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Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates

Images (c) Rory Hill


Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates is an applied fully online, three-day course providing an introduction and overview of ground-based and aerial-survey methods for ungulates of North America. Using remote (online) instruction and assigned field exercises participants learn and gain practice conducting ground-based surveys for direct observation of individuals and measurement of animal sign such as scat and tracks. Instruction on aerial surveys are confined to classroom only; there is no field exercise associated with this component.

Visual survey methods (transect and block) are introduced as well as identification of sign (tracks, scat, markings). Information and data collected from ungulate carcasses are also explored. Information acquired from each method are reviewed with an emphasis on integration of methods to maximize data collection and inferences of habitat use and abundance. This course is a refinement and further investigation of methods introduced in the more generic introductory course Wildlife Survey Field Methods.

Course content includes:

Introduction to the Ungulates

  • Identification
  • Range
  • Field Ageing and Sexing Individuals

Habitat Use and Behaviour

  • Habitat preferences
  • Seasonal use and movements
  • Food
  • Predators

Survey Methods (I): Direct Observation

  • Ground-based
    • Encounter surveys
    • Road and spotlight surveys
    • Ground counts at seasonal concentrations
    • Camera trap stations
  • Aerial
    • Encounter surveys
    • Fixed-width surveys
    • Total counts
    • Mark-recapture-resight

Survey Methods (II): Indirect Observation

  • Sign
    • Fixed-width surveys
  • Carcasses
    • Species, Sex, Age

Fundamentals of Study Design

Advanced Techniques

  • Telemetry
  • Health and reproductive indicators from carcass

In addition to traditional survey methods, participants will also learn to estimate age and determine sex of animals and interpret sign. This course is a hybrid; comprised one-half of scientific survey and one-half of woodcraft (identifying and interpreting sign; attracting and baiting animals).

Ungulate species included in the course are:

  • Deer (white-tailed, mule, black-tailed)
  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Caribou
  • Mountain sheep
  • Mountain goat
  • Bison
  • Pronghorn

Each NRTG course includes free, lifetime admission. Enrol once – come back anytime.

The Wildlife Survey Field Methods program is delivered as a scheduled course delivery or as a contract to organizations and groups. See “How Do I Attend?” below.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Conduct five ground-based wildlife survey methods for ungulates
  • Conduct four aerial wildlife survey methods for ungulates
  • Identify and interpret typical ungulate tracks, sign, and behaviour
  • Choose appropriate survey methods based on target species and seasonal timing
  • Determine sex and approximate age of ungulates
  • Conduct and complete survey methods (dependent upon season of course delivery)

Course format

Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates is offered in two formats: (i) scheduled on-line delivery to students distributed throughout North America (Distributed Delivery), and (ii) in-person on contract to a group within a locale (Local Delivery).

Distributed Delivery

The course is offered online with lectures and field assignments. As this is distance education, the student is expected to complete field assignments on their own and submit data or photographs to the instructor for examination. Ungulates is offered through two formats:

(1) Five lectures over three weeks, each of 1.5-2.0 hour duration (7-10 hours classroom time); lectures are typically in the evening. On days between lectures students are expected to complete assignments reinforcing material and providing experience with some survey techniques. The instructor is available via email or private Zoom meetings between classroom instruction times. This format is intended for the working professional that wishes to take the course outside of working hours.

(2) Three consecutive days, with length of day being 6-7 hours (7-10 hours classroom time, same amount of field time). A typical day is 2-3 hour lecture in the morning, field exercise in afternoon, and brief reconvening at end of day to discuss exercises. This format is intended for professionals that can afford to dedicate three consecutive days to training.

Local Delivery

In a local delivery the course is provided over three consecutive days, with lectures provided either in-person by the instructor or via Zoom, and field exercises conducted under direct supervision of the instructor. This format is intended for a group delivery, typically to an organization or company that can provide a minimum of eight students within the local area.

NRTG has experience delivering courses following COVID-19 mitigation measures. For in-person deliveries, lecture is done in-person or by Zoom, depending upon vaccination status and ability to socially distance within a classroom. Field activities follow social distancing and masking requirements. For the in-person delivery the instructor will travel to your community and lead the students in the field in person. See also Course Customization and How do I attend?, below.

