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This blog is predominately about camera trapping in California. We camera trap to save our souls and to teach primary school students about biology and conservation. We will also touch on other camera trapping news and musings, sets from afar, mediocre herpetology, sucky birding, and other natural history discussions.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Javan Rhino Caught on Cam

Javan Rhinos were caught on camera trap.  One female was not pleased. Follow the link for video.
The rhinos have appeared twice on cameras one month after the devices were installed in the Ujung Kulon National Park in the westernmost region of Java island, with one rhino mother charging a camera and damaging it.
"With fewer than 60 Javan rhinos left in the wild, we believe this footage was well worth the risk to our equipment," said Adhi Rachmat Hariyadi, who leads WWF-Indonesia's project in the national park.
Maybe they need some bear boxes for them.

UPDATE: Just realized this is 2+ year old footage.  Still cool and new to me, but not new.  Maybe some newer photos and information in this HuffPo article.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bobcats on the High Plateau

The camera on the High Plateau was running out of batteries.  As the batteries got really low the picture quality went down with them, but just before it completely died we got a bobcat walking across the set.

On the hunt

Thirty minutes later it came back by the camera.  One less brush rabbit on the High Plateau.  Interestingly this is the only brush rabbit picture we got during daylight hours.  Maybe they knew what they were doing only showing themselves after dark.


I did not get a chance to look at this set in the field like I usually do.  I grabbed the camera, jumped in the car and headed out to Arnold, CA to meet Christian and some other folks at a cabin we had for the weekend.  Everyone made fun of us for being such nerds as we cracked open a beer and huddled around the computer with the anticipation of a child on Christmas morning to see what images we got.  When the second picture came on the screen, there was whooping and hollering and maybe a little victory dance as the other cabin mates wondered what the heck they just got themselves into.  "Do we really have to be stuck in a cabin with these two all weekend?"

We reset the camera with fresh batteries at the same spot a couple of weeks later and picked it up last week.  No additional predation shots but some higher quality images to share soon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Skunk Butt

I forgot to post the only skunk photo we have gotten so far in Santa Cruz before I moved on to SET004 with the bush bunny post.  Not really the best glamor shot ... or a definite glamor shot depending on your point of view.

So here is a sexy Mephitis mephitis butt from SET003.

FYI ... Most Santa Cruz posts are tagged with the set number (ie. SET003) in case you are interested in all posts from a particular set.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trail of Plenty

The video cam at the Marin reserve continues to deliver interesting captures.

Coyote goes in for the deep rub (1.1.11)

Bobcat dance (1.15.11) *

Gray Fox quick stop (1.16.11)

* A favorite among my students

Friday, February 11, 2011


What is better than getting a cougar on your camera trap?


3 Fish Studios

We at Camera Trapping Campus always like to give a shout out to artists we discover or can call a friend.

A couple weeks back I had the pleasure of taking a class in linocut printmaking at 3 Fish Studios, located in Dogpatch, SF.

Our teacher, Eric, was a great: offering us great knowledge, unique resources and positive feedback throughout 6 hours of wonderful creativity (also soundtracked by some sweet jams).

All of us choose one image, which we would trace twice, then carve on a small linoleum sheet.

Then, we were free use all that was in the studio in combination with our block. Beginning with the basic, a Conrad Machine etching press and black ink...

... and ending somewhere between bright origami paper, musty field guides and children's books from the early 20th century.

The classes are highly recommended for anyone in the Bay Area -- no matter the level of artistic skill.

A.H. 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Scat Smelling Hounds

Photo by JK

Sorry that all of our posts have been news links rather than pretty or not so pretty pictures but we have a couple of upcoming camera trap posts in the pipeline.

On to the news where UC Berkeley scientists are teaching dogs so smell cougar, bobcat and fox scat from 80 feet away.  This is leading to much more precise location of predator sign then the scientists walking around looking for it themselves.

"Dogs are able to detect a much greater number of scats in much less time than people - it greatly increases our efficiency in the field and allows us to cover much larger areas," said Sarah Reed, a fellow at Colorado State University's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology who researched the dogs while she was a graduate student at UC Berkeley.
The keen canine nose has a long history of identifying contraband and discovering trapped people and bodies. It is only in the last decade or so that wildlife biologists have turned to dogs to help them understand the habits of animals in the wild. At the same time, advances in DNA testing allow researchers to glean ever more detailed information on diet, range and population size from droppings.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Arizona Ocelot

 photo credit Tony Battiste, Portraits in Nature

An Ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona is certainly an exciting find if it turns out to be a wild animal rather than an escaped pet.  We may never know, but my wishful bet will be on a wild ocelot.

