Monday, November 29, 2010

Coyotes on Motion-activated Camera

Posted by Kirk
We've known there are coyotes on site at work for years now. We find their tracks in the snow, we hear them at night and we find their scat on the trails year-round. I've never been successful in catching any on camera though. That all changed in the past week. My co-worker Paul took a game trail camera down to the lake to see what might show up. We got a blurry cottontail rabbit, a deer and ... our first coyote captured in a photo.

This was at 10:30 at night on November 20th. With this success under our belt we tried other cameras in new locations. We have a dead deer in our prairie. We put one out there every year for the animals to eat. When schools come they can see all the tracks of the animals that eat the deer. There are an impressive number of visitors. We see tracks from raccoons, opossum, mice, crows and coyotes. I've even personally seen a bald eagle eating the carcass. We've never actually seen a coyote at the deer. We put fresh batteries into the camera and set it up near the deer. Here's what we captured.

On the 24th, the first coyote showed up at 11:33 pm. The next night, a little earlier in the evening, a coyote cautiously approached the deer. The camera is set to wait five minutes between taking photos and we didn't get multiple photos of the same coyote in one evening so that tells me they don't stay long. The way this coyote is cautiously approaching the carcass (photo below) tells me this might not be the same animal as seen the night before. I would think an animal that had already been feeding here would be less wary.

The next morning, a coyote came to the deer in broad daylight. At 9:30 am, this coyote was caught by the camera. It looks more interested in the trail than the carcass. I'm thinking it might smell the other coyotes.

The batteries died at this point. The cold Minnesota winter is brutal on the batteries. The camera's take 6 D-cells but it still burns through them fast in the cold. When we get some fresh batteries we'll put the camera back out. I'm thinking it might be interesting to set it to a shorter lag time between photos. Also, we can set the camera to Video mode which could be really cool. I don't think it will work at night though as clearly the flash helped us get three of the four photos above. The deer has fresh eagle tracks around it so I'm hoping we can catch an eagle on "film" as well.