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Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project

Through remote cameras and winter snow tracking our volunteer force helps document the presence and range of rare carnivores from wolf to lynx around Washington from the Cascades to the Kettle River Range.

Lynx, Loomis Forest, remote camera, 2000
Lynx, Loomis Forest, remote camera, 2000

Documenting animals in the wild

Many thanks to our generous project funders, including the Spokane MountaineersSustainable Path and WDFW's ALEA grants program. Thanks too to those who've adopted a team! Want to help make our monitoring program a success? Adopt a camera team today.

Our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project (CWMP) volunteers are on the front lines, tracking wildlife where state and federal agencies don’t have the resources to go, from the Washington Cascades to the Kettle Crest to British Columbia.

Confirming the presence of rare carnivores and other animals informs land management decisions upon which our wildlife depend. It also helps guide our conservation programs and priorities, and those of state and federal agencies. And it's people like our citizen monitors, with boots on the ground as citizen scientists, gathering the essential data and photos.

To become a Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project volunteer, please contact project manager Alison Huyett. If you are an existing volunteer, visit our Volunteer Resource Page to get the information you need for the season.

VIDEO: The Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project 2015

The landscape of monitoring

Citizen scientists contribute valuable new information on the presence and patterns of wildlife in our state. Our project efforts cover geographic areas outside those where professional research efforts are ongoing, adding to and strengthening the work of agencies, biologists, and other wildlife managers and researchers.

Since its inception, CWMP has remained an asset to wildlife agencies and professionals by providing additive monitoring efforts in areas identified as potential core habitat for some of our region’s rarest wildlife. 

Our main project objectives are:

  1. To engage and educate citizens on wildlife species and monitoring in critical habitat areas,
  2. To record wildlife presence in the I-90 corridor, throughout Conservation Northwest's I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign project area, and along WSDOT's I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in strategic locations and in core habitat through remote cameras and winter snow tracking,
  3. To record the presence of rare and sensitive species that regional and national conservation efforts aim to recover including fishers, gray wolves, grizzly bears, lynx, and wolverines,
  4. To facilitate exchange of information on wildlife, including data from monitoring efforts, between public agencies, organizations, news media and interested individuals and members of the public.

Currently, citizen wildlife monitors work around the Northwest:

The Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project is the largest citizen-science initiative focusing on the wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. We engage hundreds of volunteers annually to conduct wildlife monitoring throughout Washington state and in transboundary habitats in British Columbia.

    In the Cascades, we run the Cascades Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, our largest program in collaboration with Wilderness Awareness School and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition. We monitor in remote habitats from the North Cascades to the Paysaten Wilderness to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and on the lands near Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass where the highway is being updated to include new wildlife crossing structures.

    Monitoring volunteers in the field, 2012
    Monitoring volunteers in the field, 2012

    In northeast Washington on the Colville National Forest and in British Columbia's Rossland Range we work to record the presence of Canada lynx, wolves, grizzly bears and more in the Kettle River Range and other areas of the Columbia Highlands.

    In British Columbia, we collaborate with BC Parks and the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission on the Citizen Science Wildlife Monitoring Program, currently in its second monitoring season. Lead by BC Parks and modeled in part after our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project, this program assists both local and international biologists and conservationists to better understand the current populations of target species through the monitoring of cameras in the remote wilderness of southern British Columbia and northern Washington state.

    Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project background

    Since 2001, Conservation Northwest has conducted remote camera monitoring, and since 2006, snow tracking surveys, in wild areas of Washington state to document the presence of wild and often little-seen animals of the Northwest, including Canada lynx, wolverines, gray wolves and grizzly bears. 

    Working in coordination with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the project began as the Rare Carnivore Remote Camera Project. It has evolved to a statewide program in partnership with federal and state agencies (including the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), independent researchers, and other non-profits.

    Today, our Citzen Wildlife Monitoring Project has broadened its positive impact through an Advisory Council made up of project partners, government agency biologists, and professional researchers. Our Advisory Council provides valuable input on our program; it also steers our yearly monitoring objectives and site locations

    Councilmembers assist in developing our protocols, confirm identification of priority images from the season, and provide a scientific audience for results gained in the field from hair samples to tracks. These collaborations between project partners and advisers are crucial to the success of the program year to year. Collaboration keeps our efforts scientifically informed and relevant, ensures coordination rather than duplication of monitoring efforts statewide, and adds valuable on the ground information to the wildlife conservation and management communities.

    But this project wouldn't be possible without our citizen-scientist volunteers. Throughout the season, volunteer field knowledge and experience help CWMP staff and the Advisory Council reassess each site based on data gathered during the season. Thanks to their constant presence on the ground in core habitat, our volunteers provide invaluable feedback on best site locations, as well as actual field conditions and habitat.

    Getting results

    Cascades wolverine
    Cascades wolverine

    Together we have documented rare carnivores in the roadless forests of the North Cascades, near Interstate 90, in the Kettle River Range and Selkirk Mountains, and in B.C.s Rossland Range and Columbia Mountains. All the while coordinating with university, state, tribal and federal agency biologists and researchers.

    Spring through fall, we place motion-triggered remote cameras in wild locations to capture photos and document wildlife presence. And in winter, we continue with a more limited set of cameras in the snow while finding and following animal tracks to document wildlife travel patterns in the I-90 corridor.

    In 2008, our volunteer-operated cameras documented the first wild wolf pups born in Washington, bringing to light the natural return of wolves to Washington for the first time in nearly 80 years. In 2011, our teams documented a new wolf pack in the Teanaway, just 90 miles east of Seattle.

    In 2012, we helped documented the recovery of wolverines north and east of Stevens Pass near Leavenworth. Our cameras continue to be an important part of inter-agency and inter-organizational efforts to monitor the return of wolverines to the Cascade Mountains. 

    • Visit our Flickr site for our most recent remote camera photos. 
    • All photo rights reserved to the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project and Conservation Northwest. Photos available for approved use by request. 

    Reporting results

    The annual cycle of monitoring is divided into two seasons: Spring-fall and Winter. We report on results at the end of each of these seasons. Albums of images from each monitoring season are available on our Flickr page.

    "Being a part of the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project has been an incredible experience and I'm proud to be a part of it. I'm really honored to have a wolverine named after me. To learn that four wolverines have now been identified is really awesome! It is amazing what the wildlife biologists can discover through the camera photos and DNA hair snags and how it fits into the larger picture. It's also very rewarding to know that the effort to create and maintain these camera sites is important and really does make a difference."- Jim (Volunteer remote camera team leader)

    We also support I-90 Wildlife Watch, a project that asks motorists to report the wildlife they see from their car as they drive over Snoqualmie Pass from North Bend to Easton.  Annual reports from this project are available at www.i90wildlifewatch.org

    Thanks to all the volunteers, donors, advisers, and partners who've made this program a success!
    South Cascades elk calves. Photo: CWMP summer 2014
    South Cascades elk calves. Photo: CWMP summer 2014

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