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!

Crew members Elizabeth, Erin, Richard, Diana and Jim loading up the gear at the Barn on a chilly, wet morning. Duane was still driving to get here but the other crew members joined us in spirit! Alex Cabrera

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!

Lion Power ACTIVATED!!! Alex Cabrera

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!

Diana and Duane exchange cards and Richard at the camera. Erin Hauge

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.

Diana, Duane and Richard at the next camera – still raining!. Erin Hauge

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.

A good way to keep the camera off the ground while we’re examining the area for animal signs. Erin Hauge

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.

Rick caught on our trail camera walking up the road and looking up! Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management


Kristin and Erin walking away from a trail camera – the pink coloration may be caused by how the camera is seated in the casing and undue pressure on the camera’s innards. Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

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.


Richard, Diana and Duane at the scratch pole. Erin Hauge


The high scratches we’re watching to see if there’s a repeat visitor weren’t touched this week. Erin Hauge

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!

A beaver’s impressive monument to a fallen tree! Note all the teeth marks and grooves in the stump. Erin Hauge


The complete handiwork of a beaver. Erin Hauge

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.

Richard and Duane at the camera and the beaver log just behind the camera! Erin Hauge

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.

A closeup of the beaver log located just feet from the trail camera, but behind it, so the beaver did his or her work out of camera range. This illustrates how any animal, including a mountain lion, could walk behind the camera instead of in front of it and we’d never see them. Erin Hauge

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:

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

Crew member Patrick McGillivray

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!:

Mystery Photo

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: Can you imagine the scenario that took place here? Who was involved? What were the behaviors? After you’ve taken your best guess, watch the video at the link below to find out! Hint: More than one animal was involved.

Mystery Photo Answer here!:

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

Group of does. Note how they all have their large ears poised in different directions so the group is getting audio input from every direction. They’re also gathered in pretty close together for safety. The blurry deer on the right is just running up to the group and may be what startled them, but we don’t know. They could be listening to coyotes calling or for a mountain lion! Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management


Beaver. Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management


Doe and lop-sided antlered buck. Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management


Coyote looking up the road, probably watching other pack family members. Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management


Doe and youngster from earlier 2017. Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management


Drizzly Days, Wildlife Ways

Leave a Reply