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News From The Field: 2004 Camera Survey Field Log

 

April 2-3, 2004.  The 2004 Remote Camera Survey is now in full swing.  I set up 19 remote cameras in Monongahela National Forest. Several inches of snow were still present on the mountains. 

Due to the Eastern Cougar Conference being scheduled in Morgantown on the weekend that the cameras were to be moved (April 30-May 1) , we decided to move them the following weekend.

On May 7, 2004 all 19 cameras were gathered up and taken back to the motel.  All film changed out with new rolls.  Batteries were checked, but none had to be replaced.  A few minor repairs were also completed.

On May 8, 2004 the cameras were taken to another area and setup.  Camera #16 malfunctioned and was sent off to be repaired.  Also when I developed the film from the April setup, it was obvious that camera #17 had also malfunctioned.  We will have to wait and see if it works properly this time around.  We only have 18 cameras setup at this time.

I had all the film developed and here are the picture totals for April 2004:

 83 Deer
 4 Coyotes
 5 Turkey Hunters

Camera #9 ended up being at the site of a prescribed burn on April 19th and took 33 pictures of the fire fighters in action.

Camera #20 took 35 of the deer pictures.

Camera #3, #4 & #16 took the four coyote pictures.

The cameras are due to be moved again the first weekend in June.

On Friday June 4, 2004 we gathered up the remote cameras at the May study site.  When we got to camera #3, we discovered that it had been removed from the tree and stolen.  The chain and padlock were still intact around the tree, but the thief had broken off the part that attaches the camera to the padlock, and taken the camera.  There were also tracks of an ATV at this site, which is illegal.  Robert Stovall, MNF biologist, was with me and also observed the scene.

Camera #15 was forced to the ground by a large black bear (caught on film) and resulted in it not being in a position to take good pictures.  Camera #16 & #17 are broken down and have been sent off for repairs. 

On Saturday June 5, 2004 the cameras were set up in a new area.  Rain showers hampered our efforts on this day, but we managed to get them out.  We currently only have 16 cameras on line.  #3 stolen, #14 taken by a bear in 2003, and #16 & #17 are off line for repairs.  

The film was developed and we got a very good mix of the native wildlife at this site.  We also managed to capture a lot of humans as well on a couple of trails in the area.  On one of the pictures, a buck deer had antlers higher than its ears already.  The only animals we personally saw were 1 turkey gobbler and later on we saw two grouse chicks cross the road.

Here are the picture totals for May 2004:

69 Deer
12 Black Bears
09 Coyotes
06 Bobcats
04 Bear Dogs
01 Wild Turkey (hen)
01 Unknown Cat**
01 Unknown animal (too close to camera to make a positive ID)
32 Bikers
08 Hikers

* We have one picture of a cat that I’m including with this update.  It's probably a bobcat but is not colored like any of our other bobcats.  Unfortunately, the tail is obscured. 

On Friday July 2, 2004 we gathered up the cameras in the June study site.  It went well, with no cameras stolen, abused or in need of major repairs.  However, when I went to rewind the film in the cameras, back at the motel room, things took a turn for the worse.  Every camera was having a lot of trouble rewinding the film.  After a number of hours, most rewiound, but I had to manually rewind 3 rolls in a pitch dark bathroom.  It was as if the film was sticking to itself.  This is the first time I have ever experienced anything like that happening. 

To make a long story short, I took the film to 3 different Wal-Mart photo processing centers and a one hour photo center at a Rite Aid.  None of them could get the film out of 6 of those rolls.  All asked if the film could have gotten wet inside the cameras, but it didn’t.  Actually, this was about the driest the cameras have ever been.  I strongly feel this was a problem with this particular batch of film, as I can’t see all the cameras mysteriously developing the same problem.  And I didn’t make note of any dampness or wetness inside the cameras or housing. 

The film that I installed for the July setup is from a different batch and from what I could see while loading it in the cameras, it appeared perfectly normal.  And all the cameras seemed to advance it easily.  Hopefully, we won’t experience that sort of problem again as it was truly a major headache and a loss of valuable pictures. 

From the film we did get developed, here are the totals for June 2004: 

 34 Deer
 1 Bear
 4 Bobcats
 3 Coyotes
 6 Dogs
 35 Hikers
 11 Bikers

On July 3, 2004 we set up the cameras at the July Study Site.  Camera #16 & #17 were back from being repaired, and both were set up this time. 

At this time we have the following cameras online:  2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,15,16,17,18,19,20,21.

Camera #3 was stolen in May 2004 and Camera #14 was destroyed by a bear in June 2003. Camera #1 is still being held out to serve as our Rapid Response Camera.

On Friday July 30, 2004 we gathered up the cameras at the July study site.  Camera #16 had malfunctioned, but the other 17 cameras seemed to do OK.   We also didn’t have any trouble with film this time around.   Film and batteries were changed in all the cameras.

Here are the picture totals for July 2004:

71 Deer
14 Black Bears
06 Bobcats
03 Coyotes
03 Wild Turkeys
04 Bear Dogs
24 Hikers
01 Bear Hunter

Out of the 71 deer, only 3 were bucks.  Two were spikes & one was either a 6 or 8 pointer.  And 8 out of the 71 deer were 2004 fawns.  All 14 black bears were adults, with one being a “very” large bear.  All three turkeys were hens.

