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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Scattraction



Scat: feces, dung.

Scattraction: the attraction to scat. (A contraction of scat + attraction) (I made it up).


As you already know, mammalian carnivores have a powerful attraction to stinky things. So why not use scat as a "lure"? Sooner or later some one is going to come along, take a sniff, and make a deposit. Right?

Right!

Last month I set two cameras on a fire road where coyotes and gray foxes leave their calling cards. The cameras were aimed at places where one species had "over-marked" the feces of the other. Presumably this tells the passing coyote or gray fox who visited the site most recently.

The only visitors who allowed themselves to be photographed were striped skunks and gray foxes. Since better than half the pictures were blank, many visitors escaped detection.

I suspect some of them were clever coyotes. (This is a frustration I have learned to live with, but I am confident that one of these days I will get their pictures too.)

I didn't want to tamper with the site, but a couple weeks ago I found the hide of a squirrel that had probably been skinned by a bobcat. I added it to the site, which became a kind of olfactory smorgasbord.

The fox sprinkled the scat pile, but he didn't make a deposit.

Instead he decided to make a withdrawal.



But he didn't carry through. The squirrel hide was lying a few feet away. He only rearranged the smorgasbord.

11 comments:

Adele said...

Hi, great site and fascinating pictures! I've got a couple of Bushnell trail cameras myself. At home in England I've used them to observe various fox behaviour. I'm currently in British Columbia and was wondering if you had any tips for using these devises to capture nocturnal carnivores? I've placed them in an area where I've found cougar tracks, but so far no luck.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Hi Adele, and thanks for your comment. Check out the posts on pumas, and you'll see what has worked for me -- castoreum and fresh catmint. Of course, you should also get cougar pictures on trails without using lures; it's a waiting game, but sooner or later they'll be back. The advantage of a lure is that it rivets their attention and keeps them in view longer, which means more pictures. I've gotten over a dozen shots at one time when using a scent lure. Good luck.

Adele said...

Thanks very much! I will see if I can acquire some catmint...

In your experience, how long do they take to do a circuit of their territory? The tracks I've found were six weeks apart, but I would have thought that the cougar came more frequently than that. However, tracking conditions aren't always optimal here.

Camera Trap Codger said...

I've waited months between pictures at the same camera station, but of course that doesn't mean they weren't in the neighborhood. The territorial circuit depends on the size of the territory and the distribution of game, so it probably varies considerably. I'd guess that 3 to 6 weeks might be in the ballpark. I forgot to mention that you should try using a caller like the FurFindr (www.wasatchwild.com). Broadcasting a sound is a good way to lure them in from all directions when they are in the neighborhood. The scent lure is more or less a directional attractant, but can be relied upon to keep them at the site long enough for several pictures.

Jace Stansbury said...

Chris,

Excellent fox photos. The gray fox is my all time favorite mammal. I've been quite busy lately and have not yet been able to set up my camera/lures. Hopefully though I'll be able to get things going soon. I may have asked you this already, but what type of camera do you use?

Jace

Camera Trap Codger said...

Good to hear from you, Jace, and glad you like the foxy pictures. I agree, they are mighty handsome critters. Yeah, I noticed you were lying low lately. By all means get that cam out there. You gotta log in the field time to get the good stuff. I collected 59 pictures of bathing bears today, but the light was too harsh. So we'll try again.
On the camera--I am using "homebrew" Sony s600s with Pixcontroller Universal controller boards. Have you checked out their webpage? They have a nice little forum for camera trappers. Definitely worth signing up for.

Adele said...

I'm starting to think that cougars have a warped sense of humour - just about an hour ago, for the first time ever, I saw one on a forest trail!! Not that it stayed around for me to get any pictures, of course!

I've mainly used the movie function to capture animals to date. I put this video together back in March:

http://my.opera.com/SittingFox/blog/2007/03/10/watching-by-nigh

Thanks again for you advice!

Camera Trap Codger said...

I like the videos. The British foxes seem to be saying, "Please domesticate us, but not too quickly."

Kathy said...

neat fox shots!!

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It's a great shot! The picture was great and this amazing carnivore is one of the most gorgeous animals in our country, so you had lucky to saw it like that way.

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