The man called Game and Fish and an officer responded to the site and confirmed that it was, in fact, an ocelot. The officer did a non-intrusive, visual inspection of the animal from the ground near the tree, and the animal appeared to be healthy. There was no indication that there had been any dog-to-cat direct interaction, as no wounds were visible on any animal.
As with all wildlife-human interaction cases, photos were taken of the animal (attached). The officer was also able to retrieve some scat samples from the scene.
Once the final confirmation was determined, the officer directed that all humans and dogs retreat from the area, and the ocelot, apparently unharmed, was allowed to go on his way.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Genetic Health

Photo by H Dragon used under a Creative Commons License
There is controversy brewing between environmentalists and cattle ranchers in Wyoming as plan to cull the Yellowstone Bison herd are put on hold.  Original plans were to cull all bison who test positive for brucellosis, but new data suggests this may cause irreparable damage to the genetic health of the herd.
But the study from Thomas Pringle, a biochemist on the genomic team for the University of California at Santa Cruz, faulted the government as overlooking a hereditary weakness in the bison herd that could be amplified by the culling program.

He found that most Yellowstone bison whose DNA were tested carried a genetic mutation that affects cellular metabolism and makes bison lethargic, rendering them less capable of foraging in deep snow, fending off predators and competing for mates.

Pringle, whose work on other genomes has appeared in professional journals such as Science and Nature, said his bison research demonstrates that culling of the wild herd based on brucellosis, rather on the health of their genes, may push the species over the edge into a form of extinction.

"They're taking a really high risk of killing bison with healthy genes and getting into a situation where they can't go back; the good DNA will be lost," said Pringle, whose paper relies on published genetic data, analyses of bison fossils and samples from herds at national parks like Yellowstone.
Genetic analysis has already become a powerful tool in managing captive populations.  Zoos regularly use basic genetic analysis in choosing mating pairs to maximize genetic diversity.  This method is based on pedigree analysis and is slowly moving towards a true genetic analysis.  However, it is time to use genetic tools to manage wild populations.  Whatever the outcome in this particular case, it is encouraging that newer science is getting a foothold in wildlife management.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Camera Trapping in the Classroom

I will invite Christian speak of more on this topic as he is the one actually in the classroom, but I wanted to point to a research project by a high school student in New York that used camera traps to ask whether prey items may be luring fishers to more urban environments.  Follow the link for still shots and video from a Reconyx trap.
We found higher diversity and overall higher activity of animals in our camera traps set in urban forests than in those out in the wild areas. The objective of this study was to compare the potential prey communities that fishers might encounter in these two environments. Could fishers be lured into these areas by abundant prey? Now we know that, yes, this could be part of the explanation (i.e. hypothesis not rejected).

As someone who spends many more hours indoors than I do outdoors, I cannot say I disagree with Joseph's take on camera-trapping:

I love camera traps because they are easy to use, and it is fun to look at the results. Lock a camera to a tree, write down the GPS coordinates, and walk away for a few weeks.

Come back and you get to look at new clips of animals running around. It is rare to take a walk in the woods and actually see a mammal like a fox, but put a camera trap out and you’ll get them
When is our NY Times expose?

h/t JR

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brush Rabbits on the High Plateau

Well 20 feet above sea level or so.

Brush rabbits, Sylvilagus bachmani, are all over Santa Cruz County and in the habitat that we are placing our cameras.  Every time we go to place a camera or go to pick up a camera we see handfuls of brush rabbits without even trying.  They are all over the place as if they are breeding like, well, rabbits.  However, on our first three sets we never captured a brush rabbit, even though we had seen rabbits within 50 feet of camera locations.

Brush Rabbit
Photo by ecov ottos

It took the fourth set and 31 total days of camera trapping to finally get our first brush rabbit.  They showed up 8 times in 22 days at this set. Not record breaking numbers but more than we had been getting at other sets.  As you can see this set is really open grassland with some interspersed brush.  Shockingly (at least to me) every single one of our Sylvilagus captures were on IR after the sun had gone down, but not too long after.  The rabbits were foraging on a moderately used game trail.

Here are a few of the visits ...

Passing through

Standing at attention

Laughing at the camera

Busy foraging