Over 20 motion-activated cameras are set-up in Banff National Park as part of a long-term wildlife population monitoring project. Cameras are mounted on trees or encased in rock cairns along hiking and game trails. Every time something passes the camera's infrared beam, an image is captured.
Compared with traditional wildlife research techniques like radio-collaring, the "camera trap" is non-invasive and comparatively cheap. Researchers will analyze the data using a methodology called occupancy modelling. Not only are some of the images of wildlife stunning, but tracking wildlife populations over the long term will help inform management decisions about issues like trail use, species reintroduction (e.g. caribou and bison) and prescribed fire.
With no one actually behind the camera taking these images, they offer a rare and privileged view into the world of wild animals going about their everyday lives.
I was through here a week ago. Over the last week, got some images of wolves, deer and grizzly bear.
We have about 25 cameras set up through the backcountry. What they enable us to do is to survey a lot more areas than we can actually travel to.
We're in all sorts of different habitats. We're here in the forest today. In a couple days we're going to be hiking up with a big metal frame into some of the alpine passes and setting up a camera there. What we really have to our advantage in this landscape compared to the prairies or to big wetland complexes is that there are these natural pinchpoints where animals travel. So a higher pass between two great valleys for habitat would be one point. And here's another point—you can't really see it—but we're actually in this extremely narrow pinchpoint in this valley. All the game that are passing through here are being funnelled right past this camera. It's a great, great spot to be able to pick up movement and have a sense for what's going on.
Text: Karsten Heuer—Banff National Park—Wildland Resource Conservation Officer
Our goal with these is actually to monitor sow and cub groups of grizzly bears. Yellowstone has been doing this for about 30 years now. They use a portion of family groups of grizzly bears from year to year. The trend is indicative of the overall trend of the grizzly bear population, so obviously reproduction, but also growth in grizzly bear populations as well.
It isn't just grizzly bears that we're interested in. We're also interested in other carnivores, for instance wolves. Particularly right now. We're thinking of doing a caribou reintroduction into the western part of the park. What really hinges on the success of that or not depends on how many predators there are—or aren't. So part and parcel of doing a caribou reintroduction, you have to pick your right time to have relatively low numbers of other prey and their predators.
Over time we'll hopefully be able to determine if populations of certain animals are going up or down. The statistics are developing in a way that you can do something called Occupancy Modelling. You are able to discern by your differences from one year to the next, in what the camera's getting in the same location, what the occupation of the surrounding landscape is by that particular species.
[crawling on rocks] Perfect!
[Walking hunched over] I'll do a couple here…this is my bear.
Part of the attraction is that it's totally non-invasive. These cameras go off without a flash and they use infrared wavelengths. It's certainly much different than radio-collaring or tagging.
[wildlife images flashing on screen]
Produced by: Adam Greenberg, Ray Schmidt
Music: morgantj – Time Decay
[series of bear images]
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