Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials are encouraging Sauk County landowners to participate in a statewide management effort by photographing area wildlife.
The program, Snapshot Wisconsin, is a partnership between several public agencies and private individuals that monitors wildlife year-round using a network of trail cameras across the state. DNR leaders say the project is a “unique opportunity for individuals, families, and students to monitor the state’s valuable natural resources” while providing “data needed for wildlife management decisions.”
“Snapshot Wisconsin is a great way to get involved in volunteer-based monitoring and learn more about all of our different wildlife species,” said Susan Frett, a DNR coordinator for the project. “We have volunteers in Wisconsin participating as trail camera hosts, and over 5,000 volunteers from around the world participating in crowd-sourced classification of our images on snapshotwisconsin.org.”
Snapshot Wisconsin encourages participants to capture images of all types of fauna, including deer, elk, bears, fox, bobcats, whooping cranes and other animals. Since the program launched in spring 2016, more than 800 volunteers maintain 983 trail cameras across the state, from which 17 million photos have been collected, according to DNR records.
Frett said the DNR has used the data to calculate fawn-to-doe ratios and to monitor elk herds that have been reintroduced in Jackson County.
“We’ve been able to look at how the elk are using the different habitats that are available to them and help to get population estimates,” she said.
Photos collected by Snapshot Wisconsin volunteers are uploaded to Zooniverse, a crowdsourcing website where state residents and other outdoor enthusiasts around the world can identify and count the animals in Snapshot Wisconsin photos.
Frett said one of her favorite photos is a rare shot of a family of otters running through a stretch of woods in Sawyer County.
The DNR operates Snapshot Wisconsin in more than 20 counties across the state, with new programs starting up in Sauk, Ashland, Bayfield, Crawford, Douglas, Price, Richland and Vilas counties. To participate, volunteers must have access to at least 10 acres of contiguous private land in an active Snapshot Wisconsin county and agree to maintain a trail camera for at least one year.
Tribal members or affiliates on tribal lands and teachers throughout the state also are encouraged to participate. Additional counties will be added over the next few years, according to a DNR news release.
The DNR provides training and supplies for the program, and no prior experience with trail cameras is necessary, as local, in-person training sessions are planned for late winter or early spring, and online training also is available. Some basic computer knowledge and access to the internet is required.
Volunteers can sign up by visiting www.snapshotwisignup.org or read more about the program by visiting the Snapshot Wisconsin webpage, which can be found at dnr.wi.gov using keyword “Snapshot Wisconsin.”
The project is led by Department of Natural Resources staff in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Extension.