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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Conservation Field Camp 2011: Camera Trapping

As I mentioned in my previous post, Conservation students are required to take CON 190: Conservation Field Camp before they graduate. This is a 3-credit, residential course at Cutler Boy Scout Camp in South Bristol, NY. In addition to mist netting, I conducted some camera trapping each day with the students. Here are the results:

Eraser as bat lure at camera trap
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
We have 9 Cuddeback Capture cameras (Five IR [infrared] and four "regular"). I set them out several days before the class started to better our chances of having photos. As I mentioned in my last post, I was one of the instructors for the Wildlife portion of camp. Each day, we received a different group of about 28 students for the entire day. The camera trap activity was part of a rotation where I had a third of the group for about 30 minutes and then did it all over again two more times so that each student was able to participate. To facilitate that structure, I set out the cameras so they were in very loose clusters of three. In each cluster, there was one camera where I tried something different. One cluster had a camera with bait on a tree branch hoping to get some squirrel (specifically flying) pics. Another had a camera with a streamer in front of it to attempt to capture the attention of critters. The third cluster had a camera mounted about ten feet up in a tree with a homemade bat lure in front of it. I had read that some researchers had success capturing bats on camera traps using an eraser at the end of a wire. I used an eraser at the end of a string. In this first photo, you can see the eraser at the top and a tractor that triggered the motion sensor. After three days, I had exactly zero bat photos. But what REALLY convinced me to change the location of this camera trap was having the ladder slip out from under me (TIP: Choose a tree with NO limbs so that when you have to slide down the trunk, it does no permanent damage to the camera trapper)!

Raccoon
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
The animals seemed equally uninterested in my surveyor's flagging. Again, according tot he literature, this is a technique used by trappers to capture fox and bobcat. Use a streamer or a dangling feather and critters will come looking at the novelty. I did get photos on that camera (including the accompanying coon shot) but never saw any indication that the animals were attracted to my orange flagging tape. Perhaps I should try a feather next time...

Flying squirrel sp. on infrared camera trap
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
Even the bait station was less than spectacular.... that is until we switched baits. I started out using the homemade bait we put in the Sherman traps for small mammals. Apparently, the recipe for this bait is a Clinton Krager (another FLCC instructor) special formula that I will describe more in my next post. It sure worked with the small mammals and certainly worked for us at the camera trap as well. We got several pictures each day at that camera including a melanistic gray squirrel, but it wasn't producing the quantities of photos I was expecting. I decided we needed to change things up. In the bottom of the Rubbermaid tote where we store the small mammal supplies I found a jar of Squirrel Paste dated 1999! Made by Havahart, this stuff was AWESOME! We captured photos of 4 different squirrel species at one camera in one night including my first ever flying squirrel camera trap picture. The paste is visible in the center of the photo and the squirrel is at the top right. Not the greatest capture I have ever had, but it is a flying squirrel none the less. The paste smelled vaguely of chocolate and raspberries. Perhaps some of that is due to the fermentation over the last decade. Anyone with experience with FRESH Squirrel Paste is welcome to comment.

Woodchuck
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
Overall we captured photos of 14 species in eight days:
Coyote
Raccoon
Striped Skunk
Eastern Cottontail
White-footed Mouse sp.
Woodchuck
Gray Squirrel
Red Squirrel
Eastern Chipmunk
Flying Squirrel sp.
White-tailed Deer
American Crow
Wild Turkey
Human

Each night, I presented a short "Best of..." PowerPoint for the day's captures. Then we calculated capture effort for the 24 hours. I started by asking the students to calculate the amount of "camera hours" for that day. In other words, if we had one camera out for 24 hours, that would be 24 camera hours. If we had two cameras out for the entire 24 hour period, that would be 48 camera hours. So nine cameras produced 216 hours of effort each day. We could then divide the number of photos into that to see how many photos we accumulated per hour of effort. We discussed the usefulness of this to a manager or a researcher in determining how many cameras would be needed for a specific project.

Clinton Krager attracted to Squirrel Paste
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
All in all, I think the camera trapping unit was a success at camp. Many students participated in camera trapping for the first time while others saw applications beyond just taking photos of deer to target come hunting season. My new challenge is to get a bat photo before the month is out! Next post will be Sherman trapping with Clinton Krager.

1 comment:

  1. Cool stuff.

    Never heard of the erasure for bats before....huh. Sounds interesting.

    I've never tried fladry in front of my traps because I'm more worried about attracting unwanted humans than anything. But I'd really like to give it a try some time (like you, I've heard feathers can be good...especially for weasels, and I'd really like a weasel shot!).

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