Baseline Wildlife Survey
During the spring of 2013, I managed a baseline wildlife survey of a 5,000-acre tract. Part of the study involved the use of 48 Reconyx Hyperfire HC500 infrared motion detector cameras, which were set out from May through July of 2013, for a eight-week period, through the breeding/birthing/rearing season.
We installed the cameras in natural areas including forests, woodlots, meadows, riparian stream corridors, pond edges and food service dumpsters. We made a point to evaluate movement corridors and pinch points along wetlands, fence lines, road and trail crossings, culverts, ecotones of forest and meadow edge, water and woodland edge, observable wildlife trails, dens and den trees. The cameras were often set near freshwater sources (as all animals must drink), and it was our hope to capture in photos, uncommon species such as coyote, river otter and others.
A total of 38,750 photos were taken, with the cameras observing whitetail deer (Odocolleus virginianus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargentius), groundhog, aka woodchuck (Marmota monax), eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floroidanus), Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), domestic house cat, mouse, and several bird species including dove, grackle, catbird, mallard, green heron, cardinal, redwing blackbird, bluejay, Canada goose, crow, robin, sparrow and finch. We also visually observed skunk, beaver and heron.
Six of 48 camera stations recorded domestic cats, some of which may be assumed to be feral.
An informal “windshield survey” suggests that groundhogs may be near nuisance levels, as they were seen with regularity along lawn and forest margins.
Whitetail deer were observed at 90% of the camera stations. Because the camera survey was performed from May through July, doe were often seen with young-of-year fawns.
Bucks will avoid brushing their developing velvet antlers on branches, so as to protect the sensitive development process.
A doe’s udder bag is full of milk.
Numerous photos of deer showed engorged ticks around their ears, and reinforce the notion that an inordinately high deer population will promote a high tick population and the increased potential for Lyme disease.
A red fox triggers the camera.
Raccoon were photographed at 79% of the stations, the vast majority of which, were night-time infrared photos. It was atypical to obtain a photo of day-time raccoon activity.
An informal “windshield survey” suggests that resident Canada geese may be at nuisance levels. An adult goose weighs 12-pounds and defecates its body weight per month!
Predator fox with prey groundhog. The study site has both red and gray fox. As adults, all red fox will have a white-tipped tail for the last inch or more. A gray fox will have a solid colored tail. Both species may have color coat phases that can make them seasonally difficult to distinguish, but the red will always have a white-tipped tail.
A whitetail deer drinks from a vernal pool.