Update on the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project

Update on the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project

Conservation Northwest / May 02, 2019 / Restoring Wildlife, Wildlife Monitoring

During the 2018 season our volunteers documented fishers, wolverines, wildlife crossing I-90 and more.

By Laurel Baum, Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project Coordinator

For more than a decade, the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project (CWMP) has conducted research powered by citizen scientists using remote cameras, wildlife tracking and DNA sample collection to study Washington’s rare and sensitive wildlife.

Volunteers are encouraged to learn as much about the target species they will be monitoring while engaged with the project.  Photo: Laurel Baum

Led by Conservation Northwest in partnership with the Wilderness Awareness School and other groups and agencies, the CWMP monitors wildlife presence and activity in critical areas for wildlife connectivity and conservation, emphasizing the importance of this research to ensure a stable landscape for local wildlife.

Read our full 2018 field season report (PDF)! Or check out our favorite photos of wildlife documented in 2018!

Our citizen scientists often trek to remote locations outside of areas where professional research takes place, supplementing and strengthening the work of agencies, biologists and other collaborators on our Advisory Council. The visual documentation of these species not only influences research and policy decisions, but also creates a narrative and face for our wildlands.

During the 2018 remote camera season, 52 volunteers contributed more than 3,100 hours by attending training, and installing and maintaining 81 camera sites in 36 survey areas in Washington and British Columbia.

The CWMP operates both a remote camera field season from May to October, and a snow tracking season from December to March. This report focuses on our results from the 2018 remote camera field season.

Anyone can be a Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project volunteer.

We recognize that today, the term “citizen” can be used to exclude people. That is not the case for our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project. We want to make clear that anyone, no matter their citizenship status, place of birth, or how they came to live in the Pacific Northwest today, can be a volunteer. If you’re passionate about wildlife conservation and want to make a meaningful impact on the research behind it, we welcome you to join our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project!

Read more about how we’re working to create an inclusive conservation community!

Training is never complete without a field component! CWMP volunteers hike out to learn about different types of field camera set-ups as a part of the upcoming field season training. Photo: Laurel Baum

Geographic locations

In 2018, we concentrated our study area into the following regions:

  • Washington’s North Cascades: north of Interstate 90 (North Cascades)
  • I-90 Corridor: between Snoqualmie Pass and Easton along I-90
  • Washington’s South Cascades: south of Interstate 90 (South Cascades)
  • Transboundary Kettle River and Rossland mountain ranges: in northeast Washington and southern British Columbia
A wolverine documented during the 2018 field season.                          Photo: CWMP

2018 Wildlife Monitoring Objectives

  1. Monitor the recovery of gray wovles (Canis lupus) in the South Cascades (13 survey sites)
  2. Detect the presence of wolverines (Gulo gulo) in new locations and continue to monitor known populations in the North and South Cascades (15 survey sites)
  3. Detect grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone (2 survey sites)
  4. Monitor the presence of a wide variety of wildlife species in the I-90 Corridor (3 survey sites)
  5. Document Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) presence in northeast Washington and southern British Columbia (3 survey sites)

Season Highlights

  • Wolverine: Our citizen-science teams documented wolverines in the North Cascades in five survey areas on multiple occasions. One team was lucky enough to visually observe two individuals in close proximity to a monitoring installation!
  • Canada lynx: Although our teams recorded no Canada lynx on the Washington side of the border this year, our data has contributed to a larger study on distribution and population density in the Kettle Range by our partners at Washington State University. Students at Selkirk College, working in southern British Columbia’s Rossland Range, were successful in documenting Canada lynx.
    A fisher stands in front of a Conservation Northwest Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project camera site on July 28, 2018. Photo: CWMP
  • Fisher: Our volunteer teams documented fishers at two survey areas in the South Cascades, both in close proximity to where we reintroduced them in recent years with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service partners. These photos are a healthy indication for South Cascades fishers, and in the coming years, we plan to expand our fisher monitoring efforts to other regions, including the North Cascades, where we reintroduced them in December.
  • American martens: This species was recorded at 14 different survey areas in the Cascades. While not a target species for our project, data collected on martens is shared with our Advisory Council members carrying out research on these animals.
  • I-90 wildlife: There are now 11 wildlife crossings in the Snoqualmie Pass Corridor, between Gold Creek and the newly-completed Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing. Our Easton cameras are located at the sight where the next wildlife bridge will be built over the freeway, and recorded the presence of eight different species, representing a high degree of diversity and highlighting the need for this crossing. The I-90 survey areas are located within close proximity to these new highway-crossing structures in order to help evaluate their impact. Learn more about wildlife near I-90 through our I-90 Wildlife Watch project!

The work of our volunteers through the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project increases our understanding of wildlife on the Washington landscape and in the transboundary region between Washington and British Columbia.

Thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers who make this important research possible!

During training, volunteers are introduced to our role as camera ‘trappers’ and how we have been tuned-in to animals on the landscape for thousands of years. Topics also covered include submitting data and how this data is shared with numerous project partners, all working on conservation and research of wildlife species in our region. Photo: Laurel Baum