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Cedar Creek Winter Survey: Sat, Jan 11

posted Dec 4, 2019, 12:14 PM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Dec 18, 2019, 11:04 AM ]

It's time for the Winter Cedar Creek Wildlife Survey   

The Cedar Creek Wildlife Survey is a joint venture between the Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project and the University of Minnesota's Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. It is a unique opportunity to improve your tracking skills, connect with nature, and help Cedar Creek scientists learn about the wildlife living on their property. You can read about our Fall Survey here.

Saturday, January 11

View on Google Calendar
Our Winter Survey will be an all day affair. We will head out in teams to survey snow-packed roads and trails for animal tracks, then come back in to share our discoveries with one another. Each team will be led by an experienced wildlife tracker, certified in Track & Sign identification. In past winter surveys, our teams have identified the tracks of about 20 species including southern flying squirrel, fisher, mink, red fox and grey wolf. Since then, many of our observations have been verified by the new trail cam network at Cedar Creek. With the bison enclosure vacant for the season, we have a broader range of places we can roam, and the opportunity to follow trails in the snow for longer distances. Who knows what we will find? Here is the schedule for the day:

9:00am    Gathering at Lindman Center
9:30am    Tracking teams leave for the field
~3:00pm  Return from the field for sharing, mapping and debriefing
4:30pm    Complete

Bring your own lunches and snacks. Weather permitting, some teams may eat lunch in the field, but it is more likely we will all have a late lunch after we return to the Lindman Center. Cedar Creek will provide coffee and snacks in the morning.

New to Tracking?

Trackers, naturalists and enthusiasts of all levels are welcome to take part in our surveys--and having some experience with track and sign interpretation is definitely helpful. If you are new to wildlife tracking and would like to learn a bit about it before joining us for a survey, join us for Tracking Club on December 15 at Ft. Snelling State Park. Get all the details here.


Registration is required. To register, email Jonathan Poppele <> or use our contact form.

Use this link to add the event to a Google Calendar.

Want to Carpool?

We have a new tool to help coordinate carpooling. If you would like to share the trip to Cedar Creek, you can use our Group Carpool page to offer or request a ride.

Bring Your Questions

In recent surveys, our teams have identified the tracks of about 30 species including black bear, fisher, mink, red fox and grey wolf. We have been noting the behavior of deer, coyote and fox in relation to the shifting wolf population, and seeing some of our sightings verified by Cedar Creek's new network of trail cameras. And the more we learn about this landscape, the more questions arise. Some of the questions that came up after our fall survey include:

  • What is the status of the wolf who appears to be back on the property? Is this the second animal that we tracked last winter? If so, where has he been? Has he returned to Cedar Creek, just passing through, or has he simply expanded his range?
  • What are the behavior dynamics of the mesopredators on the property? During our summer survey, we did not see any sign of domestic cat, skunk or opossum, and only a single raccoon track. On our fall survey, tracking teams recorded the tracks and sign of all of these critters except for the domestic cat. Was the lack of sign of these mesopredators during our summer survey just a fluke? Or is there something about their habits and behavior that drove the lack of sign in the summer? And what about the cats? In past years, we have seen regularly seen domestic cat tracks during our summer and fall surveys. Where were they this year?

What questions do you have about the landscape, the animals and their behavior? We will take some time to share questions before we head out into the field.

About Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is a 5,400 acre experimental ecological reserve operated by the University of Minnesota. It is located about 35 miles north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, just east of Bethel.

Cedar Creek lies at the boundary between prairie and forest. It is a mosaic of uplands dominated by oak savanna, prairie, hardwood forest, pine forests, and abandoned agricultural fields and of lowlands comprised of ash and cedar swamps, acid bogs, marshes, and sedge meadows. The area was first set aside in the early 1940s to be kept in its natural condition for scientific and educational purposes. Much of the land remains pristine, and has never been developed for agriculture. You can learn more at

The diverse, pristine habitat supports a wide variety of mammals. Species seen on the property over the Reserve's 75 year history include white-tailed jackrabbits, badger, fisher, fox squirrels, porcupine & spotted skunks. Reserve staff and scientists are looking for our help to update their index of mammals. If you are a beginner, the surveys will offer an overview of the diversity of Minnesota Mammals. For the advanced tracker, you might get to try your hand at distinguishing fisher from otter; fox squirrel from grey squirrel; and a variety of tiny mammal tracks. You can take a look at some of what our tracking teams have found on our iNaturalist Project Page, or look read about our past surveys on our blog.

The property includes 25 miles of sand roads, which catch tracks beautifully. The roads will be grated shortly before our surveys, offering optimal tracking conditions for us to locate and identify a rich diversity of species.

Public access to the Reserve is limited. The Cedar Creek Wildlife Survey program offers you the rare opportunity to explore this exceptional landscape.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
2660 Fawn Lake Dr NE
Bethel, Minnesota 55005

For a map & directions to Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, click here

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve