Friday, March 23, 2012

Advanced Ecology Lab Week 9: The Tod and The Bandit

This would be one of my favorite personal camera trap pictures ever, if it weren't so washed out.  But...the Cuddeback at close range can't do much better than this....

This week was basically a repeat of last week.  The goal being to increase the chances of catching critters in the wire cage traps, while allowing the students a chance to further test their skills at setting traps again.... and perform maintenance on other long-term data collection projects.

So, once again the traps went out for two back-to-back days.  This time, we sweetened the bait by mixing dog food, sardines, and drippings from St. Patty's Day Corned Beef and Cabbage.....pulling out all the stops.

The feral cats stayed away, which I was happy for...and we actually caught some wildlife, although not a ton.

Still, one Raccoon is better than nothing!

Now....a Raccoon in a trap can go either way.  Sometimes you'd think a Looney Toon-style Tazmanian Devil was in the trap. 

Other times, they are as docile as a kitten.
Photo by J. Scherer

This individual was actually fast asleep when we walked up to the trap in the morning, his belly full of dog food and sardines.  I joked with my students that, becuase he was a 'coon living in a suburban/rural mosaic landscape, he probably gets trapped and relocated once a month, so knows the drill.

Regardless, approaching with caution is always important (those deft little paws can reach through some pretty tight places).  With the threat of rabies (a serious issue with Raccoons), kevlar gloves are warranted.
Photo by J. Scherer

But, if everything goes as planned, the bandit is gone before you have a chance to think about what might happen.....
Photo by J. Scherer

Also, plenty of stuff on the camera traps.  A smattering of examples includes....

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Walkin' Bird (Meleagris gallopavo)

Stinker (Mephitis mephitis)


One of the minions of El Diablo....

We also had one of our most productive canine weeks on the camera traps.

First, The Tod was all over the site (including the picture at the top)....unfortunately, none of these pictures are all that great.  The video clip is sort of cool though.......

Finally, we got some close up shots of a 'yote on-site.  This camera is the one the students mounted on the tree near the location of the rabbit burrow that had been dug up by a canine of some kind (see here).  This 'yote is attracted to the spot....but the red LED's must give him a start.  As I've posted before, they are incredibly wary of the red LEDs, for some reason.

Then, he puts his nose to work from a slightly safer distance....

The canine pics are often blurry.  They are just too skittish to hold still for very long!


  1. Great stuff Trailblazer! Love all the pics, but the first is my favorite. Looks like a nice variety of critters!


  2. Great pity about the washed out pic - it would have been a classic photo.
    Have you experimented at all with trying to limit the flash (IR of incandescent) for the purpose of close-ups of rodents or other small critters at night?

    1. I've thought about it.....but never actually tried.

      I suppose I could put some clear cellophane over the flash and that might dampen it.

      I should give it a try and mess around with it, though.

    2. I've had pretty good success handling the washed out effect of the Bushies by covering the IR flash with plastic from a milk jug

    3. Huh....good idea!

      My brother-in-law suggested trying some of that clear, but somewhat opaque packing tape over the flash....

    4. Went out this afternoon and tried the milk jug plastic idea of Cristian's.

      Of course, over the last week, the camera caught almost if the fox wasn't too scared off by the flash last time, I'll hopefully get to see if the pics turn out better!

  3. TB- if I didn't know any better (and I DO, we do an extensive unit in our Intro to Enviro Con course about critical thinking AND Mt. Lions), I'd think this was a black cougar. In class we were asked to go out and look for "Mt Lions in NY" and I could totally expect to see someone coming back with a picture like the one above and hopefully claiming to be something other than a house pet.

    Also, very interested in the methods of diluting the flash... alot of my gray fox pics from NC were washed out because the flash is just so intense.

  4. Good shots. It is too bad the fox washed out. I thought the cat was a cougar at first also.