Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When the Wild Things Are

Time once again for a camera trapping update from the family lodge near Mariposa & Yosemite. For this installment, I thought it would be interesting to try a camera for a month on a highly people-trafficked trail to answer two questions:

1. what critters come around where/when people are frequently out 'n about?

2. are they the same beasties that cross the nearby fencelines?

The answers are surprisingly unsurprising.

I set the camera pointing up a trail we call "Satellite Loop," right where it intersects "Main Street." Main Street is the main trail that circles the house and pond. The Sat Loop trail was so named because it loops by one of those huge, old, useless, 10-foot diameter, 15-foot tall satellite TV dishes that popped up in the 80s and 90s before dishes became, well, dish-sized. Both trails see lots of people when there's big groups at the house, but can also be quiet when folks are busy elsewhere, or there's not as many of us around.

Camera POV: animals coming towards the camera are heading towards the house & pond (and Main Street). Going away is up Sat Loop trail and towards the north fenceline where I recently captured the epic trail camera saga: Wall Street in the Woods.

Results: there were 48 people triggers and 18 animal triggers in the 33 days the camera was out. Of the 18, a full 16 occurred when there was no previous people traffic for at least 24 hours. The other 2 animal triggers occurred on days when friends & family were exploring the trails - however - they were a mule deer doe and a jackrabbit - two species that are thick around these rural homes and habituated to the presence of people (and thus we see them often).

16 out of 18. That's pretty strong evidence that when people are active, the critters go elsewhere.

66 camera events over 33 days:
Misses (no visible animal)
Mule Deer
Black-tailed Jackrabbit
Black Bear
Striped Skunk
Gray Fox
Western Gray Squirrel
Wild Turkey
Mountain Lion

The results also compare amazingly well with the Wall Street in the Woods fenceline survey. Sans Angus Bull, the furries and their frequency are almost the same in the two surveys. The only diffs: this set has fox & opossum shots, and the Wall Street set more deer & squirrels.

And, while we didn't catch any cougars or coyotes or wild turkeys with this 33 day set, we have gotten pics of them near that spot before. This suggests that they do walk that trail, but were either not around, and/or they're way too shy of people and need longer quiet times.

Last, the idea that most of the critters go out of their way to avoid people is also re-enforced by our direct experience. In the 10 years we've had the place, and with all the friends & family that have come through and explored the trails, no one has ever seen a bear, we've only glimpsed a cougar twice, saw coyotes but a handful of times, a fox once, and a bobcat once. That's it.

So, all-in-all, the wildlife around the house is mostly harmless or skittish, and that's OK with us.


Here's the cast of characters from this set in order of appearance:

Opossum snuffling around

Tip-toeing Mule Deer doe

Striped Skunk snuffling same spot as Opossum

Skittish Black-tailed Jackrabbit

cinnamon black bear
Cinnamon Black Bear at 11:22am - missed her by a nose! (look at those burrs!)

gray fox
Curious and cute Gray Fox

doe & fawn
Mule Deer doe & trailing fawn

That Striped Skunk on the same spot again

Bobcat butt - looks like that tough old gray tom

cinnamon black bear
Our Cinnamon Black Bear returned to show off her nose (and a kind eye!)


And here's some of the noisy, smelly people that scare the animals away... :)

trail traffic

trail traffic



trail traffic

trail traffic


Finally, here's two 2008 pics from a spot just 15 yards away:

hello mr coyote!yes, that's a mountain lion



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