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Wildlife research

A mallard drake with brilliant green plumage is being held by researchers' gloved hands.

Wildlife research staff specialize in a variety of fields, including wildlife population dynamics, monitoring, harvest projection and disease ecology, with expertise spanning the diversity of wildlife across the state.

Staff collaborates with universities, federal and state agencies, tribal partners and conservation groups across the state and country to help meet the DNR’s high-priority research needs. The wildlife research team also provides science participation opportunities through hunter, trapper, landowner and public volunteer programs.

Wildlife Research Studies

A snapshot volunteer setting up her trail camera

Snapshot Wisconsin

Goal: Provide the opportunity for the public to get involved in wildlife monitoring and provide data necessary for wildlife management decisions. Learn more about contributing to wildlife research with the Snapshot Wisconsin community.


Black bear cub held by a scientist.

Black Bear Litter And Diet Survey

Goal: Determine key reproductive parameters, such as litter size and frequency, in each bear management zone. Help the project by reporting occupied bear dens in fall and winter.


Black bear with its tongue hanging out

Black Bear Abundance Using Genetic Spatial Capture-Recapture

Goal: Estimate zone-specific population size of bears using a genetic-based spatial capture-recapture (SCR) estimator.


Black Bear sow with three cubs

Evaluating The Black Bear Abatement Program

Goal: Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of various abatement measures for reducing agricultural damage by black bears.


An alert looking deer with a GPS collar, captured by a trail camera.

Southwest Wisconsin CWD, Deer and Predator Study

Goal: Evaluate population-level impacts of various deer mortality factors, focusing on CWD impacts, and improve our understanding of deer/predator associations. Details are available on the project website.


Doe prancing through the snow

Advancing The Deer Population Model

Goal: Use available deer data to assess the current deer population monitoring framework and explore new models for improvement.


Assessing Trail Camera-Based Population Estimators

Goal: Estimate wildlife population sizes using trail cameras and evaluate their effectiveness compared to other methods of estimating populations.


Collared bucks running across the top of a green hill.

Pneumonia In White-Tailed Deer

Goal: Identify the causative disease agent(s) responsible for fatal pneumonia in wild white-tailed deer in Wisconsin, any potential link to chronic wasting disease and the potential importance to the deer population.


Two hunters wearing blaze orange walking away from camera.

Deer Hunter and Deer Harvest Demographics: Causes and Consequences

Goal: Describe changing patterns in the number of deer hunters, project future hunter numbers and examine the consequences of fewer deer hunters in terms of deer harvest.


Couple scouts a field

Hunter Perceptions and Responses to Chronic Wasting Disease

Goal: Understand Wisconsin deer hunter perceptions of CWD and how hunter behaviors might affect the spread of CWD.


Sharp-tailed grouse lek

Sensitivity and Viability of Sharp-tailed Grouse in Northwest Wisconsin

Goal: Uncover potential demographic drivers that influence population growth and identify the minimum viable population that can be sustainable.


Susceptibility of Ruffed Grouse to Changing Winter

Goal: Investigate the susceptibility of ruffed grouse to projected changes in winter variability.



Turkey selfie to the camera

Detectability and Movement of Wild Turkeys in Wisconsin

Goal: Estimate accurate turkey recruitment metrics by pairing multiple monitoring methods, including GPS/radio-tracked turkeys and data collected from trail cameras.


Waterfowl swimming near Madison, WI

Waterfowl Isotope Ecology Study

Goal: Refine our understanding of the breeding origins of hunter-harvested mallards, ring-necked ducks and wood ducks from Wisconsin.


Assessing Priority Watersheds Using Waterfowl 

Goal: Evaluate duck productivity across a range of identified priority habitats and use empirical habitat use and selection data to inform future strategies.


Trumpeter Swan

Assessing Impacts of Goose and Swan Herbivory on Wild Rice 

Goal: To better understand the impacts of herbivory (grazing) of wild rice by Canada geese and trumpeter swans.


Furbearer Population Model Development

Goal: Evaluate and improve population monitoring protocols for furbearers, including survey methodology and analysis to provide robust annual and zone-specific population status assessments to support furbearer management decisions.


Beaver swimming in a lake

Beaver Influences on Trout Populations

Goal: Characterize the impacts of beavers, beaver dam construction and beaver dam removal on cold water streams and trout populations in eco-regions and beaver management zones.


Scientific Consulting

In addition to the research projects above, the Office of Applied Science also provides consultation services to the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. These consultation services are often in the form of population analyses, scientific design and analysis services and consultation on management issues to ensure the best possible scientific information is available to decision-makers. 

The open dialogue between the Office of Applied Science and the Bureaus of Wildlife Management and Fisheries Management helps drive our research focuses so that research directly fills the research needs of decision-makers.  


Publications and reports

View a list and links to our recent journal publications and reports. Visit the Deer and CWD Scientific Publications page for papers on that topic.