Volunteer Opportunity: Western Gray Squirrel Survey 2023 - Columbia Land Trust
Help protect threatened western gray squirrels by joining our volunteer squirrel nest survey.

Columbia Land Trust is looking for community science volunteers to join a fun-filled exploration in March! We will be conducting squirrel nest surveys at Bowman Creek Natural Area, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of western gray squirrels in Klickitat County. If you are comfortable identifying three key tree species (oak, pine, and fir), we’d love to have you join our volunteer crew!

Important Update: As of Tuesday, March 7th, we’ve decided to postpone our original dates of March 11, 12, and 13 due to weather. Please see our back up dates below which you can still sign up for.

There are three survey dates, attend one or all three!
– Friday, March 24th
– Saturday, March 25th
– Sunday, March 26th

Please review all the details below, and register to volunteer if you’d like to help us conduct these important squirrel surveys!


Timing: Participants can join for one or multiple days. We’ll kick off each day at 10:00 am, but please plan to arrive 15 minutes early at 9:45 am. We will work until about 4:00 pm each day, but you are welcome to leave earlier if needed.

What to Expect: Each morning will begin with an introduction to Columbia Land Trust, the Bowman Creek property, our survey methods, and each other. We’ll split up into teams of two or three to survey different sections of the property. Teams will use binoculars to look for two different types of Western Gray Squirrel nests in the oak, pine, and fir canopy and will collect data about each nest they observe using the Land Trust’s iPads and smartphones. As we go, we’ll mark trees that hold nests with spray paint and ID tags. We’ll work until about 4:00 pm and then gather back together to wrap things up for the day. We’re hoping to have about 15 volunteers join us each day. There is no campout component to this event this year.

Safety Considerations: Be prepared for cold weather and possible rain. Participants should feel comfortable using hammers and nails to affix ID tags and using spray paint to mark trees. We’ll be hiking and navigating in groups through open forest terrain. Although unlikely, participants may encounter ticks.

Age Considerations: This activity is great for kids who are comfortable in cold weather for an extended period of time. Participants under 12 require adult supervision. Attendees under the age of 18 require a liability waiver signed by a parent or guardian.

Onsite Amenities: There are no onsite facilities, such as bathrooms, shelter, or running water. We will provide beverages including hot tea and coffee, as well as bagels and snacks for breakfast. The nearest bathrooms are in Goldendale or Klickitat, WA. Hygiene supplies for leave-no-trace outdoor bathroom use will be provided.

What to Bring: Bring binoculars, a backpack, and a hammer if you have them, but we’ll have a few pairs to loan out. Wear weather-appropriate clothing, especially warm layers and waterproof footwear. Expect the morning to be very cold! The paint we use to tag trees does NOT wash out of clothing. Bring lunch, snacks, and a water bottle. Columbia Land Trust will supply tools, supplies, and extra water. Please, no dogs.

Directions to Bowman Creek: From Washington SR-14, turn North onto SR-142 and follow the Klickitat River toward Goldendale. Soon after SR-142 ascends to the Columbia Plateau (approaching Goldendale), watch for a left turn onto the Glenwood Highway. Turn left onto the Glenwood Hwy and follow for about ¾ mile to Zelinski Road. Turn left onto Zelinski Road and follow for ½ mile. The property is on the left behind a green gate. A Columbia Land Trust sign will help point the way. Park in the gravel parking area. Plan for at least a two hour drive from Portland, and a little over an hour from Hood River. You can also copy the link below to navigate via Google Maps:

Carpooling: Email Adam if you’re interested in leading or joining a carpool.

Cell Service: There is cell service (although it may be spotty depending on your carrier), and we will collect your cell number at the start of the day for emergency purposes and to communicate with you throughout the event, should we be separated by longer distances. (Note: You will always be with a team leader familiar with the site and you will be provided a map of the property. The entire perimeter is fenced, so you can’t get TOO lost). Please note Adam Lieberg’s cell phone number in case you need to reach the Land Trust en route: (360) 954-8933

About Bowman Creek: Bowman Creek is the type of wild place found only in the East Cascades. Columbia Land Trust purchased this 337-acre Klickitat County property for conservation purposes in 2009. Its rugged canyon, open meadows, old oaks, and mature conifers offer prime wildlife habitat. Among its most unique features, the forest supports one of the largest documented concentrations of western gray squirrel nests in Klickitat County. The squirrels share the forest with Lewis’s woodpeckers, migratory songbirds, and raptors. Black-tailed deer forage onsite in the winter, and threatened steelhead salmon swim in the cold, clean water that Bowman Creek feeds downstream into Canyon Creek. All this occurs in a space that could’ve been subdivided 67 times into five-acre lots.

Contact: Contact Adam Lieberg, Columbia Land Trust Western Gray Squirrel Survey Coordinator with any questions at alieberg@columbialandtrust.org or (360) 954-8933.