Wildlife Cameras

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My name is Brad Donaldson. I'm a backcountry ranger at the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. I spend much of my days hiking in the backcountry, and after a few seasons, I was struck by how little wildlife I was seeing during my hikes. I imagined that the visitors were seeing even less. visitors come away from the park always impressed by the landscape and geological formations, but also with the misconception that there might not be animals living in the park. That's just not the case, and I wanted to show park visitors that animals do thrive in this environment.

I came up with this idea of using wildlife cameras...motion and heat-sensitive cameras set up in biologically rich areas of the park...that could capture pictures of these infrequently seen mammals.

Here in the park we don't bait any of the cameras. We don't use any food or scents or scat to attract mammals. Instead, I place them in areas that are natural corridors where animals invariably walk on their own. In the summertime, when water is quite scarce, I'll find a pool of water that's temporary. As long as water is there, I'm almost guaranteed to find mammals.

With these wildlife cameras, I've captured infrequently seen mammals such as the grey fox, coyotes, bobcats and black bear.

One of the things I like about the camera is that there is no photographer behind the lens. There is no artist behind the lens. Yet you get these incredible results...you might find on a single image a spotted skunk interacting with a grey fox, or you might find a coyote carrying the leg of a deer back to its den.

Right now we're getting mostly images of grey fox, coyote and bobcats. If, ten years from now we don't get so many coyotes, or we don't get so many grey fox, then we need to do some research to understand why the numbers of those particular species are changing.

So I see this project first and foremost as a way to help visitors enjoy and appreciate the park. But at a different level, I see park managers also benefitting from the information collected in this project.

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3 minutes, 9 seconds

A brief interview with Brad Donaldson, the park ranger responsible for the wildlife camera program in Canyonlands.


This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation, the national charitable partner of America’s National Parks.

The pictures in the slideshow below were taken in Canyonlands National Park using heat sensitive and motion sensitive cameras. The goal of the project was to place two wildlife cameras in selected biologically rich areas, thus, in a non-intrusive manner, learn more about the mammals that live in the park.


Last updated: March 19, 2015

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