Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trail Camera Photos!

These are some of the last of the photos from the cameras we set on the Sockeye runs. Since the Sockeye are tapering off and the run is at its end, there are fewer fish, fewer carcasses, and thus fewer animals coming to visit our cameras. Nevertheless, I found a few photos from our final set of Sockeye cameras worth sharing:

Hey look! A marten! In daylight! Almost all of the marten (and mink) photos we get are at night, with the infrared flash. It's really nice to see them in color.

Crow party!

Here's a new one: This is a varied thrush. Varied thrushes are more or less all over the place out here. They are striking birds, with a very distinct grey and orange pattern accented with black and white. They have little interest in our carcasses, but like all thrushes often feed on the ground. You've probably all seen a thrush before-- American Robin are in the thrush family.

Yet another bear photo. We saw very few bears in this last set of images. Most of the photos of were us (setting the cameras) and of mink and marten, with the occasional red squirrel or thrush thrown in the mix. But we did see a couple of bears, this being one of them.

Aaaaaaaaand another wolf photo! I'm very pleased to be seeing wolves in different areas around Haines. The first two photos of wolves I posted were from an area near the confluence of the Kelsall and Chilkat Rivers. This photo was taken near Chilkoot Lake. This appears to be a fairly young animal.

Wolves have a tough time living around Haines. There are no deer or elk here. The only large game for packs to hunt is moose, and most of the available moose habitat is much farther up the Chilkat and Chilkoot Rivers and up at higher elevations. Moose are hunted here, and although the moose population is managed to sustain hunting, it is not managed to sustain wolf packs. There is also a lengthy wolf hunting season-- nearly year-round, with a three-month hiatus during summer-- with a limit of five animals. Dedicated wolf hunters could easily disrupt an entire pack.

Many people in the United States are still strong advocates of predator control, and would prefer that wolves aren't around. Some of this is anti-wolf sentiment is interest-based (many game hunters believe that wolves kill a lot of the available prey in an area, meaning fewer animals available for harvest in the fall). Some is likely symbolic (wolves have been portrayed for centuries as something to be feared and destroyed).

Whatever the case, I'm happy to be seeing wolves on our trail cameras. Wolves help sustain healthy populations of their prey, which in turn impacts the vegetation on which herbivores feed. Wolves are often called keystone species-- species which have a disproportionally large impact on their environment, and whose presence helps to balance food webs. A large part of our research involves better understanding the impacts large carnivores, like bears and wolves, have on the environment, and why they are important.

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At September 29, 2012 at 12:55 AM , Blogger Eric Moody said...

What differentiates wolves and coyotes in your photos? Are coyotes prevalent in your study area?

At October 2, 2012 at 12:42 PM , Blogger Rachel said...

Coyotes are fairly prevalent around Haines. It can be tricky to tell the difference between coyotes and wolves, especially at a distance, but with the close range of our trail cameras it isn't too difficult.

Coyotes tend to have triangular faces and narrow, pointed snouts. Their ears are taller and pointed, whereas wolves have slightly rounded ears. Wolves' faces are also less angular-- they have softer, broader features and wider snouts. Coyotes also have shorter, narrow legs. The legs of wolves are longer and thicker.

The biggest difference, however, is one of size. Wolves are MASSIVE animals compared to coyotes. Adult wolves typically weigh between 80 and 120 pounds, whereas adult coyotes usually weigh between just 20 and 35 pounds.


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