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Wireless digital camera traps

Trevor Hebert (JRBP)


Wireless digital camera traps are providing unprecedented and detailed information on some of JRBP's big unknowns, such as the abundance and behavior of large predators and the nature of biological corridors linking JRBP to other areas. By silently recording whatever passes by--whether a mountain lion, jackrabbit, or even an occasional trespasser--the cameras will help JRBP address many challenges that characterize the wildland/suburban interface. Among those challenges is conveying the role of large predators in ecosystem health while also raising awareness of the possibility of encountering a large predator. 

The camera traps have been configured, installed, and operated by Trevor Hebert, JRBP technology specialist. They consist of motion-activated cameras that transmit photos for extended periods without servicing; wireless communication stations that rapidly relay photos; and a base station that stores photos and metadata. Trevor's first two camera traps began operating in 2009. A National Science Foundation grant to study the wildland/suburban interface provides funds for an eventual 20+ cameras. 

While mountain lion presence has long been apparent from characteristic deer kills, the digital camera traps provide quantitative baseline data on mountain lion abundance and activity. Over a ten month period, four widely spaced cameras recorded nearly two dozen mountain lion photos. Most were recorded at night, but a few were during daytime, and most were on or near trails. 

A review by the Jasper Ridge Advisory Committee identified ways JRBP can begin to use the mountain lion data, such as coordinating new research and reexamining safety training for the JRBP community. Until the latter is completed, JRBP users are advised to always work in groups of two or more, and to follow Dept of Fish and Game guidelines on encountering a mountain lion (see link below). 

Photo of mountain lion alongside a creek during early June.