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Wildlife research

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

Staff on the wildlife research team specialize in a variety of areas throughout the field, including wildlife population monitoring, harvest projection, disease ecology and population dynamics. We conduct our work statewide and our projects are diverse in scope, with a primary focus on game species management.

bobkitten main photo

Some of our current projects include evaluation of CWD impacts to deer; research on the primary drivers of duck populations; modeling of bear and bobcat populations; evaluation of wildlife habitat management strategies and evaluation of elk reintroduction.

The wildlife research team collaborates with universities, federal and state agencies and conservation groups across the state and country to help meet the DNR’s high priority research needs, and provides opportunities for citizen science through hunter, trapper, landowner and recreational volunteer programs.

Wildlife research areas

Doe prancing through the snow

Deer Population Modeling

Goal: Support the annual deer population modeling and monitoring efforts, as well as run an analysis on the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) trends in Wisconsin.


Ring-necked Duck on the water

Ring-Necked Ducks Population Dynamics

Goal: Gather information on the population dynamics and habitat associations of ring-necked ducks to aid in population, habitat and harvest management.


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 a variety of bodily tissues, fluids and environmental sources.


Doe eating grass

Deactivation of chronic wasting disease prions using composting

Goal: Examine how composting could be used to deactivate CWD prions, potentially providing a solution to longstanding challenges in deer carcass disposal.


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 Survey

Goal: Determine key reproductive parameters, such as litter size, in each bear management zone and support decision making for bear management.


Close up shot of an elk calf staring across the camera

Elk Population Dynamics, Space Use and Habitat Management in Wisconsin 

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


Black Bear

Evaluating 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, with the goal of informing management efforts for ruffed grouse.


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, using stable isotope methods.



Wisconsin Bobcat Study

Goal: Investigate bobcat population and harvest dynamics in northern and now southern parts of Wisconsin, and develop better estimates of population parameters.


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 across Wisconsin.


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 help 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.