Capturing Wildlife: iNaturalist Style

There you are, hiking on a trail at Heil Valley Ranch, when a tom turkey struts into view, flashing its tail feathers and gobbling away. You whip out your cell phone, capture an amazing photo, and want to share it with the world.

Facebook and Instagram are fun places to share photos, but posting wildlife photos can go beyond regular social media. Maybe you want to learn more about wildlife in the process, or see where others have spotted critters across the county.

The website iNaturalist.org provides a platform for anyone to contribute photos of wildlife or plants. If you don’t know the name of the object in your photo, other viewers help with identification. You can check out what others are seeing as well.

Boulder County Wildlife Project

To get more local, communities can embed project pages into the overall iNaturalist website. Boulder County helps host such a project, called Boulder County Wildlife. This project focuses on wildlife only, and currently displays nearly 19,000 photos. The project is also hosted by the Wild Foundation and the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks.

Boulder County is a big place—740 square miles, ranging in elevation from under 5,000 feet in the east to over 14,000 feet in the northwest corner of the county atop Longs Peak. This area encompasses many different life zones and ecosystems, and provides habitat for the diversity of wildlife we find here. Biologists, volunteers, and students all help the county document wildlife sightings, behavior, and movement, but it’s difficult to be everywhere at once, and you never know when a bear or bobcat might show up.

Dave Hoerath, wildlife biologist with Parks & Open Space, sees two great benefits of participating in iNaturalist. “The first one is engagement of the public—getting them to care enough to join, post, interact, and learn about their local wildlife. The second one is the ‘second set of eyes’ in the field—seeing things that maybe we wouldn’t or something in a place we wouldn’t think there is one.”

Some wonderful photographers who contribute to the Boulder County Wildlife project page on a regular basis offer a close-up glimpse of our wild neighbors. In addition, the average cell phone or casual photographer is just as important. Capturing sightings on camera and sharing them is a great way for county and city employees, as well as citizens, to learn about the wildlife that share our space. To date, approximately 2,000 different wildlife species have been recorded on the Boulder County Wildlife project site.

City Nature Challenge

Boulder County also participated in the annual City Nature Challenge bioblitz through iNaturalist again this year, in cooperation with the Denver metro area. Bioblitz participants record as many plant and animal species as possible during a weekend. Over 6,900 observations were reported from April 24 – 27 (see the complete results).

Join the Boulder County Wildlife Project

  1. Go to iNaturalist.org and create a login.
  2. Search for the Boulder County Wildlife project or visit the project page
  3. On the project page, click the top right corner that says “Join this project.”
  4. If you download the iNaturalist app on your phone, you can use it to directly submit photos.
  5. From your computer, you can upload photos to the site, and then add location and observation details. Please add as many details as possible!

 

 

Bald eagle
Photo by David Lawrance

 

bobcat
Photo by David Lawrance