Capturing Wildlife Migration Patterns Using Remote Photography

October 15, 2013 • Filed under: News — melanie.rohr

A picture may be worth a thousand…observations in the field. Join us at this week’s eye-opening seminar as WERC researcher Ken Tape discusses the use of remote digital cameras to capture migration cycles of caribou and ptarmigan.

Friday Seminar Series

  • What: Capturing migration phenology of terrestrial wildlife using camera traps
  • Who: Ken Tape
  • When: 3:30-4:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18
  • Where: Duckering 531

Remote photography, or ‘camera traps,’ can be an effective and noninvasive tool for capturing migration phenology of terrestrial wildlife. We deployed 14 digital cameras along a 105 km longitudinal transect to record the spring migrations of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and ptarmigan (Lagopus spp.) in the Alaskan Arctic. The cameras recorded images at 15-minute intervals, producing approximately 40,000 images, including 6,685 caribou observations and 5,329 ptarmigan observations. The northward caribou migration was evident as the median caribou observation (i.e., herd median) occurred later with increasing latitude; average caribou migration speed also increased with latitude (R2 = 0.91). Except at the northernmost latitude, a northward ptarmigan migration was similarly evident (r2 = 0.93). Future applications of this method could examine the conditions proximate to animal movement, such as habitat or snow cover, that may influence migration phenology.