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Wolf ecology and track training courses


Here's how it works

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 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 and carnivore tracking!

Online Modules Option

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 Nov. 1 - Dec. 31. 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. The test should take about 30 minutes; you'll see your results once finished. To finish the certification process, volunteers must register and attend one of the two live "Refresher" courses offered online via Zoom. Internet and computer access are required.

In-Person Volunteer Training Option

The DNR is excited to offer in-person training events for new and returning volunteer trackers. If you are interested in becoming a certified carnivore tracker and participating in the winter tracking project, please consider registering for one of the all-day events. The training program will cover wolf monitoring techniques, tracking basics, carnivore track identification, and the carnivore tracking program's survey protocols. This option also includes access to the prerecorded online training modules, and participants will be expected to view modules 1-4 before the beginning of the winter tracking season. 

Refresher Training Event Overview

Volunteers who have attended comprehensive training events provided by partner organizations, completed the full online training modules & tests or have tracked with the carnivore project in the past should register for one of the Refresher training events. There are two options for refresher courses, both via Zoom. 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, participants will be asked to indicate their preferred tracking blocks.

Carnivore tracking class

Tracking Season 2023-2024 DNR Workshop Schedule:  

Dates Course Location
Oct. 15 - Dec. 31 Registration Closed: Online Prerecorded Modules


(links will be provided via email on 10/15/23)

Oct. 14

10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Registration Closed: In-Person Tracker Training


Spooner DNR Service Center 

Oct. 21 

10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Registration is closed for this training: FULL



UWSP Schmeeckle Reserve, Stevens Point 

Nov. 29

5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Registration Closed: Refresher Training

Online - Zoom

(Link will be provided via email one week prior)

Dec. 5

9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Registration Closed: Refresher Training

Online - Zoom

(Links will be delivered via email one week prior) 

If you have any questions regarding the tracking program or training opportunities, contact Annie McDonnell: (715) 499-3122,


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 end 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

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 and other signs you may encounter on the trail.

Other Species and a Virtual Survey

A discussion on other Wisconsin carnivores and 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, its new features, and basic functionality. Then, we will go through a virtual practice survey using the tracking app.

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