Today’s digital motion-sensing trail cameras are a remarkable invention.  Just 10 years ago, I was a managing a camera trap survey of wildlife in the fragments of once-contiguous wildlife habitat that remained as new housing subdivisions developed around Seattle.  We used hand-modified 35mm point-and-shoot film cameras for still photos and hand-held mini-CD video recorders encased in a 5-pound water-tight housing for video.  We bolted devices to the tree and threaded wires through trees between trigger devices, infrared reflectors, and cameras (and the motorcycle batteries that powered them all!) and hoped some curious squirrel or territorial black bear didn’t cut the wires with their teeth.

Paul changing film in an old trail camera, circa 2003. A film roll maxed-out at 36 frames – and then we had to wait for the film to be developed!

Now, tiny digital cameras that cost a fraction of those old clunkers can shoot thousands of photos or hours of video.  A person can set one up, go do other things for a year or more, come back and have a record of everything that walked by that camera in that whole time.  It’s a remarkable piece of equipment and is a fraction of the cost.

An amorous 27M serenading a female puma? It’s tough to say exactly what’s going on here.


Umm, there’s no water anywhere near this camera…

Since the puma project started in 2008, we’ve taken hundreds of thousands of photos and countless hours of video using these cameras, and documented some interesting things. Leave a camera or two (or fifty) up in the woods long enough and you’re bound to see something surprising.

White-tipped tail + black legs = red fox

It turns out introduced red foxes are common in some parts of the Bay Area.  In our work, however, this is the first time we’ve encountered them.  California Department of Fish and Wildlife has an informative website about red foxes in California.