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Wolf ecology and track training courses

For many years, the Wisconsin DNR has incorporated the use of trained citizen scientists to assist staff biologists in monitoring important wildlife populations. The annual winter carnivore snow tracking survey has included citizen science volunteers since 1995 to give interested persons the opportunity to become involved in the state's wolf monitoring program.

Traditionally, courses in both wolf ecology and comprehensive carnivore tracking were hosted each winter by DNR staff to recruit and train volunteer trackers along with being an outreach tool to anyone simply interested in learning more about wolves or tracking wildlife in the snow. Several partner organizations including the Timber Wolf Alliance, Timber Wolf Information Network, and Northland College have typically offered parallel courses to increase education and training efforts and often include popular field-based portions.

Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, we have modified our courses to offer both online and in-person training options. This change offers an exciting new opportunity for folks from across the state to participate in the program without any need to travel. Even if you do not wish to become a certified volunteer tracker, consider registering for the course material to learn more about wolf ecology and management as well as carnivore tracking!

Here's how it works

  • Registration for the in-person new tracker training program for the 2022-2023 season is currently full, if you are interested in being added to the waiting list or for details regarding other training opportunities contact Annie McDonnell: (715) 499-3122,

Online Modules Overview

The eight prerecorded online training modules are in-depth training courses (including commentary by DNR biologists) that cover topics including the history of wolves in Wisconsin, wolf ecology, management of wolves in Wisconsin, wolf monitoring techniques, tracking basics, carnivore track identification, and the carnivore tracking program's survey protocols.  They are offered to be completed at your own pace and will be available for viewing from November 1st - December 31st.  Individuals interested in participating in the winter tracking surveys must complete all 8 modules.   Once you’ve completed the training modules you may complete the course test.  This should take about 30 minutes and you’ll see your results once finished.  To finish the certification process, register and attend one of the two live "Refresher" courses.

Internet and computer access are required.

*If you are interested in learning about Wisconsin's wolf population but do not wish to become a program tracker, please select only the first option in the registration form.

In-Person New Volunteer Training Event Overview

The DNR is excited to offer an in-person training event for New volunteer trackers.  If you are interested in becoming a certified carnivore tracker and participating in the winter tracking project, please consider registering for this all-day event.  The training program will cover wolf ecology, wolf monitoring techniques, tracking basics, carnivore track identification, and the carnivore tracking program's survey protocols.

Refresher Training Event Overview

Volunteers who have attended previous training events completed the full online training modules & tests, or tracked with the carnivore project in the past should register for one Refresher training event.  There are two options for refresher courses: one via Zoom and one in person.  These programs will allow for interaction between participants and DNR staff.  We will provide a refresher on track identification, an update to survey protocols, and a walk-through of the smartphone apps used to collect and submit tracking data.  In addition, we’ll ask participants to indicate their preferred tracking blocks.

Carnivore tracking class

2022-2023 Workshops 

Dates Course Location Cost Sponsor
November 1 - December 31 Online Modules


$0 Wisconsin DNR

December 1

5:30 PM-8:00 PM

Refresher Returning Volunteers


$0 Wisconsin DNR

December 10

10:00 AM-3:00 PM

New Tracker Training 


$0 Wisconsin DNR

December 13

5:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Refresher for Returning Volunteers

Online - Zoom

$0 Wisconsin DNR


The following partners offer courses and workshops on various topics including wolf ecology and track training. Please contact them for information or to register for their courses.

Course descriptions and details

The material for these courses was developed by DNR biologists, primarily Jane Weidenhoeft, Sarah Boles, Adrian Wydeven, Ron Shultz, Marie Erikson-Pilch, Nate Kluge, and Larissa Juip, and formatted for virtual viewing by Shannon McNamara with the help of Randy Johnson. Track measuring techniques, tracking formulas, and terminology based on James Halfpenny’s A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America. 

History of Wolves in Wisconsin

This module covers the history of wolves in our state before European settlement, the relationship between Native Americans and wolves, the era of bounty hunting and extirpation, and the recolonization of the state up to today's population numbers. It also touches on the wolf's long saga of being taken on and off the Endangered Species List and what that means for wolf management. 

Biology and Ecology of Wolves

Learn the basic biology and ecology of wolves including distinguishing characteristics, reproduction, growth, pack structure, and diet.

Management of Wolves in Wisconsin

Learn about Wisconsin’s wolf management program. We discuss some of the laws influencing wolf management including both state and federal law, tribal treaty rights in the Ceded Territory, and how stakeholder groups and policy decisions influence wolf management. This module also covers the different measures that are taken to help protect livestock and other animal assets throughout the wolf range, and ends with a brief overview of wolf hunting and trapping in the state.

Monitoring Wolves in Wisconsin

Here we will discuss different techniques used to monitor Wisconsin’s wolf population and how you can help keep an eye on our wolf population.

Tracking Basics

Learn the basic tools of the trade for winter tracking including how to measure tracks, tracking formulas, foot patterns, and gait patterns.

Carnivore Tracking

Here we will discuss specific measurements and characteristics of 3 groups of carnivores in Wisconsin canids, felids, and mustelids. You will learn some distinguishing characteristics of different species tracks as well as other signs you may encounter on the trail.

Other Species and a Virtual Survey

Here we will discuss some other Wisconsin carnivores as well as common prey species you will encounter on the trail. You will learn track formulas, specific measurements, and distinguishing characteristics.

After we finish covering the tracking material, you will need to know how to complete a winter carnivore survey. So, we will complete a virtual survey together with examples of maps and data sheets that you would fill out for our tracking program.

Using the App

In this training module, you will learn all about our tracking survey app which can be easily downloaded and installed onto your smartphone or tablet. We will discuss the importance of the app, the new features, and the basic functionality of the app. Then, we will go through a virtual practice survey using the tracking app.

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