UBC researchers are installing cameras in the provincial parks as part of its research on finding out the impact of climate change and recreational activities on wildlife.
Sometimes travelling with a team of packhorses, research scientist such as Robin Naidoo, who works with WWF-US, can install as many as five heavy cameras every day, fastening them to trees along game and recreation trails throughout the scenic park located northwest of Lillooet.
By the end of the trip, Naidoo had installed 29 cameras inside the park and 31 adjacent to it.
Using an infrared sensor that detects motion and heat, the cameras document the number of animals in the area, while providing an overview of local phenology.
More cameras will be set up in two other B.C. provincial parks this fall — Cathedral and Golden Ears — and will also be used to track snowmelt and plant phenology.
“There were lots of big hiking days with 30-plus kilometres, one four-day trip into the park in early June where it snowed every day, some difficult conditions at times and lots of grizzly bears,” said Naidoo, who is also an adjunct professor at UBC.
So far, more than 40 species ranging from grizzly bears, wolves and moose, to wolverines and plenty of deer, have been captured on camera in the South Chilcotin. Cole Burton, project lead and assistant UBC professor, would like to learn how larger mammals are responding to recreational activities as well.
“It can be quite challenging to study mammals because, despite their size, they are pretty elusive. The cameras are a treat because we get these fairly intimate shots of them and see their behaviour and reaction to the camera,” said Burton, noting the general public is excited about using camera traps for wildlife studies.
Some of Burton’s projects have had cameras running for three to four years, capturing the impact that severe or mild winters have on animals and their habitat. He has also used citizens’ groups to help identify species captured in photos and would like the public to service cameras that are being installed in provincial parks.
“Being able to bring people a bit closer to the wildlife in their parks without disturbing the wildlife could be really valuable in raising public support for park protection,” he added. “I am motivated by the way science can help management, but I think the public outreach part is very important as well.”