See Wildlife on a Hike? Your Observations Help Conservation Researchers
Spot a bat, Pacific marten or Prairie falcon on your hike? After the ecological damage of recent wildfires, conservation researchers at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife need your observations from the trail more than ever.
Hikers in the WTA community have been filing trip reports — alerting other hikers and land managers to conditions and hazards along trails — for decades. (We hear from hikers and members all the time how much easier it is to learn about trails here than in other states.) The incredible stewardship that motivates trip reports does more than just help other hikers out. Trip reports are a critical source of data for individual rangers as well as the agencies and researchers trying to make long-term plans for public lands.
That goes for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as well. Your keen eye for wildlife you see on trail can contribute to important science and conservation efforts in our state. So the next time you spot the animals below, consider reporting an official observation in addition to your trip report.
by Alex Biswas, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
These days, an increasing number of us are escaping to the outdoors. Contribute to conservation on your hike by reporting your wildlife observations to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). These data provide scientists with information that can be used to study changes in our ecosystems. The recent wildfires have been devastating to Washingtonians — both human and wildlife. We need your help now more than ever.
(Please remember to #RecreateResponsibly to protect yourself, others, and the outdoors.)
How do I report a wildlife observation?
Reporting an observation is easy! Just fill out this simple wildlife reporting tool.
The first step in the survey asks you to give us an idea of what you observed. The survey will then prompt you with questions that are specific to that animal and your experience. You can either submit your data while you’re on your hike, or once you return home.
Should I report all the wildlife I see?
We appreciate data on all wildlife, but there are species that WDFW has a special interest in gathering data for. Snapping a quick photo of these critters is ideal for reporting — visual identifications hold more weight and can be quickly verified.
Here are some species we need help gathering data on and where you’re likely to spot them:
- Wolverine: cascade mountains, sub-alpine elevation and above
- Cascade red fox: cascade mountains, sub-alpine elevation and above
- Fisher: Olympic peninsula and cascade mountains, elevations between 1,000-4,000 ft.
- Pacific marten: Olympic peninsula, mid-high elevations, usually above 3,000 ft.
- Pacific Coast band-tailed pigeon: low-mid elevation forests, observations needed for aggregations at mineral sites
- Prairie falcon: low elevation shrubsteppe
- Canada lynx: sub-alpine forests of western Okanogan county
- Pygmy short-horned lizard: shrubsteppe
- Ring-necked snake: eastern Cascade mountains to Ellensburg, south to Columbia Gorge and west to Longview, ponderosa pine-Oregon white oak, mixed forest and shrubsteppe, often close to water
- White-headed woodpecker: eastern cascade mountain ponderosa pine forests, low-mid elevations. Breeding season observations needed (mid-spring through summer)
- Western toad: observations in Puget Sound area especially critical, found all over the state except central Columbia Basin, spawn in standing water April-July, otherwise found in mountain meadows, forests, and low-density urban areas with irrigated landscaping
- Any bat species: live and dead observations are useful, found all over state from lowlands of Puget Sound to higher elevations in Cascade mountains to arid Columbia basin. They’re often found foraging near bodies of water like streams and wetlands and will roost in many places such as rock crevices, manmade structures, and abandoned mines. Please do not disturb roosting bats.
What if I already report sightings in another app, Like iNaturalist?
Reporting wildlife sightings using any app, including WTA trip reports, is better than not reporting it at all. However, there are times when we need additional or specific types of data that are more relevant to the biologists’ use of it at WDFW.
Using the WDFW reporting tool also allows for consistent verification of this data. Your submission goes directly to the affiliated biologist. While we do occasionally use iNaturalist to check for sightings and verifications, we often lack the capacity to consistently monitor them.
I’d like to learn more!
If you have questions or would like to learn more about how you can contribute to conservation, reach out to us! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website, wdfw.wa.gov.