Wildlife Monitoring

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

Documenting animals in the wild

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.

Now in its tenth year, our Monitoring Project is one of the largest citizen-science efforts in the nation. We harness the power of more than 100 volunteers each year to maintain dozens of remote camera sites, as well as to conduct winter snow-tracking in the Interstate 90 corridor to inform wildlife crossing projects.

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.

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

VIDEO: The Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project 2015

Our staffer Laurel Baum is currently 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 the 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. 

If you are an existing volunteer, visit our Volunteer Resource Page to get the information you need for the season.

Helpful wildlife monitoring links

  • Check out our 2015 wildlife monitoring field season report
  • Get the latest news on wildlife monitoring in this January 2016 blog post
  • Donate or adopt a camera team to support the project
  • Interested in volunteering with the CWMP? Get involved – contact laurel (at) conservationnw.org
  • Already a project volunteer? Visit our Volunteer Resource Page
  • Story Map on the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project
  • Please scroll to the bottom of this page for our full field season reports dating back to 2006

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.

Many thanks to our generous project funders, including the Spokane Mountaineers, Sustainable 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.

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.

Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project works across the Northwest

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

We monitor in remote habitats from North Cascades National Park to the Pasayten 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.

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. Project volunteers participate in winter snow tracking along I-90 and year-round remote camera monitoring in the Central Cascades. Also in the Cascades, our CWMP volunteers monitor remote cameras in the North Cascades looking for grizzly bears and wolverines, and in Washington’s South Cascades looking for wolves and other wildlife.

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

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 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 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. Much of our remote camera work happens spring through fall when there is greater access to high elevation and backcountry areas, but snow tracking and certain remote camera sites operates through the winter.

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.

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.

  • Like our citizen science? Adopt a camera team or become a volunteer today.

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.

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.

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.

  • 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: communications (at) conservationnw.org

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.

  • 2016 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report (remote cameras)
“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)
  • 2015-2016 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking)
  • 2015 wildlife monitoring field season report (remote cameras)
  • 2014-2015 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking)
  • 2014 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report without appendices (remote cameras)
  • 2014 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report with appendices (remote cameras)
  • 2013-2014 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (remote cameras and snowtracking)
  • 2013 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report(remote cameras). See a video highlighting season results.
  • 2012-2013 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking and remote cameras)
  • 2012 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report (remote cameras). See a video highlighting season results.
  • 2011-2012 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking and remote cameras)
  • 2011 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report (remote cameras).  See a video highlighting season results.
  • 2010-2011 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking and wolverine cameras)
  • 2010 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report (remote cameras).  See a video highlighting season results.
  • 2009-2010 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking)
  • 2009 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report  (remote cameras)
  • 2008-2009 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking)
  • 2008 spring-fall field season wildlife monitoring report (remote cameras)
  • 2007-2008 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking and I-90 remote cameras)
  • 2006-2007 winter field season wildlife monitoring report (snowtracking)

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!
South Cascades elk calves. Photo: CWMP summer 2014
South Cascades elk calves. Photo: CWMP summer 2014