I think the high number of hikers & bikers the last two months are due to the time of year with people vacationing and the proximity of the cameras to a Scenic Highway.  I honestly didn’t think that area received so many visitors, but the pictures sure told a different story.  The August Study Site isn’t anywhere near this area, so the pictures of people should drop dramatically in August.

On Saturday July 31, 2004 we moved the cameras to the August Study Site.  All cameras were setup, except Camera #16, which will be sent off for repairs. We now we have the following cameras online: 2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,15,17,18,19,20 & 21.

April 2004 thru July 2004 animal picture totals (4 months):

257 Deer
 27 Bear
 19 Coyotes
 16 Bobcats
 04 Wild Turkeys
 14 Bear Dogs

We saw two bears crossing the Scenic Highway on Friday evening July 30th.  And we saw 3 grouse in the August Study Site on Saturday July 31, 2004.

**Correction for the July 2004 Update**:  We had one large red fox picture in the July setup that I listed as a coyote in that update.  This is the first red fox picture we have gotten in 11 months of camera trapping the MNF.  So the official total for the July update is 2 coyotes and 1 red fox.  Sorry about that, but sometimes it’s hard to judge some of the animals in the tiny index prints, until I get normal sized pictures of them.

Friday August 27, 2004 Robert Stovall, Dave Gibson, and myself gathered up the cameras in the August study site.  Camera #12 had been forced into facing the ground, by a bear.   All the cameras including #12 were in good shape.  We only had to change film this time around.

Picture totals for August 2004 are:

39 Deer
32 Turkeys
26 Bears
23 Coyotes
02 Raccoons
01 Bobcat
01 Possum
01 Gray Squirrel
01 Rabbit
13 Dogs
04 Bikers
01 Hiker

Of the 39 deer, 7 were bucks, 6 of which had nice racks and one was a spike.  No spotted fawns were seen in the pictures.   All the bears appeared to be adults.  We set a record for the number of coyotes this month.  We also set a record for the number of wild turkey pictures.  Several hens were photographed with broods.

We also got two pictures of a bear hunter’s pickup truck, 1 ½ miles back behind locked gates.  The pictures showed the truck going out the road and one picture when the truck came back out.  One hound’s head is visible sticking out of the dog box.  This might be something law enforcement would want to look at, how they were able to get through the gates.

On Saturday August 28, 2004, Dave Gibson and myself went to the September study site and setup the following cameras:  2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20 & 21.  Camera #16 is still being repaired and #3 was stolen in May 04, and #14 was lost to a bear in June 03. 

Dave and I found what appeared to be a rotted bear carcass in the September study site, but couldn’t tell what caused its demise.  We also noted some ATV use behind the locked gate.

A special thanks to both Robert and Dave for helping me out with the cameras and for all the assistance they have given us this year to make the remote camera project a success in the Marlinton District.  Cameras will be removed from the forest around the first of October to avoid the up-coming hunting season.

April 2004 thru August 2004 animal picture totals (5 months)

296 Deer
 53 Black Bears
 42 Coyotes
 36 Wild Turkeys
 17 Bobcats
 02 Raccoons
 01 possum
 01 Gray Squirrel
 01 Rabbit
 27 Dogs 

September 25, 2004.  On Saturday September 25, 2004 I removed all the cameras from the September Study Site.  Camera #4 suffered a bad attack from a black bear and is currently disabled.  I’ll have to have the back plate on the case repaired.  We also had two cameras that were slightly turned off the trails and not in a good focus point for the trails they were covering.  I think this was due to the high winds from hurricane Ivan moving over this particular mountain as lots of sticks and tree limbs were blown over the mountain roads.

Picture totals for September 2004:

82 Black Bears
61 Deer
28 Raccoons
21 Coyotes
06 Bobcats
03 Turkeys
01 Unknown Cat
01 Skunk
01 Squirrel
01 Crow

We had one cat that cannot be identified, so I’m listing it as another “Unknown Cat”.  You cannot make out the length of the tail even in the normal sized print.  So in 2004 we did not get any visible or confirmable cougar pictures.

Only two deer were visible bucks.  All three turkey pictures were of adult birds, with no broods being seen.  We did get some black bear cubs and raccoon cubs in the pictures.  And we got one picture with 4 adult coyotes standing together.

Camera #7 was setup at a pond created for wildlife.  This was the first time I used a site like that with the cameras and it produced a full roll of pictures.  We had 20 bears, 19 raccoons, 2 deer and 1 crow from it.

One picture on camera #9 showed a John Deere 6X4 Gator back behind the gate, and I’m not sure if the Forest Service uses these or not as the person driving it was not in a uniform.

The 2004 Remote Camera Survey has now come to a close, due to the upcoming hunting season fast approaching.  This year we worked the Marlinton Ranger District of the forest from April 2004 to September 2004.  I’d like to thank Robert Stovall and Dave Gibson for all their help and support this summer and the friendly folks at the Marlinton District office for making it a good season.

For a comparison of photos obtained during the 2003 and 2004 field seasons, see the Camera Survey Comparison.

 

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