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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

61 video cameras are recording the activities of the Florida Puma inside the FLORIDA PANTHER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE...........Over the past year 30,000 photos and videos have revealed that Pumas do use burned over areas to pursue deer, who seem to relish the emerging tender grasses that post fire conditions create.............

Camera provides insight into panthers

Project gives scientists an extra look at the endangered cats; Andrea Stetson
The Florida panther has long been on the endangered list, and careful monitoring helps study their habits.
A panther walks by a camera in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, setting off a motion trigger that takes a photo, but this time after the photo, video starts rolling showing two tiny cubs bounding after her.

A panther camera project in the refuge is giving scientists a lot more than some pretty snapshots of panthers. It is giving them information on panther families, panther habits and the habits and numbers of deer, which are a main source of a panther’s diet.

Using a $15,000 grant from the Naples Zoo and the refuge, 100 very hardy cameras were purchased. Now 61 of those cameras are secured to trees in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Larry Richardson, a biologist at the refuge and Dave Shindle of the Environmental Science Division of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, are overseeing the project.

After one year, the scientists have more than 30,000 photos and videos to study.
“This is an intensive effort to use cameras to document species diversity,” Richardson said.
The study will help officials make well informed management plans for the refuge.
For example, Richardson and Shindle studied the species before and after a controlled burn.
“We got a chance to get a look at deer, panther, bear, bobcat, and turkey and how they use that area,” Richardson said. “That will tell us about the effectiveness of our burning.”
A year after the burn, panthers, deer and many other creatures are still using burn areas.
“We all know if you want to attract deer, you burn, but before this we never had statistical data,” Shindle said.

The new technology also lets scientists see animals in action.
“So here in the video you see a female (panther) going out of view and then three kittens walk into view and you get more data,” Richardson said. “We get pictures of male panthers scraping. We see a whole new layer of behavior that we have not seen. The value of video; it just opened up a whole new world.”Scrapes are piles of dirt and grass scratched up with the panther’s hind legs and is a way of marking their territory.

There were also a few surprises.
“I thought gray fox had disappeared, and we got a picture of a gray fox,” Richardson said.
There are 30 collared cats on the refuge, but the camera shows the scientists that many more live on the 26,000 acres.The cameras photographed and videoed the panthers making a scent scratching, meeting up with each other and simply walking around. It showed doe and fawns and full antlered bucks.

“This tool lets us monitor panthers and their primary prey and document changes in those populations over time,” Shindle said. “There is no better indicator of panther than their prey. It is a barometer to prey population — to make certain things are going well and to get a heads up when things aren’t going so well.”

While camera studies have been done in the past, this is the first time video has been added.
“It allows us to discover some of the behaviors and observe things like scent markings and it increases the chance of seeing more panther cubs trailing their moms,” Shindle explained. “It allows us to get a better look at panthers to pick out individual characteristics.”

The refuge is vast, many of the creatures are nocturnal and most are elusive, so the cameras are a huge tool in seeing animal behavior and studying numbers. These cameras are like a biologist in a box,” Richardson said.

This study is setting up a template for future studies. For one year the cameras have been working round the clock every day. That is spewing out a plethora of photos and videos that Shindle has to analyze. About every two months Shindle replaces the battery and downloads the SD card on each camera and starts analyzing all the new information. He hopes to soon devise a plan to have the cameras operate only during certain times of the week, month or year.

“We will develop a template cookbook of how to carry it out and use it,” Shindle said.
The study has implications beyond the panther refuge. The information will be shared with other wildlife officials and can help in other management plans.“We’re going beyond trying to get a cool photograph,” Shindle said. “It’s getting the science in a non-invasive way to monitor panther and their prey.”

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