Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Right-of-Way Wanderers.

The Cuddeback is one of my "rover" cameras.  I move it around every few months at this site trying to find interesting stuff.  My Bushnells are the workhorse "fixed" cameras that remain in one place at my sites (hopefully for a year per location).

On September 23th, 2010 I moved my Cuddeback to a location along a transmission line Right-of-Way (ROW).  This ROW runs through the study site, and cuts a large tract of relatively undisturbed deciduous hardwood forest in two.  In the process, it crosses a stream and runs into an open pasture nearby.  The ROW therefore creates an easy travel corridor through the woodland, while also crossing a water source, before emptying into an open field.  I had high hopes for carnivores, particularly Bobcat (Lynx rufus). 

So, I decided to check out the ROW for a camera location in late September, 2010. Although ROWs have upsides, they have downsides: namely, its hard to conceal a camera when mounting it along a ROW through public property that may be frequented by hikers and powerline employees.  As such I couldn't put it right on the edge of the woods facing into the ROW, which is what I wanted to do.  I had to put it slightly back into the woods.  Because I was going to use some scent lures and bait, I also made sure I focused on hilltops when scoping out camera set locations....I wanted the wind to get that scent out from up on that hill.

I came across a wildlife trail running perpindicular to the ROW from the woods.  It was up on a hill in between the open pasture to the southeast and the stream crossing to the northwest.  It seemed like it had what I envisioned. 

Above: an aerial photo of the region with an outline of the study area.  Note the ROW transmission line bisecting the property that is clearly visible.

So, I drug an old stump (probably from some ROW clearing) in front of the camera.  I dug a small hole at the base of the stump for bait.  It was my plan to use the stump for the scent lures and coyote urine spray, while putting potential bait in the hole (trying to simulate the classic "dirt hole" set that traditional trappers use).

Basically, though, for two months this spot yielded deer.

....nothing but deer.

Oh, and a few squirrels......

Even the occassional construction vehicle, moving along the Right-of-Way to perform maintenance.

I was beginning to think this was a dud camera set. 

Then...after two months...things started to get interesting.  I had been placing scent lures in front of the camera for weeks.  A dab of commercial coyote gland lure one week, the next week gray fox gland lure...every time finishing it off with a spray or two of coyote urine.  A squirrel carcass once.  The unused turkey neck from our Thanksgiving dinner another time.  One week, I finally went through the trouble to drag a few nuggets of excrement from my faithful pooch out to the camera and set it there.

That seemed to finally do the trick.

At last, a carnivore....the Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)....who takes a minute to mark on top of my dog's excrement.

...a few days later, another fox investigates the handiwork.....

....a pair of Gray Fox investigate on December 13th....


Around December 15, 2010 I upped the ante.  I picked up the ribs/spine of a roadkilled deer off of a side-road that I'd been watching.  The county hadn't come to pick it up for weeks.  It was mostly picked clean, but still juicy and with plenty of meat on the bone.  I hauled this out to the spot and wired it to a stake in front of the camera.

The first visitors were a pair of 'possums (Dildelphis virginiana), a common scavenger 'round these parts.....

A Barred Owl (Strix varia) also stopped by (more on this later)....... did another Gray......

A 'possum AND a white-tailed deer....

A hawk...based on its relative commoness in the area, I'm going to guess Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), but that's just a guess.

In December I caught something that is amazingly rare in the southeast: SNOW!

The one and only Racoon (Procyon lotor) captured on this camera.  Had I put this deer rib cage out in a setting closer to water....'coons would have raided it on the first night.  As it was, I only got this big old ridge runnin' raccoon to stop off for a gnaw.

A very nice Gray Fox shot in the early parts of the new year (sniffing about where I had sprayed the 'yote urine on the log)........

A deer in mid-leap....

More 'possums.....

Finally, a Gray Fox slinks past the set, but must not stick around long for this is the only picture of him on this night.

And even though I was reluctant to move the camera (I don't know why), a picture in the last batch that I looked through changed my mind.

Look close.  It's exactly what one never wants to see on their camera trap: a picture of some dude possibly checking it out from the seat of his vehicle.

So, the camera had to get moved.  


  1. Great story Trailblazer - pity you had to move it. I know how you feel - I don't sleep well if I think my cameras have been spotted.

  2. If any of my cams pick up so much as a sniff of a human,i shift them,not worth the risk.Nice pics and a good read that,really enjoyed it........

  3. Thanks to both of you!

    Yeah, there's nothing worse than camera thieves! I've had a few close calls lately. Most recently, two weeks ago...a pair of kids on a four wheeler tresspassing and looking directly at one of my cameras. They didn't make an attempt at it, and they looked pretty young (9 or 10 years old...).

  4. A shame you had to move it...great location!

  5. Wow! Some great shots. Too bad you had to move it.

  6. Thanks, Samanth and Joe!

    It was a bummer. a few months out of the spot.

    Something always seemed to be working against me at that camera set. For example, I know a local zoo curator...and was able to get access to Red Wolf scat (red wolf scat smeared all over a cow femur that was sawed in half, no less). I put that scat/femur in front of the camera with VERY high hopes....but forgot to check the forecast. It literally rained the evening after I deployed it, washing away most of the scent.