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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.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Denizens of Deadman

A chickaree aka  Douglas squirrel  came first. 

Well, Jake volunteered to join me, so I didn't have to climb Deadman alone.

Normally Fred would have been there too, but the redhead took him home so I could wrap up the workshop and pack up without distractions.

The cameras had been out for only 48 hours and memory should have led me to them like a bird dog, but even with the GPS we bumbled about looking for the first set.

Of course we checked the pictures as soon as we found it  -- the moment of truth had arrived.

The first visitor to the set, a runty chickaree and doubtless young of the year, left one picture the morning after we set the camera.

We clicked forward . . . blank images . . . and hallelujah!

There was bushy-tail poised on a rock and showing its diagnostically furry bicolored caudal appendage.

The bushy-tailed wood rat (Neotoma cinerea).

It had visited the second night and like the chickaree had left but one photo.

We resumed our climb to the top of the scree and found the second camera just before noon.

A pinon mouse had visited the first night.

Judging from those big ears  it was a Pinon mouse (Peromyscus truei)

And Little Chief Hare made a cameo appearance the next day.

Deadman had paid off, and we ate lunch with satisfaction beside the set.

Our mountaineering exercise had proved that habitat is often key to finding one's target species.

Both pika and bushy-tailed wood rat evolved in the footprints of glaciers.

For two years I had sought the wood rat among boulders and outcrops only a half mile from here.

It should have been there, but only after ploughing the literature did I learn that talus was also one of bushy-tail's favored habitats.

Our routes in and around Deadman Scree.

We explored the rest of the scree into early afternoon, and recorded waypoints for a big red fir, and a new colony of mountain beaver.

Then we drove back to camp to show off the pictures.


Anonymous said...

Hey Codger!

Love your blog. I've forwarded on to as many people as I know.

Got a question for you....I'm a wildlife ecologist, and currently an assistant professor at Elon University in NC. I've become almost obssessed with camera trapping over the last few years. It's great fun for my students (and me). It makes these critters accessible for folks new to the field and reduces the risk of exposing students to diseases (like rabies), that comes with trapping things like raccoon, fox, coyote, etc.

Got a question for you that involves your sets. How much effort do you take to mask your own scent while setting up sets (especially the sets that you check within a short time period)? As you know, some of the old-timer fur trappers go through great lengths to mask their scent when making sets. I'm trying to get a variety of things done when in the field and don't have the time to go through the extreme measures they take. Plus, I'm an overwight midwesterner of scandinavian descent that has (prior to our recent move to NC) spent his entire life in the much cooler state of WI. So...when I'm out in the field in this NC heat, I'm sweating all over the place. No way to mask the scent....

Thanks for your time and sorry this "comment" got so long!

Josh Kapfer

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks for your interest Josh. I think its next to impossible to fool the critters about your scent, and a lot of the human "culture followers" -- like raccoon and and possum -- really don't care anyway. They use human scent to find food part of the time. But with coyotes and rural red foxes it's a different matter, and the trappers' advice still holds true. With time though, they will habituate to human scent unless they've had strong aversive reinforcement. If you have enough cams, it would make an interesting experiment. Exoerimental and control cams to test the effect of scent.

Good luck and stay tuned. I'm on my late summer roll with lots of material coming in for the blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Codger!

That association between food and people is strong in raccoons! Many of my raccoon shots come the night after I swap cards on the cams, and they don't come back.

I have 6 "fixed" cams spread between two sites. I also have a "rover" cam at each of these sites too. The rovers are for supplementing the species inventory at the sites, so I create scent stations with commercial trapper lures. I'm hoping that helps cover my scent, or over-rides it (especially given that I only swap cards on my rovers every two weeks).

I don't use lures or bait on my fixed cams, as I'm using those to estimate relative abundance (as best I can given my small number of cameras, due to a tight budget). But, I also only swap cards on those once a month. Figure that should give some time for my scent to degrade and critters come back. I've been involved in camera surveys in the middle of nowhere in the UP of MI. We didn't mask our scent, but only checked cams once a month. In addition to ridiculous numbers of deer and bear, we caught wolf,bobcat, coyote...even a shot of a pine marten (if you'd like to see it, shoot me an email at the address in my first "comment" and I'll send it to you).

The experiment you mention would be fun! I have thought about trying to get an undergraduate researcher to tackle a project like this (would be a perfect study for that type of question).

Thanks again for your response!

Looking forward to your upcoming entries!

Josh Kapfer

dr_fiehlgood said...


Great stuff Chris! You definitely are on a roll. What a treat to see N. cinerea and Ochotona in the same set. Next year you will have to set another challenge for yourself. How about a wolverine? On Chimineas the holy grail seems to be Mephitis...