WVU Student Chapter tracks wolves in Wisconsin

By Alex T. Smith, Secretary for the West Virginia University Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society

WVU Student Chapter members stand in front of Aldo Leopold’s shack

Nine undergraduates and one graduate student from the West Virginia University Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society were able to take part in a unique opportunity working with the Timber Wolf Information Network in Babcock, Wisconsin tracking wolves as part of their annual Track-A-Thon to collect population data for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

On Jan. 4, the student chapter members left from campus to drive to Portage, Wisconsin and, on the way, took extra time to sightsee in Baraboo, Wisconsin. While in Baraboo, the students visited the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the International Crane Foundation, where they saw Leopold’s shack, explored the Wisconsin River and saw a variety of the world’s crane species.

The student chapter finished the evening by traveling to Sand Hill Wildlife Management Area, which served as the base camp for TWIN’s operations for the Track-A-Thon. Students met with veteran trackers and were split up into groups, where they received an overview of the area and each inhabiting wolf pack from Ray Leonard, the Track-A-Thon coordinator.

Saturday morning, students were up bright and early to leave with an assigned tracker and head to their survey block. One member of each group served as a note-taker and marked down the GPS coordinates of every cluster of tracks, territory marking and scat mound. At first, there were concerns that there would be a lot of driving before any wolf signs were found, but the area was ripe with wolf activity. Tracks of other various animals were also visible, such as bobcat, fisher, elk, deer, coyote, otter and mink. The students collected seven piles of scat that the Student Chapter’s graduate adviser is sending to his master’s research project adviser at Central Michigan University. The scat will be used to determine clusters of genetic groups in the wolf packs of Central Wisconsin.

TWIN has invited the WVU Student Chapter back to their annual Track-A-Thon in future years, and many underclassman that went are excited to go again. The students each took back something unique from this experience, and found it to be an awesome way to end their winter break and start a new semester.

Wolf track

Student Chapter members pose for a selfie while tracking wolves.

Crane at the International Crane Foundation.

A student collects a wolf scat sample.