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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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lucky shot in the dark

March 21, 2012, 11:35PM

Several camera trappers I know periodically post enviable otter photos on the forums.

They are risk takers. If they weren't, they wouldn't get otter pictures.

If you want to get aquatic mammal or waterfowl photos, you have to stake your camera in or near water, and if high water doesn't baptize your camera there's a good chance that men and boys with fishing rods will regard it as a gift from God.

Since this is the third time I've gotten otter photos, I am pleased.

And that drop of water on the lens over the otter's head? It doesn't bother me that much either.

The location is a seasonal creek that feeds the Mad River. 

A trunk of California bay lies across the mouth of that creek, and it looks like it was designed for a camera trap.

I smeared castoreum and muskrat musk in the moss, and the lures worked their magic.

The otter left one image on a rainy night 13 days later.

No doubt that single flash was enough to curtail its sniffing, and in my mind's eye I see it humping back to the dark water.

A few nights later the river rose and came close to claiming my camera.

Camtrappers lose their cameras to high water, but it doesn't seem to cure them.

Wetlands have a powerful pull.

When the grief wears off, they home-brew another camera, and before long they are staking it in water again.

Had Alfred Lord Tennyson been a camera trapper, he might have penned his famous lines differently: 'T is better to have lost your camera in a flood than never to have water-trapped at all.

I know better, but when it comes to water sets I can't help myself.

I re-set the camera on that log and took my chances once again.


Trailblazer said...

Nice pic!

In my opinion, mustelid photos are the holy grail...and otters are the holiest of those grails ;)

I've had some luck with otters after finding a latrine site.

But...you are dead-on....it's a risk! I lost a camera to a flash flood during my quest AND had a coupla yokel yahoos steal another one that was easier to find by fishermen than I thought.

Again...great shot, Codge!

Alyssa Johnson said...

Yeah seriously, what TB said! I got my first otter pics this spring...and they are not as nearly glamorous as yours, but I still count 'em!

Diana Pugh said...

Hello Codger. First let me say I really enjoy your blog and, as a beginning cam trapper, am learning much from you. The quality of your 'captures' continually amazes me. Someday I will graduate from store bought cams and bravely go into the future with a homebrew or two. But today may I please ask where you purchase castoreum and muskrat musk and in what strength & form? Thank you very much for sharing.

Sebastian Kennerknecht said...

Glad you took the risk Codg. It's a privilege to see this picture!

randomtruth said...

Nicely captured, Chris. I still have yet to risk my cams for otter and beaver, but am looking forward to the fun.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Di Pugh -- try googling trapper supplies for vendors of castoreum and other scent lures.

Unknown said...

Fantastic shot! There was a recent Italian study called "Why camera traps fail to record otter presence." I saw a poster on it at the International Otter Colloquium, and I have a printout of the text. I don't think there's a peer-reviewed journal article on it yet, but if you're interested I can scan the printout and send it to you. The gyst is that they were using temperature-sensitive triggers, and when otters came out of the water, they weren't warm enough to trigger the shutters.