The constant development of urban areas and the recent boom in the population of Western Washington has pushed some wildlife out of their natural habitats, causing humans and animals to interact frequently.
“Carnivores, Communities, Science and Coexistence,” a presentation on volunteer-powered wildlife conservation programs from Conservation Northwest and Woodland Park Zoo, was held on Feb. 20 at the Flemming Arts Center in Issaquah.
The presentation included an overview of the two different programs that require community involvement on the Eastside, the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project from Conservation Northwest and Woodland Park Zoo’s Coexisting with Carnivores program.
Laurel Baum, Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project coordinator, described how the project informs conservation efforts by gathering data on wildlife movement and presence in remote areas of Washington.
“We’re really focused on eight species,” said Katie Remine, living Northwest conservation coordinator. “Seven of them actually belong to the taxonomic order Carnivora — black bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, raccoon, river otter and red fox. Some of them do have a totally carnivorous diet, but some of them don’t, like Raccoons are very omnivorous, but they still belong in that taxonomic order. And then the one other species we focus on is the opossum, which is not in that order, but we’re just really interested in how they interact with the other species.”
Katie Remine and Kodi Jo Jaspers of Woodland Park Zoo discussed Coexisting with Carnivores, a community engagement program that focuses on preventing human-wildlife conflict in the region by using community-developed strategies.
According to Conservation Northwest, the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project is in its 14th year and is one of the largest citizen-science wildlife monitoring efforts in North America. Each year more than 100 volunteers help gather data, images and maintain remote camera sites in Southern British Columbia and Washington. The project also assists in the winter snow tracking of the Interstate 90 corridor.
“Our training for that is coming up in April,” Baum said. “Volunteers join a team with an experienced volunteer and go out into the field every four to six weeks to service their cameras, bring back images and the data of wildlife that they’ve documented and then submit that to the larger project.”
Anyone can apply to participate with no conservation or scientific background required, although due to vast interest in the program, new volunteer positions are limited. To become a volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coexisting with Carnivores is a program co-facilitated by Woodland Park Zoo, Issaquah School District, and the city of Issaquah in efforts to engage the community in carnivore research and coexistence with the local wildlife.
“It started back in 2012, as a partnership program between the middle schools and the zoo and engages sixth-graders in investigating carnivores in their community and through that developing science skills, as well as understanding that they share space with carnivores and how do we coexist with carnivores,” Remine said. “In 2017, we got a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and that allowed us to expand that program more broadly to the community and work with community members as well. That work includes empowering community members to foster actions in their neighborhoods to promote coexistence with carnivores.”
With more and more animals being displaced from their habitats, encounters between humans and carnivores are inevitable.
“My biggest goal is just to have people take that curiosity and really want to take that into a drive to learn more about our wildlife species in Washington State,” Baum said. “So learning about conservation issues, learning about endangered species, what are the threats to wildlife in our region, and maybe supporting that either with their voice or who they’re in touch within their community or even voting for good conservation policy on a state level.”
To learn more about wildlife monitoring programs or to participate in conservation efforts visit www.conservationnw.org or www.zoo.org/coexisting.