The government shutdown was in place over the weekend but that didn’t slow our lion camera crew down one little bit. When we came in for the camera checks today on Monday, we had no access to the Visitor Center, which is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. We had stowed the Go packs at the Barn, which is managed by The Nature Conservancy and so still accessible even as we watched the shutdown loom.
Our steadfast team assembled at the Barn at 8am since we’re starting an hour later on these cold winter days. We agreed that we’d continue to meet at 7am on Mondays going forward though, because of the bad rush hour traffic. One of our crew drove for more than an hour this morning to get here!
There was a chill wind and it was drizzly as we loaded up the packs and assessed the cameras we’d be able to check. Some of them are on BLM land so we wouldn’t be accessing those today which meant a shorter camera check of just six cameras. Then….lion mojo activation and we were off!
In the Field
There was debate on whether to bring our personal cameras out as the drizzle continued in the early part of the camera check. One of our crew brought an umbrella with her specifically so that she could keep snapping photos even though, in truth, the camera did get a bit wet. But it’s a trooper!
First stop was one of our cameras next to a flooded field that gets great variety of wildlife traffic and we weren’t disappointed today. No mountain lions or bobcats, though. Nevertheless, our crew is a well-oiled machine, and when we have enough crew out, one handles the camera, one scribes and one handles the used and new SD cards. It works out very well!
It was still raining at the next camera as well though it started to look like it was lightening up. We saw lots of deer tracks mainly and we got lots of deer images on this camera, too, not surprisingly.
After we change cards and check camera operations, and while we’re exploring the camera site to look for scat, tracks and any other interesting sign of animal movement, we typically hang the camera on the casing mount in an obvious fashion so we don’t forget to go back and turn the camera on as we’re leaving. There’s nothing like checking a camera and finding that it’s accidentally been left ‘off’ all week long. But it happens to the best of us and so we take care when we leave each camera site.
We always enjoy happenstance trail camera shots of the crew so keep an eye out for interesting pictures. They can be of a crew member quietly strolling while listening and watching for animals in the area, or of the crew approaching or leaving the camera deployment site as we move on to the next camera.
On the second image below, notice the pink hue of the image. One thing we think causes this coloration is when the camera isn’t seated correctly in it’s casing, causing pressure on areas of the camera’s body that affect the firing apparatus. So we’ll carefully inspect the camera seating next time we’re at that camera and generally we’ve found we can take care of that issue. These cameras are in the low-end price range for trail cameras, however, and we do run in to defects and breakdowns. Especially considering these cameras are out in the elements – freezing temperatures and lots of moisture – 24/7 as long as it’s not flooding.
Our update from the scratch pole camera is not exciting. While we held high hopes after the camera has been up a week and were anxious to who’s making all those marks, we got no action other than our crew on the pole this week that was captured by the camera.
It didn’t look like the high scratch on the pole had been touched from last week and while it did look like the local bucks are still using the lower part of the pole for an antler rub, we didn’t get them on the camera so likely the rubs are just damp and discolored from the rain. We’ve determined that we’ll move that camera to a tree on the east side of the pole, off the road, that gets a better view of the pole and the road behind it. We’ll try to place the camera facing northwesterly, which is one of the best positioned sets for cameras in regards to not getting too much sun and washout photos.
There’s still beaver action at one of the cameras. We saw one on the trail camera there and also have seen lots of beaver sign in the area. The busy critter took down a good sized tree on the bank of the slough and left a stump that looked a bit like a monument, rather statuesque!
And as we commented on a large slab of wood near the camera that had some beaver chews, one crew member observed how easy it is for animals to be in the area and simply not walk by the camera. The beaver-gnawed log was literally right behind the camera! So as he or she was busy working less than 3 feet away, there was no hint of it recorded on the camera.
This applies to mountain lions and all the wildlife out there on the Preserve. A lion could just as easily step behind the camera as walk in front, so we are reminded again of how much timing and chance play a part in our camera hunt and why it’s so important to never give up.
Local Mountain Lion Information Meeting is a Success!
The Cosumnes River Preserve recently hosted a well-attended mountain lion information meeting in Wilton, CA.
Located just a few miles from Wilton, the Preserve talked about its ongoing camera project to collect mountain lion data and urged over 50 participants who attended to contact the Preserve Manager if they spot a mountain lion in the area.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Mountain Lion Foundation both gave informative presentations on mountain lion behavior and ecology, safety and conflict avoidance. The Foundation also provided an on-site lion-proof pen demonstration.
You can read The Galt-Herald news write-up about the meeting here: http://bit.ly/2F8dyT9
Overall, the meeting was a positive step for the mountain lions near the Preserve. Now if they’ll just walk down to the Lower Preserve in front of our cameras!
Meet the Crew
Our amazing crew is out in the field looking for mountain lions and other wildlife rain or shine!
Meet Patrick McGillivray, CRP Volunteer Naturalist and Citizen Scientist
We asked Patrick, What do you like best about being on the mountain lion camera crew?
“I love volunteering for the CRP. The Mountain lion surveys are so much fun and are also important for conservation. I love getting to visit parts of the preserve that I have never been to. It is so peaceful, hiking in to check cameras in the beautiful, natural ambiance of the preserve, early in the morning with a nice cup of joe or hot tea waiting for you in the car as you hike back to move on to the next camera check. Looking at the beautiful morning fog surround the natural habitat, spotting eagles or coyotes as you drive by, trying not to disturb the hundreds of waterfowl in the adjacent ponds.”
Mountain Lion 411
Wildcat Sanctuary is home to many orphan big cats, including mountain lions. This organization advocates strongly against the exotic pet trade and keeping big cats as pets.
Here’s a real treat! One of their rescue mountain lions, Carlo, is quite handy with a big ball…watch him playing here and get a great sense of how powerfully and adeptly mountain lions move and also how they communicate. All the little chirps you’ll hear are the lions talking to each other!:
Carlo playing soccer!: https://youtu.be/xpEstFNM4qY
This week’s mystery photo is a real treat! The photo and video are not from the Cosumnes River Preserve. This footage was taken from a trail cam somewhere back east after a fresh snow fall.
Take a look at this photo and try to figure out what’s going on. Then take a look at the answer below!
Mystery Photo Answer here!: https://youtu.be/pqzopUurZPc
Hint for viewing: (Watch more than one time -at least once for the overall action, and one time each to observe each individual’s behavior.)
Critter Camera Captures