In January 2018, Vassar College Biology Professor Lynn Christenson and Stephen Kovari ‘19 installed 26 motion activated cameras in the Hubbard Brook Valley as part of the Hubbard Brook Long-Term Ecological Research Site’s goal of better understanding how wildlife, especially moose and deer, use the landscape.
The cameras are set up along roads and trails and regularly detect black bear, moose, white-tailed deer, mink, coyote, red fox, bobcat, fisher, and busy researchers. As of late May 2018, they had collected over 35,000 images. Moose were detected 39 times during this approximately 5 month period, while white-tailed deer were only detected twice. This was the time of year when snow depth would be at its deepest, limiting the movement of deer, but more deer are likely to appear as spring and summer progress.
Changes in winter snowpack due to climate change are expected to shift how deer use the landscape, with less deep snow allowing them greater access to the higher elevation forests. This increased access can have far reaching consequences, including the spread of parasites lethal to moose such as brainworm, P. tennuis, and changes in the kinds of plant species that get browsed (moose are much pickier than deer).
Because of each species’ distinct dietary preferences, moose and deer can have different effects on nutrient cycling dynamics and ecosystem processes. The goal with this project is to establish a long-term ecological monitoring dataset of wildlife presence and distribution, while also gaining a better understanding of how different landscape level variables may drive the spatial distribution of these wildlife species. Take a look at some of the images captured so far.
Moose in the Hubbard Brook Valley:
Other wildlife in the Hubbard Brook Valley: