Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Camera traps track Artic predators, and more

Over at the Science Time's Green Blog, conservation biologist Joe Liebezeit shares his work with the Wildlife Conservation Society. In Arctic Alaska, oil drilling platforms and the roads and pipelines connecting them often increase the presence of opportunistic predators, like Arctic foxes and ravens. These animals are attracted to the areas by roadkill and human food waste, and using nooks and crannies under buildings as homes. 

As adorable as baby Arctic foxes are, it's important to track the increase of such predators, as Alaskan wetlands provide breeding and nesting grounds for many different species of birds. In addition to habitat loss, overwhelmingly high numbers of predators near these oil sites can mean bad news for ground-nesting bird species.

Camera traps are a fantastic aid in tracking predation patterns, and provide some amazing shots (both of species of interest and those less connected to human activity, like snowy owls, and non-predators, such as caribou). So far, the Arctic fox appears to be the most common generalist predator near oilfields, and at another site, Arctic ground squirrels have proved to consume more eggs and chicks than predicted by their primarily vegetarian diet. Check out some camera trap highlights:

Young Arctic foxes at Kuparuk oilfield

Red fox challenging geese


A snowy owl eats a sandpiper egg

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