By Lauren Kretzschmar
“It’s like having 100 eyes out there, 24 hours a day,” states Ms. Janet Klein, Natural Resource Program Manager of the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD). Marin County officials, supported by The National Parks Service, California State Parks, and the Marin Municipal Water District are conducting a wildlife study in order to better understand local wildlife and their habitats. This countywide study consists of positioning 100 Bushnell cameras in a random grid formation near residential areas in the hills around Highway 101 and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The wildlife study aims to pinpoint wildlife patterns and populations on extensive areas of land.
Wildlife studies have been used since the 1920s, when Mr. Frank M. Chapman, an experienced zoologist, first experimented using a new type of camera that had trip-wire technology to observe species on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. He was successful with his study, and continued to use wildlife cameras for future studies, specifically when studying birds. In 1990, discovery of an infrared trigger feature made it much easier for zoologists to use wildlife cameras. Since then, wildlife cameras have been used for many studies to capture photographs of endangered species, track wildlife hotspots, and identify wildlife populations.
Point Reyes National Seashore has had wildlife cameras in place since 1995. The cameras were placed in response to the Mt. Vision fire that burned over 12,000 acres. Researchers wanted to see how the wildlife in the surrounding area would respond to the changed habitat. Since the fire, the wildlife cameras have captured 30 species of birds and 26 species of mammals. The success of these wildlife cameras at Point Reyes inspired Marin County officials to adopt the idea to learn more about local wildlife.
Klein from the MMWD states, “The protocol we’re using for the study is called the Wildlife Picture Index. It’s a very standard technique.” The Bushnell cameras that are used for the study are standard and designed to be as non-intrusive as possible to the animals. “It’s a really powerful technology,” Klein claims. “The cameras are really cheap now, so the ability to use many allows us to put out this grid formation so we can look at one species at a time and you don’t have to track an individual animal or do a capture, mark, and release program, which can be really harmful to the animals. This is less intrusive and to some extent, less biased, because the grid is random.”
This comprehensive wildlife study of Marin County will help Janet Klein, county officials, and zoologists learn more about local wildlife populations and patterns throughout the residential hills of Marin County.