Coyote? Weasel? University of Minnesota researchers seek help classifying wildlife photos

Two deer captured by trail cameras.
Trail cameras at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve captured images of deer in July 2018. The center is seeking the public's help in identifying animals captured in about a million similar photographs.
Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve

A new University of Minnesota research project is looking for some citizen scientists who can tell a coyote from a fox or a weasel from a rabbit.

The university's Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve near East Bethel, Minn., in Anoka County has about 100 heat- and motion-activated wildlife cameras on site that have captured more than a million pictures of animals over the past year.

"Anytime anything walks by them, they take a picture," said Caitlin Barale Potter, who coordinates education and community engagement for the reserve.

An image of a bird captured by a trail camera at  Cedar Creek  Reserve
A trail camera captured this image of a bird at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in November 2010. The center is asking for the public's help in identifying the animals captured in more than one million photographs.
Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve

Researchers want to know how packs of wolves are having an impact on other animals living on the site. But first, they have to sort through all those photos.

"This project gives us a chance to not just study those interactions but to really open up the secret lives of our animal residents to anyone who's interested," Potter said.

Besides coyotes, foxes, fishers (a type of weasel) and deer, there are also more than 238 species of birds on the property, she said.

Those participating in the project will look at a picture of an animal and answer a few questions about what they see.

The project follows a similar university study that enlisted help from the public to identify lions and other animals in a national park in Tanzania.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.