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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 the Department of Natural Resources in monitoring important wildlife populations. The annual winter carnivore snow tracking survey was developed in 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 held each fall and winter by DNR staff with the goal of recruiting and training 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 including popular field-based portions.

Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, we have modified our courses to be offered online this year. 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

  • Register here for access to the online course materials.
    • These are in-depth training modules (including commentary by DNR biologists) covering all aspects of the traditional wolf ecology and carnivore training programs. These are available throughout the month of December and are designed to be completed at your own pace.

      Internet and computer access required.
  • 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.
    • If you do not want to become a certified tracker for the program you do not have to take the test.
  • If you are interested in becoming a certified volunteer carnivore tracker, register for one of two available certification courses listed in the online course test.
    • These live portions will be delivered via Zoom and will allow interaction between interested participants and DNR staff. We’ll go through the results of the program test, discuss survey methodology and procedures, and allow time to answer any questions. In addition, we’ll ask participants to indicate their preferred tracking blocks.
  • Once you’re certified, wait for proper snow conditions and then hit the field to conduct surveys!

Carnivore tracking class

2020-2021 Workshops
Dates Course Location Cost Sponsor
Nov 20 – Dec 31
Available anytime
Wolf Ecology and Carnivore Tracking Virtual – at your own pace FREE Wisconsin DNR
Register here!
January 9, 2020 Tracking Certification
(choose this date from one of the options listed in your tracking exam)
FREE Wisconsin DNR
January 12, 2020 Tracking Certification
(choose this date from one of the options listed in your tracking exam)
FREE 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 off James Halfpenny’s A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America. 

History of Wolves in Wisconsin

We will discuss the history of wolves in our state from the days of bounty hunting to current population numbers. As well as 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 will also discuss different measures that are taken to help protect livestock and other animal assets throughout wolf range.

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 sign 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 that can be easily downloaded and installed onto your smartphone or tablet. We will discuss the importance of the app, new features, and the basic functionality of the app. Then, we will go through a practice virtual survey using the tracking app.

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