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Scientists from Wisconsin have come up with a new idea to catalog wild animals by using thousands of trail cameras. If this plan succeeds, they will find out how many deer and other living mammals are throughout the state.
Researchers from Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Madison aim to place across the state a number of 6,000 motion-activated trail cameras. Scientists will upload every photo to a crowd-sourcing website.
This way, viewers can bring their contribution by trying to identify the animals from the pictures. The target of this project is to determine the animal populations and their movements.
According to Phil Townsend, one of the project leaders and a UW-Madison forestry professor, the most significant benefit is that thanks to these cameras, scientists will be able to cover all areas, to provide exact data and an enormous amount of information to put an end to these controversies.
Over the years, hunters have disputed the DNR’s management goals and deer population estimates, blaming the agency of overestimating the herd size leading to a general confusion regarding the truth.
A Texas deer researcher, James Kroll was hired by Governor Scott Walker to study the management strategies of the DNR. Therefore, he suggested to the agency in 2012 to create a monitoring program which will provide a sense of ownership to hunters and landowners.
Also in 2012, Townsend found out that NASA had the intention of funding a project that would make the connection between crowd-sourced data and the satellite imagery to improve the management of the landscape.
The cameras will take photos of many animals that roam around those areas. Then, these photos will be uploaded to Zooniverse, a crowd-sourcing website, where viewers have the opportunity to help scientists during the project.
Townsend’s team will build maps with the support of NASA to determine what environments the animals prefer and the way they move. Compared to the Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, which has only 225 cameras, the Snapshot Wisconsin will have more cameras, and they will cover a much larger area.
Until now, there are 560 cameras placed already in the woods, most of them in the Black River Falls and Clam Lake areas to establish elk movement. Hopefully, the trail cameras will pay off and lead to an improvement of our ecosystem.