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Thursday, May 31, 2012

FLCC Conservation Field Camp 2012

(l to r: Madie, Clinton, John, Alyssa)
Last week was spent at our residential field course CON 190: Conservation Field Camp. The course is required for our Conservation, Conservation Law and Environmental Studies majors. It is one week of looooong days at Camp Cutler Scout Camp in Bristol, NY (Resulting in a loooonng post here). The students rotate among different disciplines throughout the week. For faculty, this means repeating the same day over and over with different students. I spent the week with co-instructor Clinton Krager and our two Technicians Madie and Alyssa. Activities included small mammal trapping, Breeding Bird Atlas protocol, GPS, tracking, and of course camera trapping.
Here are some highlights --

Lactating Peromyscus
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)
Small mammal trapping was a huge success. Clinton runs the trap lines and had 60 Sherman traps set out in brushy and grass habitats. We captured four species this year with the big miss being meadow vole. Many of the critters were in breeding condition as indicated by swollen mammaries. Students took turns taking animals from the traps, handling them safely and applying ear tags.

Notice the swollen mammaries between the hind legs of this Peromyscus sp. Once animals were processed, they were returned to the spot they were captured.

An additional 12 traps were set specifically to target flying squirrels. They were set in a hardwood forest at about five feet off the ground. Traps are attached to the trees using surveyors flagging. Each day we caught two or three flying squirrels and they were a huge hit with the students. Although flying squirrels are common in our area, they are not commonly seen. We have both northern and southern flyers and sometimes catch both species.
Clinton and Madie affixing a flying squirrel trap
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)

We have found that putting the critters in a glass jar helps to calm them down. In most cases, the animals will almost immediately calm down and even groom themselves. It also helps the students to see the animal at leasiure. Below is a flying squirrel:
Flying squirrel
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)
Flying squirrel patagium
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)
We did not ear tag any of the squirrels so I am not sure how many individuals we captured. We would release the squirrels and watch as they climbed a tree. Often, the squirrel would then launch itself to another tree to the delight of all. I have yet to capture a photo of that though so you will have to settle for a picture of the crowd in rapt anticipation.

The results of our camera trapping were equally exciting. We placed 12 cameras out a week before the class and then pulled SD cards from some each day. We tallied 12 species of mammal and five species of birds. Here are some of the better ones:

Mammal species captured:
-White-tailed deer
-Red fox
-Striped skunk
-Weasel sp. ***
-Gray squirrel
-Red squirrel
-Eastern chipmunk
-Flying squirrel sp.
-White-footed mouse sp.

 We had no shortage of raccoon photos. One in particular looked like a young coon. Note the color on this photo. This is the Cuddeback Attack with infrared and I believe that this color occurs when there is some ambient light but the flash still triggers.
Young raccoon
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)
This same location also produced an adult coon. Check out the bin int he background. That is an inverted tote with one side cut out so animals can enter. Inside is some bait at the far end of a home made track board (wish I had a photo for you). The bait is at the raf end of the board. At the near end of the board is a piece of felt saturated with "ink" (mineral oil and food coloring). In the center of the board is contact paper, sticky side up. When an animal leaves its tracks on the contact paper, a piece of white paper can be stuck to it so they can keep the prints without getting smudged.
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)

 We inspected the logs and found very clear coon tracks. I only had my cell phone so the photo is not the best. See if you can find any of the distinct five-toed tracks....
Raccoon tracks
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)
I am always anxious to show students size comparisons between different animals. The results from the Field Camp cameras allowed me to create a few spliced images that show two species "together" in order to directly compare their sizes. First up, gray squirrel size compared to red squirrel.

Composite image of gray and red squirrel
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)

The spliced together photo was created using Paint. I am pretty much a novice in this area and welcome any and all comments and suggestions.

This next image is a gray squirrel comared to an Eastern chipmunk in size.
Composite image of gray squirrel and Eastern chipmunk
(South Bristol, 5/12)

The two rarest images of the week were an owl and a weasel. First, the Mustelid! I so rarely capture weasel images that I cherish each one. This one is very nice as it shows a nice image of the weasel in action. This was an Attack camera and set to record video as well. The video is too short to be worth much.
Weasel at Camp Cutler
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)

Now the owl.... I have never camera trapped an owl so this was exciting for me. My first reaction was to call this a barn owl, but is just isn't big enough (compare to gray squirrel above). I am going with Eastern screech-owl. Thoughts?

Last year I trapped int his same area and last year we also captured images of red fox pups. I made no attempt to find the den.

Red fox pup
(South Bristol, NY 5/12)
 We set out one of the Cuddeback Attacks on a downed tree and got some fun video of raccoons and red fox (not together). Here is the best of the red fox (only need to watch the first half):


  1. I really like the split shots. What a great way to show size differences. I think I am going to have to steal that in the future.

    1. THanks! I am very excited about them as well. I have a nice split shot of a deer and a bear that I think I will post sometime. I get a lot of hits with people searching for size comparisons so i think these will be popular. Let me know how yours turn out! JVN

  2. John, this is a great entry. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for all the fun last week! I hope MN is treating you well.

  3. Way to go on the weasel!!!

    Looks like a fun class, for sure.

  4. Great video of the red fox kit! Thanks for posting.


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