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Sessions train volunteers to assist biologists in tracking wolves

PARK FALLS, Wis. -- People interested in serving as volunteers to search for the tracks of gray wolves and other carnivores to help state biologists monitor populations of these species can attend any of three training sessions that have been scheduled this fall.

Volunteer trackers have played a role in helping state wildlife officials estimate the population of wolves and other carnivores in Wisconsin since 1995, according to Adrian Wydeven, a mammalian ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

“Snow track surveys are one of three main surveys we use to estimate wolf numbers in the state,” Wydeven says. “The other surveys include tracking of radio-collared wolves and summer-fall howl surveys.

While wolf packs that have at least one radio-collared wolf can be tracked from the air, fewer than half of the state’s wolf packs have radio-collared wolves. The best way to determine the number of wolves in packs without radio-colors is by following their tracks in the snow, he says.

Snow track surveys are also used to determine distribution and abundance of marten, fisher, bobcat, and other forest carnivores in Wisconsin.

The training session, along with completion of a wolf ecology course, is required for anyone who wants to serve as a volunteer tracker.

Each training session includes information on mammal track identification, recognition of gait patterns, use of forms for recording data, methods for conducting surveys, and Wisconsin mammal identification test.

Training sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. People are requested to register two weeks before each session. Locations, dates, contact persons, and phone numbers will be as follows:

  • Oct. 18 - Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary, Sarona; located 4.5 miles east of US 53 and Sarona. Charge for the session will be $3.50; snacks and coffee will be provided, but participants should bring their own lunch. Register with Hunt Hill at (715) 635-6543 or


  • Nov. 8 - Treehaven - Exit DNR UW-SP Field Station, Tomahawk. Charge will be $12 for the session and will include lunch. Register with Treehaven at (715) 453-4106.


  • Dec. 6 - Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center, Babcock. Register with Dick Thiel or Sandy Green at (715) 884-2437. Limited to 40 people.

    People who complete the training session and ecology course, along with veteran trackers who have already gone through the training, are assigned survey blocks of about 200 square mile for carnivore tracking during the winter. Surveys are conducted by slowly driving the survey block after fresh snowfalls. All recent sets of tracks of medium and large forest carnivores are recorded along these snow-covered roads. Volunteer trackers should conduct at least three surveys covering 20 to 30 miles each over the course of the winter. If large portions of a survey block include roadless areas or roads closed to vehicle traffic, it may be necessary to survey portions of the block by ski, snowshoe or snowmobile.

    Wolf ecology courses are offered through the following facilities:


  • Treehaven - Exit DNR UW Field Station near Tomahawk offers three to four courses on wolf ecology each winter. Phone (715) 453-4106 for information.


  • Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center west of Wisconsin Rapids. (715) 884-2437 or 889-6333.


  • Timber Wolf Alliance - Exit DNR offers wolf workshops at Pigeon Lake, near Drummond in August and in January. (715) 682-1490.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Adrian Wydeven (715) 762-3204 ext. 107



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