Friday, April 1, 2011

Confirmed: Who Pooped in the Park!

Mammals unlike birds are usually very secretive and hard to see when visiting Homestead National Monument of America. Often we see the signs of the animals that are here, burrows dug by ground hogs, trees chewed on by beavers, tracks from raccoons and deer by the creek, but rarely do we see these animals, let alone get pictures of them. That is why I was very excited when Homestead was given the opportunity to borrow a trail camera from the Regional NPS Wildlife Specialist. The camera is motion activated and takes 10 pictures, in less than 10 seconds each time it sees movement.

By Jesse Bolli, Resource Management Specialist

The first month that we had the camera we had it “watching” the carcasses of deer that the maintenance employees had removed from the highway. In that location we were able to observe several animals feeding on the carcass and a few that were just passing by. Species observed included: red-tailed hawks, crows, raccoons, an opossum, coyotes, deer, wild turkeys, and a bobcat. The camera was then moved closer to the Education Center down by the campfire area. While the camera was there I did not get any photos where the animal could be identified. Several photos of an animal climbing over the camera were captured. With the camera in its current location which is near Cub Creek along a game trail several smaller mammals have been captured. Species captured at its current location include: raccoons, opossums, a skunk, deer, a cottontail rabbit, a squirrel, and a small rodent (mouse, shrew, or vole).

Some of the interesting things that have been observed by the camera include red-tailed hawks who are disagreeing on who should be allowed to feed on the carcass, images where more than one species can be seen, photos with a coyote and deer in the same frame, and another with coyote and turkeys in the same frame. The coyote did not seem interested in the turkeys and the turkeys did not seem concerned.

Another thing that has surprised me is the amount of time that the coyotes and raccoons will spend feeding on the carcass. One coyote spent from 9:56 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. feeding on the carcass. One thousand-three hundred-forty pictures were taken while the coyote was feeding. The coyote did appear to have mange as it did not have any hair on it tail. Still I found it interesting that a coyote would spend over an hour feeding in the daylight in one place.

For me the most exciting species captured by the camera is the bobcat. The series of photos of the bobcat shows it near the ribcage of the deer that it is feeding on, it then is gone in the next frame followed by a shot of the bobcat walking away 30 minutes later. Was the bobcat in the carcass for 30 minutes? The pictures don’t tell the entire story but they do make you wonder what it was doing.

As new images of different species are capture they will be added to our Facebook page. This technology has provided Homestead with valuable information about the mammals that are using the monument and has confirmed for us, as an earlier blog mentions, who pooped in the park!

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