Stop that deer! Camera traps help conservationists track speeding wildlife

For immediate release ‐ May 09, 2016

Contact: Jon Pishney, 919.707.8083. Images available upon request

Camera traps can be used to track the movements of wildlife without having to catch, tag or directly observe them, shows a study by a group of researchers including North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences mammalogist Dr. Roland Kays, published in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.

How fast animals move and how much ground they cover per day are key behaviors that influence wildlife conservation, including energy use, feeding success, the spread of disease and human-wildlife conflict.

Currently, data on speed and range are usually collected via intensive telemetry technology, or time-consuming direct observation. The use of camera traps to collect these data is an entirely new approach that allows researchers to gather data on many individuals of many species at the same time, with potential for positive impacts across the conservation research sector.

The paper tests the new method with a study of 12 mammal species in Panama. Estimates of travel speeds were made from camera trap video clips and then compared with independent estimates obtained by traditional animal tracking methods. The resulting comparisons showed that camera-based estimates were in line with speeds that would be expected, providing strong support for the new camera methodology.

Commenting on the research, co-author Kays said: “Traditional camera trap approaches just use the images to record the presence or absence of a species, but these video clips have so much more information about animal behavior and movement — it is exciting to start to use this additional data for asking research questions.”

“This approach doesn’t replace tracking, but it does provide an exciting new dimension to camera trap surveys. Coupled with emerging techniques in computer vision, we hope that these methods will allow us to accurately estimate movement rates in the wild for a wider range of species than ever before, contributing to our conservation research efforts.”

This study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Zoological Society of London, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Wageningen University, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, North Carolina State University and the Max Planck Institute.


“Wildlife speed cameras: Measuring animal travel speed and day range using camera-traps” —

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