Dr. Aaron Haines, a professor of conservation biology at Millersville University, recently conducted a study with other biologists published in the Wiley Journal of Ecology and Evolution. The study examined ocelots and jaguarundis in southern Texas. These wild cats are endangered in the U.S. Haines’ methods of observation included the use of remote camera trapping. He says this is an easy, non-invasive way to detect the presence of wildlife in the field. Cameras are set up to capture images when a motion sensor is triggered.
Haines and his team set up cameras in areas like wildlife trails and watering holes. This method works especially well for shy or nocturnal animals like the ones they studied in Texas. The pictures taken of the animals can tell biologists a lot about them. Haines explains, “By obtaining capture images of wildlife, we can determine their presence in an area, if they look healthy, if they have young, what type of habitat they are associated with, their activity patterns, if they use road over and underpasses to avoid vehicle collision and if habitat selection and activity are impacted by other species. Also, if wildlife species have unique identifying markings, we can then identify individuals.”
Some camera trapping projects can last for several years, which gives data on the survival or recruitment of a species. By collecting all of this data about animals, researchers can start to develop plans to try to recover endangered species. Wildlife organizations can use this information to determine the best places to place road culverts and which areas to translocate new species to. Haines and his team concluded that there are no jaguarundis in south Texas from over 20 years of camera trapping data.
Camera trapping has uses all across the world. Millersville is currently working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to set up cameras meant to detect small-bodied weasels in the state. “Based on fur-trapping data, it appears populations of weasels may be on the decline. Thus, we are trying to determine if we can use remote cameras to successfully and consistently survey for weasel species in PA. We have done this for other small mammals such as mice and shrews,” says Haines.” Millersville is also partnering with Franklin and Marshall College to survey Lancaster City and surrounding areas using cameras. This data will determine which types of wildlife occur in the city and how their behavior is affected by humans. Haines and his team found that red foxes tend to avoid highly populous areas, especially if dogs are around. The University will continue to work with conservatory groups to collect new data.
Check out a study by recent graduate Sarah Tirado featured in the Made in Millersville Journal that utilized camera traps: https://www.mimjournal.com/sarah-tirado