Postcards from week 1 at wildlife camp: Trapping deer and bats, reading bear tracks, and big-time birding

It’s not quite summer, but 18 forest and wildlife ecology students are off at camp. They’re in the middle of a two-week field course at the Kemp Natural Resources Station near Minoqua. The Kemp Facebook page has plenty of great photos and stories, along with this video of student Sarah Winter telling how she “reads” from a set of bear tracks.

The main project is a wildlife inventory. The students are divided into four teams, each of which is assigned a tract of land from 60–120 acres in size. Each team’s assignment is to inventory all of the wildlife—by listening, live-trapping, looking for tracks, scat, scratchings or browse—and the vegetation on their area. But that’s just part of the education. Last Saturday everyone at the camp participated in the Wisconsin Birdathon. All-told they spotted 94 species within a half-hour of the station. On Thursday the students hosted 7th-graders from a local school. The 7th-graders rotated through a series of stations, where UW students talked about various wildlife topics, such as bird identification and fish ecology. Over the weekend FWE professor Tim Van Deelen helped the students trap a deer and talked about ways to monitor mammals.

This week DNR bat specialists will stop by to trap and discuss bats. Other DNR staffers will be talking about fisheries management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialists will stop by to talk about catching, aging and sexing bears.

“It’s a very intensive, hands-on field course,” says professor David Drake, one of more than half-dozen FWE faculty and staff members who are teaching the camp. “It’s an incredibly awesome, wonderful experience, in which the instructors probably have more fun than the students.”