Trail Camera StarsIssue Date: September 6, 2018
Trail Camera Stars
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
A few years ago my husband bought an inexpensive "trail camera" (a motion-activated weather proof camera) to help sort out the mystery of what was visiting at night and chewing up my Mother's deck boards. (Answer: porcupines.) The mystery solved, the camera made its way to our land, where it was installed on a tree in our woods. I had seen trail camera footage on the internet, but it's different when you are looking at your own "woodland neighbors." So the first time Mike downloaded the images it captured on our land last fall, and I found the results fascinating.
While I was well aware that there were deer on our land, it was fun seeing the still images of our wild neighbors. I'm used to the fleeting glimpses I get, often with an unwelcome thrill, as they dash across the road or driveway in front of my car. But being able to study the pictures allowed us to identify specific individuals, and also learn about their movements thanks to the date and time-stamped pictures.
Last fall, we got to know the doe with the ugly wound on her side; the mom and her two fawns of the year, and the six-point buck. Many of the does look alike in still photos, taken at different distances and under different conditions of light, so is hard to tell them apart. But it is easy to speculate the imagines captured repeatedly at a certain time of the day might be the same habitual individual. And the pictures captured the ever-changing landscape from the time we installed the camera in the fall, through the winter. The leaves of fall often obscured earlier pictures, while the snow cover and bare woods of late winter made it much easier to see the details of each deer captured.
I was glad when footage this summer revealed the doe with the wound was still with us. I questioned her survival last fall. So I now know the pile of disarticulated bones and skull I found near our pond is not her " some other deer failed to survive " why, it's not possible to know. She may have been sick; the winter too lean; or an arrow or bullet wound left her too injured to survive. It's easy to tell from her scattered remains, though, that the scavengers found her carcass a welcome source of food. I found not a single scrap of hide or clump of hair near her bones.
The camera captures other moving creatures " sometimes you must look carefully to spot the squirrel or trotting coyote. So I am looking forward to putting the camera to work at the edge of the pond I call "Hank Lake" in the spring " to monitor the arrival of the ducks that nest at the pond, or maybe another sand hill crane who finds the pond an attractive nursery site.
Today's camera review reassured me that the deer are not at all put off by the commotion of the house building contractors, or our noisy fulltime presence here now. The lingering scent of our two dogs walking across their trail with us, always on leashes, does not seem to bother them.
The familiar deer, along with occasional strangers, continue to move on the trail behind our house, not only at 2 or 4 a.m., but even during daylight hours. The camera often catches them staring up toward the house, but seemingly with more curiosity than alarm. Two new fawns trail a doe, still with their baby spots. "Grow!" I want to tell them. "The harsh winter will be here all too soon!" And my hunter husband was happy to spot not one but two different eight-pointers traversing the trail just yards from our new home.
Technology has greatly changed hunting. Not only have improved scopes, scents, compound bows and high-tech camouflage apparel aided the hunters; now cameras like ours and those of much higher sophistication than ours spy on the deer. It seems like a miracle they can evade so many well-equipped hunters " but they are four-legged wizards of adaptation, and so far, deer continue to thrive.
It is a privilege for me to be able to peek into the secret lives of the beautiful deer who call our land part of their range. I love seeing the pictures the camera is capturing " and I enjoy these views, seated safely in front of the computer screen, much more than I do the heart-stopping glimpses I get of these same deer exploding from a ditch and dashing in front of my car.
They are graceful, adaptable and tough animals. I gratefully share our space with them with in both respect and admiration. That may translate to at least a tiny bit of forbearance when I try to start gardening next spring.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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