Assessing remotely triggered cameras for surveying carnivore distribution

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Wildlife Society Bulletin


Documenting the distribution of elusive carnivores is difficult, but remotely triggered cameras may be a cost-effective, non-invasive technique that can supplement harvest-based or other observational data. To assess their utility, we surveyed a $1,032\text{-}{\rm km}^{2}$ area of Vermont using 35-mm cameras connected to pressure plates at bait stations. We sought to photograph all carnivore species believed to reside in the area and to document species-specific habitat relationships. During June-October 1997-1998, we systematically placed camera stations at >1 km intervals to assess the effects of forest cover type (deciduous vs. coniferous-dominated forest stands), distance from edge (<400 m or ≥500 m from permanent agricultural and residential edges), levels of human-related development (relatively high and low), and type of camera set. We ran surveys for 21-day sampling periods during 1997 (n=131 stations) and 1998 (n=154 stations). We obtained photos of all expected species. Raccoons (Procyon lotor, n=67 stations) and coyotes (Canis latrans, n=17 stations) preferred edge sites. Black bears (Ursus americanus, n=15 stations) preferred interior sites and were photographed only in the more forested and less densely populated eastern half of the study site. Fishers (Martes pennanti, n=47 stations) also occurred more often in the eastern half of the study area and in coniferous forest types. We were unable to detect any effect of set type on carnivore distribution. This method appeared useful for estimating species distribution over large areas and for documenting species-specific habitat relationships.








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