Witness for Wildlife: A Volunteer Citizen Naturalist Community

Witness For Wildlife program was developed by Patagonia, Inc. and launched in 2009.

In 2009 Witness for Wildlife was a volunteer citizen naturalist community that helped to protect endangered animals and wildlife corridors.

This was its website.

Witness for Wildlife is dedicated to protecting our endangered wildlife corridors and migratory species. W4W has an active community of online and in the field citizen naturalists. By engaging naturalists to share stories and information, attending trips into wildlife corridors and learning how to protect valuable migratory habitats, you can make a difference.

I first learned about the Witness For Wildlife program during a vacation in Maui. We had contacted a local management company who offered the best Maui vacation rentals in high end condos located in some of the most desirable resorts on the island's western coast. We met a couple on one of the championship golf courses at the Kapalua resort. They turned out to be our neighbors and advocates of the Witness for Wildlife, as well as being volunteer citizen naturalists back in Colorado. Over drinks one evening as we watched the sun set from our lania (outside deck), they told us all the great work being done by protecting valuable migratory habitats. We were intrigued and decided to look into what we could do when we returned to New Hampshire. We spent a great two weeks in Maui taking a number of wonderful eco hikes through rainforests and to the Haleakala Crater with its moon-like surface, going kayaking along ocean cliffs, and snorkeling with green turtles. All the guides with their naturalist backgrounds and entertaining personalities made each eco adventure memorable, to say the least. Although the Witness for Wildlife is now only available with archived content its message is very important.

Recently when I saw that the Witness for Wildlife domain was available I immediately bought it and started adding content from their archived pages. I was a real fan of Witness for Wildlife once I learned about it. The cause is still just and important. I believe that this website should be available on the WWW. Most of the content is from the archived pages of the original site, but I have added additional content from other sources. Join the cause to protect wildlife and their natural corridors.


Content is mostly from circa 2009- 2010

Street level: My first trek into the NJ woods on a Witness for Wildlife Outing was amazing and inspiring. It really changed my mind about my own responsibilities to our planet. On that trip I met Peter Greiken who worked part time for a medical waste disposal service and full time as a defender of our environment. I learned about sharps disposal - just one of many categories of medical waste generated by research facilities and school laboratories. He is very proud of his work and shared a link to the NJ page of the company website. He's also involved with many other projects that include the proper management of biohazardous waste. As our hike came close to the main highway rest area he showed me why this work is so important. In the public trash cans were containers of used needles, syringes, bandages, etc. Some unethical businessmen have been dumping this stuff into public trash receptacles, forcing the local government to bear the cost. He took pictures and reported this crime scene to the appropriate authorities. We then headed back up the ravine and observed a brown bear and her cub frolicking in the stream bed.


+++ Circa 2009 +++

Welcome to the first look at the brand new Witness for Wildlife (W4W) program which will fully debut in the Spring of 2010

Witness for Wildlife (W4W) is a citizen naturalist community dedicated to chronicling and protecting North America's wildlife corridors.

The public debut of the full program is set for later this Spring. At that time the site will include a host of features including:

  • Access to corridor and wildlife information, maps and stories via the Corridor Commons initiative
  • Sponsored conservation trips in wildlife corridors across North America
  • citizen naturalists generated wildlife corridor field observations, reports and stories
  • Training and grassroots networking opportunities and much more

Be one of the first to get involved and help protect wildlife and their corridors. Join the W4W Citizen Naturalist community today!

W4W is a program of Freedom to Roam which is a non-profit initiative that brings together people, organizations and businesses to enhance and protect wildlife corridors and landscape connectivity in North America.

What are Wildlife Corridors?

Wildlife corridors are pathways that allow regular travel, seasonal migration or population dispersal of different species. Without intact, healthy corridors, species are unable to migrate, move, find food, reproduce or effectively adapt to a warming planet, habitat fragmentation or human development. As corridors disappear, so do wildlife.

Become a Witness for Wildlife

"On a warming planet, corridors are wildlife's best hope for surviving through this century and that's why we need you to be a Witness for Wildlife."

Rick Ridgeway, VP of Environmental Initiatives, Patagonia & Founder, Freedom to Roam

  • "Help protect the future for wildlife by giving them the freedom to roam."
  • “4 million miles of roads across the US create perilous crossings for wildlife."
  • “Fences can be an impassable barrier to animal migration and movement.”
  • 'Wildlife friendly' fences are a win/win situation for people and animals."
  • “Be a Citizen Naturalist and learn first-hand how you can help protect wildlife."
  • "W4W needs you to become a storyteller for wildlife and corridors."
  • "Freedom to Roam partners with businesses to create solutions for wildlife."
  • "Wildlife corridors link together habitat giving wildlife the freedom to roam."

