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Snapshot Wisconsin FAQ

Q: What is Snapshot Wisconsin?

A: Snapshot Wisconsin is a partnership to monitor wildlife year-round using a statewide network of trail cameras. The project provides data needed for wildlife management decision support. Snapshot Wisconsin is also a unique opportunity for individuals, families and students to get involved in monitoring the state’s valuable natural resources.

The main goals of Snapshot Wisconsin are to:

  1. Provide data necessary for wildlife management decisions by monitoring wildlife more consistently across the state and throughout the year.
  2. Increase public engagement with Wisconsin's natural resources and the DNR.

Q: How can I participate in Snapshot Wisconsin?

A: There are two main ways to get involved. First, you can apply to host a trail camera. Volunteers will complete training, set up and monitor a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. All training and equipment provided by the program. Second, you can view and classify Snapshot Wisconsin photos on Zooniverse [exit DNR], the internet's largest collection of citizen science projects. 

Q: What do you use the pictures from Snapshot Wisconsin for?

A: Snapshot Wisconsin volunteers identify and count the animals in photos. We use this information, along with where and when each photo was taken, to understand wildlife population distributions across Wisconsin and how these distributions change over time. Snapshot Wisconsin allows us to continuously monitor all types of wildlife throughout the year. For example, we use photos of fawns and does in the late summer to calculate fawn-to-doe ratios, which contribute to our understanding of deer population size. Elk photos are similarly used to estimate calf-to-cow ratios and population size, and turkey photos are used to estimate hen-to-poult ratios. Photos of whooping cranes, moose, cougars and marten give us confirmed locations of these rare species.

Project photos are also used for educational and outreach purposes, helping community members of all ages to experience firsthand the fauna of Wisconsin’s wildlands. Check out the Snapshot Wisconsin Data Dashboard [exit DNR] to explore and download of some of the data the project has collected.

Q: How is Snapshot Wisconsin funded?

A: Snapshot Wisconsin is primarily funded through Pittman-Robertson dollars provided by the Federal government to Wisconsin DNR.

Q: How do I get more information about Snapshot Wisconsin?

A: To get regular updates on the Snapshot Wisconsin project, sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter [exit DNR]. General information about the project and how to apply can be found on our website, but you can also request more information from the Snapshot team via

Spacing Divider - Snapshot Doe

Participation in Snapshot Wisconsin

Q: I want to volunteer to monitor a Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera. What will be expected of me?

A: Volunteers are expected to deploy their Snapshot Wisconsin trail camera within the survey block for which they were approved. Volunteers must report camera site information, including the camera location (latitude and longitude). It is expected that the volunteer change camera batteries and collect the photos at least once every 90 days. Volunteers can participate for as long as they wish, but a commitment of at least one year is requested. For more information about hosting a trail camera, visit our Apply to host a trail camera page.

Q: Where can Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras be placed?

A: Cameras can be placed on private or public land. Volunteers need to either own the property or have received permission from the landowner or public land manager to place a trail camera there. The minimum acreage required for a property is 10 contiguous acres. However, property less than 10 acres will be considered on an individual basis. Cameras should be placed in a natural area at least 100 yards from buildings, paved roads, or baiting for wildlife. Two cameras may be placed on the same property but must be in different survey blocks and at least one mile apart.

Q: Why is permission needed for cameras placed on public land? Are they required for land managed by the WDNR?

A: Volunteers interested in hosting a camera on public land (including land managed by the WDNR) are required to have a Property Placement Permission Form signed by a local land manager before receiving equipment. This is to ensure that volunteers establish an open line of communication and to also allow land managers to place any restrictions or ask any questions before the camera is deployed.

Q: How and when can I sign up to monitor a trail camera in a survey block?

A: Potential volunteers can directly apply to host a trail camera [exit DNR] online for a particular survey block where they own or have access to land. You can sign up for multiple survey blocks, and it is not necessary that your permanent residence is in the same county as the survey block(s). Applications will be reviewed at the beginning of each month. If there is more than one application for a particular survey block, then the selection will be made by randomly choosing among the applications that meet the criteria. Volunteers not selected for their intended survey block will be placed on a waitlist and contacted if the block becomes available. Tribal partners have a priority for any survey blocks on tribal land.

Q: How do you protect the privacy of participants?

A: Protecting the privacy of volunteers is a high priority for us. We have several steps in place to ensure any photos of humans are removed before photos are made viewable by the public for classification. Volunteers are required to place cameras away from human use areas to minimize the possibility that the camera is triggered by a human. We also provide guidelines for avoiding any structures (e.g. buildings, signs) that could make locations identifiable. The photos from Snapshot Wisconsin cameras are encrypted for privacy protection and only viewable after they have been uploaded to the Snapshot Wisconsin database. This ensures that individuals outside of the project cannot steal an SD card from a camera and view the photos. If the photos are shared with the public or through a data request, only county-level location information is provided.

Q: What happens if there is a photo of a person on a Snapshot Wisconsin Trail Camera? 

A: This project is for monitoring wildlife only. It's our priority to protect the privacy of individuals. Volunteers place cameras away from human use areas in order to minimize the possibility that the camera is triggered by a human. In addition, we have a number of processes in place to remove any photos of humans before photos are classified by the public.

Spacing Divider - Snapshot Bear

Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras

Q: What type of cameras do you use for Snapshot Wisconsin?

A: Snapshot Wisconsin trail cameras are manufactured specifically for the project by Bushnell. These cameras are pre-programmed so that settings will be the same across all cameras.

Q: Can I use my own camera?

A: Participants cannot use their personal trail cameras to participate in Snapshot Wisconsin. Snapshot Wisconsin cameras are all programmed with settings specific to project needs in order to collect accurate wildlife data.

If you have an interesting animal photo from a personal camera and would like to notify the Wisconsin DNR, you may submit the observation using this form [exit DNR] to the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory.

Q: Am I liable for the Snapshot Wisconsin camera in case someone steals or vandalizes it?

A: The Snapshot Wisconsin cameras and all accessories provided to volunteers are property of Wisconsin DNR. Volunteers are not liable for WDNR equipment that is stolen or damaged.

Q: Do I get to keep the Snapshot Wisconsin camera?

A: If you choose to exit the program, your trail camera and all associated equipment must be returned to the Wisconsin DNR. A shipping label will be provided free of charge.

Q: Will I be able to view the pictures from my camera immediately?

A: The photos from your camera are encrypted for privacy protection and only viewable after they have been uploaded to the Snapshot Wisconsin database. Your photos will be made available on your personal MySnapshot profile page between 24-48 hours after uploading.

Q: I have an interesting photo of wildlife on my property. Who should I send it to?

A: If you have observed a large or rare mammal on your property, please use this form [exit DNR] to report the sighting to the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory.


A snapshot volunteer setting up her trail camera