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Setting up 150 wildlife camera traps in Michigan

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To test their camera traps, University of Michigan wildlife ecologist Dr. Nyeema Harris and graduate student Corbin Kuntze conducted a series of ‘walk tests’ (and crawl tests) in front of the camouflaged boxes to make sure they were turning on.

The team placed and tested around 150 of these remote cameras, motion-detecting digital cameras that capture images of animals in nature, in three woodsy Michigan sites in 2016. This U-M video summarizes the research project, the largest wildlife camera trap deployment in the state’s history.

The main goal of the multi-year camera project is to determine how populations of Michigan’s meat-eating animals—including weasels, minks, raccoons, badgers, skunks, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, bears, wolves and lynx and potentially mountain lions—vary from place to place.

Nyeema Harris and Corbin Kuntze

Specifically, the researchers want to know how the animals’ daily activity patterns, the types of habitats they use, their diet and even the parasites that plague them differ between locations. This data trove is expected to yield insights for wildlife management and conservation efforts now and in the future, as these animal populations shift in response to human-induced pressures such as urbanization and climate change.

camera trap set up
camera trap data - deer

Learn more about the project at Michigan ZoomIn:

The loss of carnivores is of growing concern because of the role they play in animal communities. Top mammal carnivores such as cougars (Puma concolor) and gray wolves (Canis lupus) help control herbivores such as deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Therefore, these species can have large impacts not only on other animal species but entire ecosystems through indirect effects on vegetation. Because people are changing landscapes by converting areas to grow food and live, and altering climates, understanding how carnivores and other species respond becomes increasingly important.

Find more of Harris’ camera trap captures on the Applied Wildlife Ecology (AWE) Lab’s Instagram account:

Next, watch Bears in the Forest: What goes on when you are not there and curious arctic fox kits discover (and destroy) a motion-sensor camera.

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