Are you a Corridor Champion?

Freedom to Roam is on the search for the most active and engaged W4W Citizen Naturalists across America. Do you love wildlife corridors? Are you active in wildlife conservation in your community? Are you a great storyteller? If so, maybe you have what it takes to become one of our elite FTR Corridor Champions.

What is the Corridor Commons?

The Corridor Commons is Freedom to Roam's program to map and document the diversity of wildlife movement across North American corridors, including maps and data on terrestrial, avian, freshwater and marine corridors, documented threats to their survival, inspiring stories of conservation in action and opportunities for grassroots engagement. Effective corridor conservation - whether local, regional, or continental scales - requires a solid foundation of the best-available science. Knowing which areas are important for the movement of animals across the land water and sky, how these areas may be affected by habitat fragmentation, climate change and other threats is the first step in developing collaborative conservation strategies that support people and wildlife alike. The Corridor Commons will provide this foundation by amassing these data to create a centralized resource for wildlife corridor information. In this manner, we can build a continental vision for corridor conservation to inspire individuals, organizations and businesses so that wildlife continue to have the freedom to roam far into the future.

News + Announcements


Welcome Ryan in Dillon, MT who is our 1000th registered citizen naturalist! The countdown is about to begin - one month to the launch of the full site. Stay tuned.




WOW! Nearly 500 new Citizen Naturalist joined the community today. Welcome to you all. We are eager to getting you all engaged. The full public site is under development and will be launched in May. Our Corridor Commons team is working hard with our conservation partners to identify corridors and we will be identifying opportunities to get you all out into a corridor near you to become a Witness for Wildlife.



It is so great to see all the new members of the W4W Citizen Naturalist community. Be sure and complete your full profile including a pic so we can see all the smiling faces that want to protect wildlife. The full W4W site is still underdevelopment for a few more weeks but we are excited to get you engaged before then. Be sure and check out our Facebook page and become a fan! www.facebook.com/freedomtoroam We post lots of interesting wildlife corridor info there. You can also follow us on Twitter @W4WCitNat



Welcome new members that found us through the latest Patagonia Environmental Newsletter. Be sure and check out Patagonia's site to find out more about how you can protect wildlife in a warming world.



Hello W4W Citizen Naturalists. We have just launched a "first look" version of the Witness for Wildlife website today to give the general public a sneak peek at the program. The full version of the new W4W site will be debuted to the world later this Spring. Many of the features have been tested with a small pilot of the program during the summer and fall of 2009 with our founding member Citizen Naturalists. Membership is now open to all wildlife loving members of the public that want to become a Witness for Wildlife.



Citizen Naturalist Training  "The Power of Storytelling"

As a Citizen Naturalist you will have access to training resources like this video training module, "The Power of Storytelling" Want to learn the elements of a compelling story? 


Read One of David Gaillard’s Field Reports from his Witness for Wildlife Outings.

25 MAY 2011

CAUGHT IN THE WILD: Citizen Scientists Film A Wolverine!

Posted by: David Gaillard

Folks may recall the exciting news I reported last month when one of our intrepid “citizen scientist” volunteers Kalon Baughan managed to photograph a wild lynx while surveying a transect not far from his house near Lincoln, Montana.  Well, during the weeks that followed (we enjoyed an unusually long winter out here, even by Montana standards), Kalon and his partner Dan Kreutz upped the ante yet again by first photographing wild wolverines and then capturing one on video!

As I mentioned in my previous post, our non-profit wildlife research partners at Wild Things Unlimited trained Kalon and Dan and dozens of other citizen scientist volunteers to identify and record tracks in the snow and other wildlife observations in this area.  Other groups collaborating with us in this citizen scientist project are Montana Wilderness Association (see their slide show of one of our training sessions here) and Winter Wildlands Alliance.  Patagonia Corporation generously funded this project through its environmental grants program (we can’t link to a for-profit corporation, but you know how to find them).

“Hopefully, citizen scientist volunteers can help make a positive difference for sustainability of our perishable and precious natural world,” said Kalon. “This is very empowering for an avid nature enthusiast, such as myself.  Average people can make a difference.”

Most of us are superbly lucky if we ever cross the tracks of one of these elusive carnivores, but by taking advantage of an elk carcass and then a nearby boulder field strewn with wolverine tracks, our volunteers captured the remarkable images shown here

Check out Kalon’s notes (primary report and addendum) and see not just more of his lynx photos but also three wolverine photos and a wolverine video taken with the use of his remote camera.  The beauty of this methodology is that it is “non-invasive,” meaning no animals were harmed or significantly influenced by the observers.