Course Customization

Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates can be customized for your organization, company or aboriginal group based on your needs. For instance, this course can focus on specific species of interest, geographic region, or time-of-year (e.g., summer vs winter surveys). NRTG requires two weeks notice to customize the course prior to delivery. Custom or ‘in-house’ course deliveries to an organization or company may vary in format.

Please contact us with your ideas and needs, and we will work with you to design and customize this course to meet your specific needs.

Potential Students 

Field Methods for Wildlife Surveys: Ungulates is intended for biologists and environmental technicians beginning their careers or seeking instruction protocols, First Nation environmental technicians required to conduct wildlife surveys in their territories, or others looking for a general introduction to a variety of ungulate scientific survey methods.


Knowledge and experience with basic field tools such as map, compass, and GPS is recommended. A working knowledge of plant identification (trees and shrubs) is recommended.

Personal Equipment Requirements

Waterproof field notebook (example), compass, camera (phone camera is acceptable), suitable all-weather boots, appropriate clothing for field work. Binoculars, GPS, field tape and plant field guide are optional but recommended.

For further information, or for further assistance, please contact NRTG.  

Course Fees

Course fees will vary by course delivery location.  For further information, please contact us or refer to our Course Schedule Page.

How do I Attend?

Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates is offered as a regularly scheduled course delivery and on contract to organizations, companies and aboriginal groups throughout the year in communities throughout North America. Scheduled courses are posted on the NRTG Schedule Page.

If you would like to inquire to have us bring this course to your community or organization, please contact us for further information and consider the following:

  1. Contact us well in advance of your preferred course start date
  2. If applicable, secure program funding
  3. Recruit course participants (most NRTG courses have minimum enrollments of 10 participants)
  4. Coordinate course participant equipment, classroom facility, and contractual agreement with NRTG.

Note: See Course Customization above for more information about ‘in-house’ course delivery options.

Instructor Profile

Dr. Sean Mitchell has over 30 years experience in environmental sampling and analysis of wildlife populations including fish, crustaceans, birds, reptiles, and mammals in four provinces. He brings an applied field-based approach to sampling and nests that within the constraints of study design to teach students not only how to conduct the field work, but also why it is important to follow particular protocols. Dr. Mitchell has also been teaching for almost fifteen years, having taught at three universities and in First Nation communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

NRTG offers this course online approximately every two months in an online format year-round. It can also be requested to be delivered in-person within a community or company. This course is offered in two forms: as three consecutive days or over five evenings spaced over two and a half weeks. The first approach is intended for students able to dedicate three days to the course and the second is for those that prefer to take the course outside of regular working hours. Please refer to our Schedule page for course timing and locations. 

The course is offered via two formats: online or in community. The on-line delivery includes students from a broad geographic region and consists of approximately half morning lectures (via Zoom) and half independent completion of assigned exercises outdoors in the afternoon. That is, exercises are completed by the individual, not as a group or class. Following exercises, the class reconvenes on Zoom to discuss the assigned activity and findings. In-community deliveries are structured similarly but the instructor is in the field with the class and the activities are group- or class-based rather than completed individually.

For online deliveries we do not require you to purchase equipment for this course, but please use personal field gear if you currently have it (e.g., binoculars, field tape, compass, clinometer). For in-person deliveries, NRTG will supply the required equipment.

The most important personal equipment you can have for this course are appropriate clothing for the weather, including head covering. 

Field gear is not required to be purchased for online or in-person deliveries.

Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates expands on and explores details of methods and issues specific to ungulate surveys. In contrast, Wildlife Survey Field Methods is an introduction to methods for a wide variety of mammalian species, from shrews to bears, including but providing relatively shallow treatment of ungulates. Wildlife Survey Field Methods: Ungulates then expands on and explored details of methods and issues specific to ungulate surveys. The ungulate course is intended for those that conduct primarily ungulate surveys, whereas the Wildlife Survey Field Methods is for the generalist interested in methods used for a wider variety of mammals.

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