Capturing Curious Carnivores

Now that this year’s field crew for the salmon carnivore project has disbanded I find myself reminiscing about the experience by obsessively cycling through photos. Though a vast amount of photos were taken during the field season, wildlife images captured by our trail cameras stand out as especially extraordinary. There’s something intensely captivating about watching your study subjects in action — its almost like spying on children going for a cookie jar.

The trail cameras were placed at several select sites and captured images every two seconds when triggered by motion. The resulting string of images plays back as a slightly disjointed silent film starring grizzly bears, black bears and wolves that often demonstrate a comic competence that rivals Charlie Chaplin. This season’s cinema highlights included a mother grizzly and her 3 cubs, curious wolves, and a handsome looking blonde grizzly couple.

The trail cameras add a unique and complementary addition to our field methods. Our daily tasks of searching the numerous barbs of the snare for hair at each site involve some imagination to determine entry and exit points where more hair may be found. This day-to-day routine requires focus on many small individual hairs (it takes a Jedi-like mind-set to locate underfur on a bed of moss), making it easy to become captivated by the details. The trail camera images showing these miraculous animals allow us to put the research in context and to connect the recorded data of “4-10 partial dark brown guard hairs found on the ground under barb E8” to a charismatic individual bear. These images also provide a great resource for outreach and allow us insight into the behavioral component of these animals in order to improve our hair capture methods.

Chris already posted one of the best pictures from this season’s field camera’s in his latest blog, but here are a few more for you to enjoy!

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