This year (2020) I spent the beginning, duration and tail end of summer in a rural/remote/farming community in British Columbia, Canada. Knowing the plethora of wildlife that comes through the surrounding area, and being blessed with a few wildlife/trail cameras to play with, a project was quickly concocted. The plan was to attempt to capture (photographically) whose around, and whose coming through the farm and surrounding wooded areas. It eventually turned into attempting to capture ALL possible wildlife that uses the area as a home, or a corridor. I was pretty successful, and only two creatures are still on the “wanted” list. That would be a moose, and an American beaver.
But you know whose NOT on that list!?
Easily my most favorite, and most unexpected visitor to pass by a camera was a puma/cougar. While I knew they were around and had visited the farm in the past, but not for years.
I was actually awake for these brief minutes while the cougar was trotting across the small walk bridge. The trusty farm dog was doing his job in protecting his territory and was barking up a storm, successfully scaring away the puma from the living areas. Unfortunately this puma did not return (as far as we know), and I never got him or her on camera again. Better try again next year!
But this beautiful animal wasn’t first large mammal to arrive.
The summer started off real nicely with two grizzly bears. When the bears started appearing, the camera traps took a sharp focus on capturing them. Sorry everyone else! These photos became not only became my personal project, but useful information to a local bear biologist. In addition to having photographic evidence of the two grizzlies, I then knew exactly where they were moving through so I could locate hair samples for future DNA analysis. In a seperate post I wrote about the local grizzly populations and some behavioral questions I developed observing them over time, click here to read.
When the bears left for higher elevations after the snow had melted off, I turned my attention back towards the creek.
Upon searching for a new location for a camera I came across a peculiar area on the creek’s bank. A good size stretch of horsetails were flattened down, with piles of gucky poop in other areas, which the dog loved to roll in. I had come later to discover that this was a frequently used area of North American river otters! I wrote a separate post about the river otters, click here to read about this area of the bank known as an “activity center” I stumbled upon.
The otters were great fun to observe through the camera, and I luckily saw them swimming up the creek one morning also. What great creatures!
When it became the later summer months, and hay was getting cut, I was able to view coyotes in the day pretty frequently. Such beautiful and intelligent creatures. I was unsure if I’d even get a coyote on the cameras because having worked with camera trap professionals they’ve always mention the difficulty of capturing coyotes because they tend to stay away from cameras. But to my surprise I did capture them a couple times. The photo below is one of my favorites off all the pictures I got this summer. He or she looks so surprised! “Ah! You got me on camera!” Is what I imagine going through this coyote’s mind. While the other shots are great too, because they show no sign of noticing the camera’s presence.
Black bears, of course made their appearance too. My best guess would be that three separate bears passed by the cameras. I even had two seperate bears get real up close and personal with the camera! Curious critters! Multiple nose and blurry dark coloration graced the camera’s protective lens. Glad they make them so durable! The bottom most right photo depicts what I’m talking about.
While the surrounding area hosts many bird species, only a few have special appearances on the cameras. From left to right top to bottom, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Juvenile), Red-breasted Merganser (female), Mallard (female), Savannah Sparrow collecting nest material, Great Blue Heron, Grouse, and the pets, the domesticated Muscovy ducks (male).
The remaining wild visitors I caught on cameras include mule deer, racoon, and bobcats. The first bobcat I’ve ever seen was on this property right before moving to California where I saw about 10 in my first year of being there. But seeing any of these beauties in the wild, or on cameras is pretty special for me. Even the deer and black bears are special to see which were a common sighting throughout the six months I was in BC.
Not all creatures that came by a camera were wildlife. I was capturing wildlife on, and near a farm afterall. This farm, while previously a potato farm have cows that still call this place a home.
I had great fun checking the cameras on a mostly weekly basis. Figuring out the best angles, when to move them to a new location and perfecting the settings was a great long term problem solving project. One day I dream of having my own slice of wilderness where I can do another similar project and expand upon the complexity of questions I can pose and investigate. But until then I have a bunch of fun photos to scroll down memory lane with.
While I did not place these observations on iNaturalist, I have thousands more of the plants, insects, amphibians, etc. on iNat of this time spent in BC. Username: chloejreid.