for fawns in the study areas near Dodgeville.
On each day of the 3-week survey, DNR employees and volunteers assembled into a line spread fingertip to fingertip to sweep across the survey area. It takes a keen eye and diligent searching to spot a fawn, as newborn fawns can be as small as a football. When less than 5 days old, fawns stay bedded down and in hiding amongst tall grass and brush. Does often leave their fawns for hours at a time to give the fawn a better chance of survival.
When a staff member or volunteer came upon a fawn, they rested their hands on the fawn’s back to gently keep the fawn from getting up. A children’s sock was then placed over the fawn’s eyes to keep it calm as DNR employees promptly fitted the fawn with ear tags and a radio collar. These collars are made of elastic material with pleats sewn into them that pop, expand, and eventually fall off as the fawn grows – usually within 18 months. Important information such as the fawn’s sex, weight, and rear leg length was recorded before carefully placing the fawn back where it was bedded down.
The Snapshot Wisconsin team learned a lot about fawns, CWD, and how the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study gathers valuable data about white-tailed deer. This unique fieldwork opportunity also gave our team an up-close look at the wildlife we usually see in trail camera images!
For more information, please visit the Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study’s webpage.
Check out these other Snapshot Wisconsin blogs related to the project:
1) Southwest Deer and Predator Study
2) In the Field with the Southwest CWD, Deer and Predator Study
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.
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!
2. Use your trail camera see up close pictures of wildlife.
Feed your curiosity and learn what is on your property and public lands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Are 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.
June’s Volunteer of the Month is
Ralph from Sauk County!
June’s Volunteer of the Month is Ralph from Sauk County! Ralph has been a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera host for over two years. Growing up on a farm Ralph enjoyed rambling around the fields and forests, and although he spent his career as a machinist, his love for the forest endured. His motivation for joining Snapshot Wisconsin and hosting a trail camera was to examine several questions he had about his woods, including what predator-prey relationships existed and how many deer were on the landscape.
In addition to volunteering with Snapshot Wisconsin, Ralph is also the chair of the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association (WWOA). As an active member of WWOA, Ralph enjoys helping other woodland owners learn how to sustainably manage and preserve their woodlands for present and future generations.
Thank you, Ralph! Thank you to all of our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
May’s Volunteer of the Month is
Chris from Portage County!
May’s Volunteer of the Month goes to Chris from Portage County! Chris is a Professor of Biology at UW-Stevens Point. Chris was first introduced to citizen science around 10 years ago through the Wisconsin Bat Program. In collaboration with the Urban Ecology Center and Milwaukee area high school teachers, Chris has since developed a bat curriculum that incorporates citizen science, or as it is known in Milwaukee, community science.
Chris first discovered the Zooniverse platform about two years ago, which led him to learn about Snapshot Wisconsin. After he began hosting his own trail camera, Chris stated that he was initially annoyed by a fawn that rested in front of his camera resulting in hundreds of photos (which we are sure many volunteer have experienced!) Chris’s “aha moment” was then realizing how interesting the data collected about that fawn was – time alert, sleeping, stretching, foraging.
When asked about his advice for potential volunteers, Chris shared, “There are lots of citizen science projects, but Snapshot Wisconsin does a great job of motivating its volunteers. Start with Zooniverse. Snapshot Wisconsin was a pioneer project on this global platform and will connect you immediately to Wisconsin wildlife. If you are hooked by Snapshot like I was, you can consider hosting your own camera and become a small part of a big thing.”
Thank you, Chris! Thank you to all our trail camera hosts and Zooniverse volunteers for helping us discover our wildlife together.
Are you ready to celebrate Citizen Science Day?
Before we dive into the details, let’s start with what is citizen science? There are many definitions for citizen science, which may also be referred to as community science, crowd-sourced science or volunteer monitoring. The Oxford English Dictionary defines citizen science as,
“Scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.”
Citizen scientists partaking in Snapshot Wisconsin monitor trail cameras across to state to gather year-round data about wildlife. Data collected from the project help inform wildlife management decisions at the WDNR, and also engage the public in learning about the state’s natural resources. Snapshot Wisconsin has over one thousand volunteers hosting trail cameras across the state, and hundreds more from around the globe helping to identify the wildlife caught on camera on Zooniverse.
Citizen Science Day is hosted annually to celebrate and recognize the projects, researchers, and dedicated volunteers that contribute to citizen science all over the world. Mark your calendars for April 13th, this year’s Citizen Science Day kick-off! The Citizen Science Association and SciStarter have teamed up to promote events in celebration of citizen science. Are you interested in celebrating Citizen Science Day this year? Check out SciStarter’s project finder to find Citizen Science Day events near you!
You can celebrate citizen science any day of the year by participating in Snapshot Wisconsin, whether you are interested in hosting a trail camera or identifying the exciting critters captured on camera (which can be done from anywhere!)