Sunday, May 24, 2009

Glorious Return

Yesterday the family took a day trip to our favorite camping place. Monongahela National Forest has a special place in my heart, as it was the place my family went for every camping adventure when I was growing up. The Mon is specially important to prove the existence of the Eastern Cougar. This is because in the Monongahela National Forest has large expanses of generally untamed, wild forests where the mountain lions have the greatest possibility of existing today. Some believe (as I do) that the Eastern Cougar never left the "Mon."

Roddy and I spent 3 hours looking over the place and setting up 3 trail cameras in the best possible places on our property up there near the Mon. These are where there have been a variety of sightings from the family over the past 20 years of mountain lions.

Not only did we set up a trail camera on the path that a mountain lion would like to walk through, we placed hair traps on trees opposite of the trail cameras. The hair traps are to collect hair from any animal which rubs against the tree as it passes by. To better our chances of a mountain lion stopping by, we sprayed the tree with cougar "in heat" scent lure to attract them by. If one in the area smells the scent, it will stop by the tree. Maybe it will rub against the hair trap and we will get a hair DNA sample. Simultaneously, the trail camera which is pointed at the hair trap will take a photo of the cougar.We are returning to retrieve the cameras in July, so if you check back in Late July, we will see what we captured on film. Cross your fingers!

* please not that the cameras are on private land, the scent lures are not "baiting" the animals, and the hair traps are noninvasive, DNA collection devices.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Trail Camera Photos; What lives in a hole?

After the last post about trail cameras, I decided to post some of my own which were taken last week.
What lives on a mountain, in the forest, in a hole in the ground?
That was the question I asked myself when I happened upon it when hiking. After my disheartening attempt with the last trail camera position, (a total of 0 pictures except of me), I knew this spot was going to be promising. Here the ground had been scattered of rocks and soil from the hole. Did the inhaitant still live there now? I was hoping to find out.

The most difficult part about the spot was the trees were not favored for a camera strap to wrap around. Then if the tree was small enough, it was angled upwards so the camera would not look towards the hole. After moving around a lot, we picked a thin tree above on the hill. The strap was loose to allow the camera to point downhill, and rocks were wedged to keep the camera at the right angle.

Waiting about 2 weeks I was very worried about the camera, because of 2 whole weeks of torrential rail. I set it for 3 pictures at a time. When we retrieved the camera, here is what I saw.
Raccoons and a deer happened to pass by the area. Maybe in the future, I will find a cougar in the picture.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Importance of Trail Cameras

One of the most important tool in proving the existence of Eastern Cougars are Tail Cameras. The Eastern Cougar Foundation, myself included use these motion detecting cameras in "camera surveys." How a trail camera works is, the device is mounted (on a tree, or other stable object) at about 2-3 feet off the ground. The camera has a sensor which detects motion, and sometimes it can detect heat. When the sensor is tripped because of something passing in front of the camera, it tells the camera to snap a picture. Simple enough.

The best way to set up a trail camera:
1) Find a place that has the potential for animals to pass by frequently. This would be somewhere the trail funnels the animal through.
2) Find a suitable tree. This is the hardest part in setting up the trail camera, because you need the perfect sized tree where the strap will reach but be in the best position.
3) Know how to set up the camera whether it is digital or film.
4) Wait! and know the battery life.

Here are some pics I got: