The Fisher Chronicles
Welcome to the Rhode Island Fisher Chronicles! This is a new feature I am trying out to share some photos from the field. If you follow my twitter account, @GanoeResearch, you'll see I post some of our camera trap photos there. There may be some cross-posting of photos, however, on this blog I will provide more of a narrative behind the photos, the species in them, and some tales from our live-trapping season.
So what is a camera trap? Is it the same as a trail camera? Yes, and no. Camera traps are typically created using trail cameras and bait and/or scent lures at the site. The scent lures usually serve a long-distance attractant to pull the animal to the site and increase the chance of it walking in front of the camera. The bait increases the chance of an animal returning (food reward) and helps to keep the animal in front of the camera for a longer amount of time which is crucial for successful DNA collection (e.g. from hair snares) or for individual identification (e.g. from coat patterns/unique markings).
Okay, so now I know what a camera trap is, what is going on with them in RI? We are using camera traps with a scented lure. As I write this, we are in the process of wrapping up our summer camera trapping season and have tons of amazing photos to share. For the next three years, we will be conducting two camera trapping seasons - summer and winter - across the state of Rhode Island. The survey consists of 250 sites with two cameras at each site, which means....a lot of photos of critters! We are specifically looking for one fantastic critter in particular: fisher.
Fisher are what we call mesocarnivores, or medium-bodied carnivores. They are in the family Mustelidae (commonly referred to as the mustelids), which includes weasels, otter, badger, skunks, wolverines, etc. If you look at the animal in the header photo on this page, that is a fisher! Okay, but why are we interested in fisher in Rhode Island? Well, we don't know much about their lives in our state. They naturally colonized RI as recently as the 1980's, and they rapidly expanded across much of the state. RI is the second most densely populated state in the U.S., which makes us super curious as to how our fisher are navigating such an urbanized landscape. Using camera trap photos and GPS collars, we will study where fisher are at in RI and how they are getting there.
I hope you are as excited about this project as I am, and I hope you continue to follow this blog. If anything, you'll get to break up your day with some neat wildlife photos and a story to go with them. Remember, fisher are friends, not fiends.
Until next time, dear reader.