Elk sightings mapped on the WildObs website.
Wondering which species of bird you spotted on the local lake the other day? Or what that little critter escaping into the woods might have been? The Internet comes to the rescue once again with a variety of applications that let wildlife watchers share their animal sightings -- and help each other identify them -- online.This week, the Flickr Blog highlighted two programs using the site's technology to allow users to "locate wildlife near you and share your photos of the wild kingdom with others."
The "wild kingdom" reference rings a bit false for Wildlife Near You, which was apparently originally started to help people find favorite animals at nearby zoos and nature reserves, but seems to have expanded to include trips to some actual wild locations as well. (It also, oddly, has a variation on the old "hot or not" theme where visitors can rate animal photos.)
Encounters Across America
WildObs (Wildlife Observations) seems to take the "wild" part of its name a little bit more seriously, with users recording animal encounters from herd of elk outside of Whitehorse, Yukon, to a tricolored heron in Florida's Wakodahatchee Wetlands. A third site not mentioned by Flickr, iNaturalist.org, serves much the same purpose.
To be honest, all three sites seem a bit underpopulated (and generally U.S./North America-centric) at the moment, but the concept seems to have much merit not only for amateur observers, but for scientists and environmentalists wanting to tap a pool of global knowledge to find out whether that newly spotted bird, for example, is a regular visitor to the area or something really rare.
As the founders of WildObs write: "Don't let these encounters be fleeting and fade as a private memory; put them to work to share the natural joy."
More about wildlife and the Web:
Become a Wildlife Watcher During National Wildlife Week
Track Ultra Rare Mountain Gorillas Online
Worlds Biggest Online Zoo Goes Live
The Illustrated Atlas of Wildlife
Bambi vs Google: Worse than Godzilla
New Species Discovered Via Google Earth
China Stepping Up to Halt Internet Wildlife Trade