About Me

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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.