Wildlife observation is the practice of noting the occurrence or abundance of a dead or living animal species at a specific place and time. One example of such an activity is birdwatching. Intrinsic to the process of scientific wildlife observation is the reporting of What (diagnosis of the species), Where (geographical location), When (date and time), Who (details about observer), and Why (reason for observation, or explanations for occurrence). This rubric describes the basic information for an observation to become data about wildlife and to contribute to scientific investigations of distribution, habitat relations, trends, and movement of wildlife species. Wildlife observation allows for the study of organisms with minimal disturbance to their ecosystem. Specialized equipment can be used to collect more accurate data.
There are various projects and web-sites devoted to wildlife observations. Probably the longest-running are those for bird observations (for example: e-bird). More recently, web-sites dedicated to reporting wildlife across broad taxonomic ranges have become available. For example, the California Roadkill Observation System provides a mechanism for citizen-scientists in California to report wildlife species killed by vehicles. The Maine Audubon Wildlife Road Watch allows reporting of observations of both dead and live animals along roads. A more recent addition to wildlife observation tools are the web sites that facilitate uploading and management of images from remote "wildlife" cameras. For example, the Smithsonian Institution supports the eMammal and Smithsonian Wild programs, which provide a mechanism for volunteer deployment of wildlife cameras around the world. Similarly, the Wildlife Observer Network hosts over a dozen wildlife-camera projects from around the world, providing tools and a relational database to manage photographs and camera networks.
^Davis, D. E. and R. L. Winstead, 1980. Estimating the numbers of wildlife populations. Pp. 221-247. In S.D. Schemnitz (editor). Wildlife Management and Techniques Manual. The Wildlife Society,Washington, D.C.