“Hopefully, citizen scientist volunteers can help make a positive difference for sustainability of our perishable and precious natural world,” said Kalon. “This is very empowering for an avid nature enthusiast, such as myself.  Average people can make a difference.”

Congratulations and thank you to Kalon, Dan, and our research partners at Wild Things Unlimited for their extraordinary efforts and perseverance necessary to collect this exciting new information, which we will use in our work to help ensure the long-term survival of these magnificent animals in this wild and remote area of Montana..




Citizen scientists take the road less traveled to help wildlife.

by Leslie Trew Magraw

Following day-old paw prints that wind through MacDonald Pass, nature guide Steve Gehman notices an iced-over depression and surges ahead to investigate. Gingerly he brushes away the newly fallen snow and homes in on a tuft of hair. With tweezers he pulls each strand from its icy encasement and drops them one by one into a paper bag. “Looks like a lynx,” he announces to the volunteers crowding around him. After hours of trailing the tracks on snowshoes, they have their first eureka moment of the day.

Located along the Continental Divide and halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, MacDonald Pass is often overlooked in favor of Montana’s more iconic and celebrated wilderness areas. Yet this crucial corridor for grizzlies, lynx, wolverines, wolves, mountain lions and more plays an equally important role in the Northern Rocky Mountain ecosystem. “It provides a vital tendril of connectivity between the parks, helping to keep these national treasures wild and alive,” says David Gaillard, Defenders’ Rocky Mountain representative, who led four “Witness for Wildlife” excursions here last summer as part of Defenders’ partnership with Freedom to Roam, a group dedicated to protecting critical wildlife corridors in North America.

Places like MacDonald Pass will only become more crucial for wildlife as climate change continues to disrupt the natural world. “We’re not going to be building any more national parks any time soon,” says Dan Shepherd, director of Witness for Wildlife. “The animals in the parks aren’t sitting around thinking, ‘Well you know, the politics aren’t right to talk about climate change right now, so I think I’ll just sit tight in Yellowstone.’ No, they move. And they’re continually moving. If we want to protect our natural history and legacy in America, we need to look for opportunities to string together those pearls of habitat that we already have.”

Shepherd believes that getting ordinary citizens involved in the exploration, science and conservation of these often unsung wilderness areas is key to protecting them. Citizen naturalists are unlikely to come into direct contact with animals on their outings, so they are trained to search for signs of wildlife—tracks, scat, hair and claw marks. Once they begin to look more closely, they realize animals are there all the time—that everyone’s sharing the same space.

Looking across MacDonald Pass, Gaillard is amazed at just how wild it remains. Its proximity to Helena, the bustling—at least by Montana standards—capital city, means the area faces threats from urban sprawl, road construction, logging, off-road vehicles, even a proposed Army National Guard biathlon course. “Sadly, many of the trees in the surrounding Helena National Forest are dead, victims of invasive bark beetles, spruce budworm and drought, all symptoms of climate change,” Gaillard says. “But thankfully there is still hope for this place.”

How You Can Help

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the importance of protecting wildlife threatened by climate change. Visit our Wildlife Action Center to find newspapers in your area as well as talking points for your letter.Before the day is over, the group gathers what they think is lynx hair from two separate sites to send to the U.S. Forest Service’s wildlife genetics lab for testing. With proof that these threatened wild cats still survive here, perhaps future decisions will ensure that this vital wildlife corridor is preserved. “Many people think that because humans go there, the animals must just avoid us,” says Shepherd. “The reality is that they can’t. It’s the only place that connects their habitat areas together.”

Once people realize that they need to “share the road,” they begin to look at these places a lot differently. “Animals need space, too,” says Jeff Gutierrez, a Defenders supporter who joined Gaillard on two outings. “There’s a lot we can do to get other people to pay attention to what’s threatening this place right now—and what could make it worse for them in the future.”

For Gutierrez, tracking wolverines and lynx was the highlight of his Witness for Wildlife experience—“made all the more entertaining by everyone’s tendency to look up into the trees every so often for the lynx, just in case,” he says. But that’s not where it ends. “Not only did I have the opportunity to spend a day traipsing around the mountains and learning from wildlife biologists, I’m now better informed about wildlife issues in my area,” he says. “Before I went on these outings, I wasn’t even aware of what was going on in MacDonald Pass.” Since then, he says, he has talked about it to dozens of family and friends.