Using Game Cameras for Research

by Jim Armbruster – Research Coordinator

A Black Bear takes in the sites at our Quechee Nature Center
A Black Bear and her Cub at Old Pepper Place in Washington

Game cameras have long been used by researchers in the study of wildlife. These remote cameras allow for an exciting look into how wildlife behaves in the absence of human disturbance. Cameras can be used to detect the presence of different species in an area, monitor animal passage in certain corridors, or estimate how a population of a target species is fairing. They are also used in many different projects throughout the world.

A Fisher explores the wetlands at our Quechee Nature Center
A Fisher walks the trails at Old Pepper Place in Washington
A Mink plays on the frozen water

The idea behind this type of equipment is to set it up in an area where wildlife may be present. After a few days the animals become used to the presence of a camera and begin to resume their normal behaviors. The cameras are set to remotely activate when motion is detected allowing for a photo or video of the animal in front of the camera.

A Coyote in the wetland are at VINS
A Coyote investigates a camera after crossing onto campus form a frozen spot on Ottauquechee River
A Coyote poses for a picture

VINS has eight cameras deployed between our 47 acre property in Quechee and our 327 acre property at Old Pepper Place in Washington. They are positioned along wildlife trails, near water sources, and other high concentration areas of animals. Some cameras have been deployed for over a year and have recorded some very interesting species.

A Gray Fox has a quick snack before continuing its patrol of VINS
A Red Fox hunts at OPP

These cameras have allowed us to capture the diverse species present on our campus and at OPP. We had seen Red Foxes on our campus in the past but were not aware of other canine species. We were surprised to see a Gray Fox for the first time at our campus and were more surprised to learn that we have a pair making their home here. We also have had several Coyote that have moved in and share the space. A black bear was seen hanging around on multiple occasions and was even spotted by staff and guests on the trails. We have watched several White-tailed deer fawns grow up on campus and are now into the fall rut. A couple of species of weasels have also made their home here throughout the year. A mink and fisher seem to coexist in the wetland area and have been noted on several occasions. A family of raccoons also live near the wetland and were spotted on camera heading out to the river’s edge.

A momma White-tailed Deer and her two fawns
A different mother and fawn groom each other
A White-tailed Deer fawn chows down while looking cute
A buck shows of his antlers

This project has shown us how important the habitat at VINS and OPP is for a variety of species. These cameras give us a look in to the behavior of unique species and their distribution between the two sites. Most of the images in this post are taken from videos that show each individuals unique personalities. Some of these videos have been shared via our social media and we are working to create a database for everyone to view all the videos. In the future more cameras would be ideal to monitor the large area at OPP which would allow us to focus on pockets of unique habitat at the site. For now it is fascinating to watch what the animals have been up to in their natural habitats.

A Bobcat sneaks into the weeds along the river
A mother racoon with her young in tow

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