Wildlife Monitoring

Documenting rare and recovering wildlife

Conservation Northwest leads the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project (CWMP), organizing citizen-scientist volunteers to monitor and document wildlife using remote cameras where state and federal agencies don’t have the resources to go, from the Washington Cascades to the Kettle Crest to southern British Columbia.

Our staffers Laurel and Chase reset a wolverine remote camera station in the North Cascades. Photo: Kelly Smith/UBB

Now in its eleventh year, our Monitoring Project is one of the largest citizen-science efforts in North America. Working with Wilderness Awareness School and other partners, we harness the power of more than 100 volunteers each year to maintain dozens of remote camera sites in Washington and southern British Columbia, as well as to conduct winter snow-tracking in the Interstate 90 corridor near Snoqualmie Pass to inform wildlife crossing projects.

Confirming the presence of rare carnivores and other animals informs land management decisions upon which wildlife depend. It also helps guide our conservation programs and priorities, and those of state and federal agencies.

Check out our Story Map on the monitoring project to learn more! We’re also supporting a new multi-state wolverine study to document wolverines across Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Learn more about that collaborative effort in this article.

Our staffer Laurel Baum is the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project Coordinator. David Moskowitz, a wildlife tracker, author and photographer, also helps lead and guide this program under contract with Conservation Northwest and Wilderness Awareness School.

To become a wildlife monitoring volunteer, please contact monitoring (at) conservationnw.org. Please note that because of tremendous interest in this program, new volunteer opportunities are limited at this time. 

Rights to photos acquired through the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project are reserved to Conservation Northwest. Photos are available for approved use by request: communications (at) conservationnw.org

 

Scroll to the bottom of this page to view field season reports. Our latest report (2016) is also available as a flipbook.

 

VIDEO: The Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project 2015

Helpful wildlife monitoring links

Many thanks to our generous Citizen wildlife monitoring project funders, including the Norcliffe Foundation, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, an anonymous donor, The Spokane MountaineersSustainable Path and WDFW’s ALEA grants program

The landscape of monitoring

Citizen scientists contribute valuable new information on the presence and patterns of wildlife in our state. Our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project covers several geographic areas, often targeting places where professional research efforts are ongoing, adding to and strengthening the work of agencies, biologists, and other wildlife managers and researchers.

Since its inception, the 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:

Staff train volunteers on remote camera work and wildlife monitoring. Photo: Laurel Baum
  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.

Working across the Northwest

We monitor in remote habitats from North Cascades National Park to the Pasayten Wilderness to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In collaboration with Wilderness Awareness School, in the Central Cascades project volunteers participate in winter snow tracking along I-90 and year-round remote camera monitoring to evaluate wildlife movement in areas near new wildlife crossings.

In the North Cascades, our CWMP volunteers monitor remote cameras looking for grizzly bears and wolverines. In Washington’s South Cascades, our efforts search for wolves, fishers and wolverines.

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

In British Columbia, we collaborate with B.C. Parks and the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission on the Citizen Science Wildlife Monitoring Program. Lead by B.C. 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 for rare and recovering wildlife. Working in coordination with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the project began as the Rare Carnivore Remote Camera Project. In 2006, we organized our efforts into the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project and later added winter snow tracking surveys around Interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass.

Today, our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project works in coordination with various state, federal and tribal wildlife agencies, including WDFW, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as independent researchers and biologists from other non-profits. The Project is now guided in-part through an Advisory Council made up of partners, government agency biologists, and professional researchers, allowing us to better coordinate with and add value to ongoing wildlife research and recovery efforts.. Our Advisory Council provides valuable input on our program; it also helps steer our yearly monitoring objectives and site locations.

This entire 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 presence on the ground in core habitat, our volunteers provide invaluable feedback on site locations as well as actual field conditions and habitat.

Getting results

In 2008, our volunteer-operated cameras documented the first wild wolf pups born in Washington in nearly 80 years in the Methow Valley, now called the Lookout Pack. 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.

In 2015 we captured the first images of a wolf documented between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth. Later in 2015, our cameras photographed a second wolf, a collared member of the Teanaway Pack, in the same area.

A wolverine documented in a new area of the North Cascades north of Lake Wenatchee. Photo: CWMP

In 2016, our project followed up on a report from a hiker and captured remote camera photos of a wolverine in a new area of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest north of Lake Wenatchee. The area had previously been a gap in confirmed wolverine-occupied territory between known wolverine ranges near Leavenworth and the North Cascades above Lake Chelan. We also documented new wolverines just easy of Stevens Pass, and another wolf near Leavenworth.

Reporting results

The annual cycle of monitoring is divided into two project sections: our annual remote camera field season and our Winter snowtracking season. We report on results at the end of each project season. Albums of images from each monitoring season are also available on our Flickr page.

We also administer 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!