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Wildlife research

The Office of Applied Science employs a highly-skilled staff equipped with a broad range of expertise across wildlife, fisheries and ecology research. 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.

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

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 Areas

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.


Ring-necked Duck on the water

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.


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.


A deer in a netted cage trap

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.


Three collared deer on the horizon

Chronic Wasting Disease Persistence in Soil

Goal: Advance the science of detecting prions in soils and improve our understanding of the persistence of CWD prions in soil.


A young buck foraging

Reassessing In Vitro Prion Amplification Assays

Goal: Assess the reliability and sensitivity of next-generation prion detection methodology on various bodily tissues, fluids and environmental sources.


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.


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 and cub

Black Bear Litter And Diet Survey

Goal: Determine key reproductive parameters, such as litter size and frequency, in each bear management zone. Report dens here.


Close up shot of an elk calf staring across the camera

Elk Population Dynamics and Habitat

Goal: Improve our understanding of elk population dynamics, space use and habitat management to better inform elk management decisions.


Black Bear

Evaluating The Black Bear Abatement Program

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


Ruffed Grouse posing

Ruffed Grouse Distribution and Habitat

Goal: Gauge habitat characteristics that influence population growth and distribution of ruffed grouse, to inform management efforts for ruffed grouse.


Susceptibility of Ruffed Grouse to Changing Winter

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



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.


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.