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Wildlife and forestry research
Learn about wildlife and forestry research
Black bear at bait site, 
MN DNR photo.

Black bear at bait site, MN DNR photo.

Trail camera photo of a bobcat, submitted through Black Bear and Bobcat observations request.

Trail camera photo of a bobcat, submitted through Black Bear and Bobcat observations request.

Radio-collared American marten.

Radio-collared American marten.

Anesthetized American badger having its teeth measured after surgery to implant a radio transmitter.

Anesthetized American badger having its teeth measured after surgery to implant a radio transmitter.

Wildlife and Forestry Research - Carnivores

Wisconsin is home to a great diversity of carnivores, from 500-pound black bears to 2-ounce least weasels. Aquatic otters to arboreal fisher, forest dwelling bobcats to grassland badgers, carnivores inhabit all corners of our state. Carnivore species all respond differently to their environment. Some, like the raccoon, are habitat generalists who do well almost anywhere. Others, like the American marten, have very specific habitat requirements which limit their range and populations in Wisconsin.

Carnivores present unique challenges for both research and management. Most occur at low densities in comparison to their prey species and are often cryptic by nature. Carnivores play a vital role in the healthy functioning of our ecosystems but can also generate conflicts for people. Proper management of these fascinating species requires high quality data to support management decisions.

The diversity of carnivores bring with them a diversity of information needs which Science Services meets through a combination of long-term monitoring and unique research projects to answer specific management questions.

Wildlife and forestry researchers are currently involved with the following projects relating to carnivore research:

Black bear research projects

Population density and habitat use of Central Wisconsin bobcats

Bobcat populations are currently harvested in the northern 1/3 of Wisconsin, north of State Highway 64. Increased interest in bobcat harvest, coupled with a perceived population increase and expansion in Central Wisconsin, has resulted in consideration of expansion of harvest opportunities. Little is known about bobcat populations in Central Wisconsin. This research will provide data on bobcat density and habitat use in the central forest region of Wisconsin. The initial phase of this research was designed to concurrently evaluate 2 density estimating techniques. Scat detecting dogs were deployed in fall 2011 to gather data for genetic based capture-recapture population estimators. Remote camera arrays were also deployed to test photo based population estimators. Based upon performance and cost, remote camera based techniques were determined to be most suitable. Field research continues through 2012 with final results in 2013. The information developed through this research will help inform Central Wisconsin bobcat management decisions.

Project timeline: 2011 - 2014

Lead DNR scientist: David MacFarland

The influence of policy change on illegal take of wolves

Wisconsin's authority to use lethal controls in management of wolf conflicts has varied throughout the period of wolf recovery. There has also been variation in the rate of illegal wolf take. Our research explores the influence of policy change of illegal take through 2 analyses. The first relies upon in-depth analysis of attitudes towards wolves and how those attitudes respond to policy change. Focus groups consisting of hound hunters, livestock producers and deer hunters were convened prior to wolf delisting during a period when lethal control was not authorized. Their attitudes toward wolves and propensity to kill wolves illegally were measured. In January 2012 wolves were removed from the endangered species list granting Wisconsin management authority which includes lethal control and a harvest season. Focus group participants will be reconvened to evaluate how these policy changes have influenced their views toward the species. In the second phase of this research, records of illegal kill will be analyzed against wolf policy change to determine if illegal kill rates were influenced by changes in wolf policy. Results of this research will provide useful information on how policy influences the attitudes of people in areas of large carnivore population recovery.

Project timeline: 2010 - 2013

Lead DNR scientist: David MacFarland

Evaluation of marten translocation into North-Central Wisconsin

In an effort to supplement the population of Wisconsin's only state endangered mammal, 90 American marten were translocated into North-Central Wisconsin from Minnesota between 2008 and 2010. Radio collars were deployed on 41 individuals to assess survival and habitat use. The overall Kaplan-Meier (K-M) survival probability for the 200 d monitoring period was 0.748 (SE = 0.08) for all martens. Habitat use was evaluated at the micro-scale to determine potential limiting factors to marten occurrence. Occurrence of trees >39cm dbh was found to be the greatest predictor of marten habitat use. Critical to evaluation of the long-term success of marten translocation will be evidence of reproduction. DNA samples were collected from all released individuals. In winter 2012 hair snares were deployed to collect follicular DNA from martens within the release study area. Hair snare samples will be compared against translocated individuals to further assess survival of translocated individuals and determine if reproduction occurred.

Project timeline: 2007 - 2014

Lead DNR scientists: David MacFarland, Karl Martin, and Mike Worland

American Badger genetics, population size, distribution, and ecology in Wisconsin

There has never been a thorough study of the American badger in Wisconsin. Badgers are listed as a Species in Need of Information in the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. The objective of this study is to determine the genetic structure, population size, and distribution of the American badger statewide, and to investigate badger ecology, including demographics, habitat use, movements, home range, and diet, in an intensive study area in southwest Wisconsin. This study will help determine if badgers should be considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the state.

Project timeline: 2011 - 2013

Lead DNR scientist: David W. Sample

Last revised: Tuesday March 31 2015