Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project 2019-2020 winter field season report

Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project 2019-2020 winter field season report

Conservation Northwest / Jul 06, 2020 / I-90 Wildlife, Wildlife Crossings, Wildlife Monitoring

During the 2019-2020 winter snow tracking season, nearly 50 volunteers documented beaver, bobcat, coyote, elk, otters and more along the I-90 wildlife corridor.

The Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project’s 14th season of winter snow tracking was a success, with eight teams comprised of 48 wonderful volunteers that surveyed and recorded data on 33 survey dates from January through March.

During the winter, trained Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project (CWMP) volunteers use snow tracking to monitor the presence, location and movement of wildlife near proposed or existing wildlife crossing structures east of Snoqualmie Pass along I-90 in the Cascade Mountains. This data collection also helps inform ongoing habitat restoration work through our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program.

Volunteers learn snowtracking techniques from staff and advisers. Photo: Laurel Baum

Volunteers surveyed 14 transects, with four new ‘pilot’ transects west of Denny Creek and Snoqualmie Pass in coordination with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

View the full 2019-2020 winter field season report as a PDF.

This winter’s fieldwork identified a standard suite of wildlife in the study area. Volunteers detected eight species across all transect sites, including beaver, bobcat, coyote, elk, American marten, mule deer, raccoon and river otter. Coyote continues to be the most frequently detected species (40 percent), while bobcat detections (7 percent) were half of what they have been for most of the CWMP’s history.

Volunteers also observed 18 trailing events over the course of the field season. These events, which can suggest a variety of behaviors, from foraging to social and hunting activities, inform and engage volunteers in an in-depth look into animal behavior on the transects, and their potential relationship to the road.

A ‘jumpout’ can allow for wildlife to exit the highway by jumping down, but discourages any entrance to the highway. Photo: Laurel Baum

New to the surveys this year was checking for unauthorized recreation activity within wildlife closure areas and checking the fencing ‘jumpouts’ for activity. Compared to the much larger human use of the crossing structures documented in years past (including illegal snowmobiling in the closure area), volunteers recorded minimal unauthorized human activity. This suggests recreationists are respecting the closure order, therefore decreasing impacts on the willingness of wildlife to use the I-90 crossing structures.

Our nearly 50 volunteers logged 842 volunteer hours for field survey days. With the addition of training, these community scientists dedicated a grand total of 1,408 hours for the entire winter field season. THANK YOU to all of our snow tracking volunteers!

A marten track is documented w/ a scale for track measurements and gait pattern. Photo: CWMP

Since its inception, the CWMP has remained an asset to wildlife agencies and professionals by providing supplemental monitoring efforts in areas identified as either potential core habitat or vital connectivity corridors between core habitats for some of our region’s rarest wildlife. Our main project objectives are:

  1. To engage and educate citizens about the detection and monitoring of sensitive wildlife species and in critical habitat areas;
  2. To record wildlife presence in the I-90 corridor and along the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in strategic locations and in core habitat through remote cameras and snow tracking;
  3. To record the presence of rare and sensitive species that regional and national conservation efforts aim to recover including fisher, gray wolf, grizzly bear, lynx, and wolverine;
  4. To facilitate the exchange of information about wildlife, including data from monitoring efforts, between public agencies, organizations, and interested individuals.

Our CWMP community scientists help us inform agencies and scientists about wildlife in the Snoqualmie Corridor, providing vital data for habitat connectivity and wildlife crossing efforts.

Thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers who put the time and passion into making this important research possible!

Team leads for our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project in the field for this years snow tracking season near an I-90 undercrossing. Photo: Laurel Baum