Casual Observations

Bison with Fall Colors taken by Mark Gocke

The first, and most common way, to collect Nature Mapping data is through casual observations. Casual observation implies no set routine, just basic wildlife watching. Casual observations provide very valuable data and should not be overlooked. Often, it is the casual observation that first documents the existence of a species, arrival and departure dates of migrants, changes in distribution or unusual observations.

You can make casual observations while involved in most of your personal activities: hiking, camping, boating, driving and even while looking out your window. You really don't have to change the way you conduct your everyday activities. Except that you will need to be a little more observant while watching wildlife and willing to take appropriate notes like species, number of individuals, location. However, while making "casual" observations remember our motto "WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT".

Ideally, casual observations should be recorded on your field observation form and the data entered in the Nature Mapping Jackson Hole website database in a timely manner.
Coordinates or UTMs are required with each of you observations. The best way to acquire them is with a GPS unit or by utilizing the very user-friendly Teton County Map Server at Simply place the curser on the observation location and record the coordinates displayed in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Note that if your cursor shifts when you reach for your pencil, the UTMs will also shift with the cursor.

Not only is making casual observations an important aspect of the Nature Mapping project but it is also very rewarding. It provides you with a tangible sense of accomplishment while going about your everyday tasks and recreational activities. Try it, it’s fun!