Community Wildlife Monitoring Project 2020-2021 winter field season report

Community Wildlife Monitoring Project 2020-2021 winter field season report

Conservation Northwest / Jul 28, 2021 / I-90 Wildlife, Wildlife Crossings, Wildlife Monitoring

Community Wildlife Monitoring Program reaches 15-year mark of snowtracking along I-90 corridor in 2020-2021

Conservation Northwest’s Community Wildlife Monitoring Project had another successful winter of snowtracking along the I-90 corridor around Snoqualmie Pass. Despite limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic and severe weather events, ten teams consisting of 47 volunteers completed 26 field days and documented 73 wildlife observations.

During the winter, Community Wildlife Monitoring Project (CWMP) volunteers use snowtracking 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 helps inform ongoing habitat restoration work through our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program, as well as conservation efforts by state and federal agencies, tribes and other partner organizations in our region.

CWMP volunteers work together to identify tracks found along transects near I-90. Photo by Laurel Baum.

This past winter our volunteers detected nine different species in transect and survey locations, including mink, bobcat, elk, coyote, raccoon, mule deer, American marten, river otter and beaver.

Coyotes continued to be the most frequently detected species (33 percent). Elk were the second-most detected species (20 percent of detections). However for the second year in a row, bobcat detections were half of what they have been for most of the project—a trend worth investigating if it continues into future seasons.

View the 2020-2021 CWMP Winter Season Report as a PDF

Volunteers documented 11 trailing events of three species (bobcat, coyote and elk). Instances like this help project volunteers understand animal behavior and their relationship to the interstate. Furthermore, CWMP observed evidence that suggests species are using I-90 crossing structures that were implemented in recent years.

Snow tracking along I-90 helps give insight to wildlife relationships to the roadway and informs partner agencies where crossing structures are needed.

In its second season of doing so, CWMP documented only minor human use of the newly established wildlife closure area adjacent to the interstate crossing structures. Compared to the much larger human use of the crossing structures themselves documented in years prior (for example snowmobiles illegally crossing the Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing), the closure is being respected and is decreasing the likelihood of human recreation negatively influencing wildlife use of crossing structures.

Our 47 volunteers totaled over 900 hours for the entirety of this winter season, with 740 of those hours out in the field. CNW’s Central Cascades Conservation Associate and the CWMP Coordinator Laurel Baum extends her gratitude and says that “this season’s success heavily relied on the deep institutional knowledge, expertise and dedication of our volunteers. A huge thank you goes out to all our returning volunteers and team leaders—they were all vital in the project reaching its 15-year mark!”

Since its inception, the Community Wildlife Monitoring Project (previously called the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project) 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.

The project’s main objectives are:

  1.  Engage and educate community members about the detection and monitoring of sensitive wildlife species and in critical habitat areas
  2. 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. 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. Facilitate the exchange of information about wildlife, including data from monitoring efforts, between public agencies, organizations, and interested individuals

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

Team leads for our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project in the field for this year’s snow tracking season near I-90. Photo by Laurel Baum.