One of the things I need to do at the property where I’m doing my study is to understand what the local wild dogs are doing. Unlike my hyena study, I don’t have a year up my sleeve to habituate these dogs and follow them around the bush, seeing what they do with their time. So here comes technology. It’s my good fortune to be working in collaboration with Paul Meek of the Department of Primary Industries in Coffs Harbour. Not only is Paul a great guy but he’s also an expert on camera traps. In fact, Paul wrote the book on camera traps, literally wrote it, and his doctoral thesis is all about how wild dogs react to camera traps (they do react). So I went out to the field site with Paul and he applied his expertise to setting up seven cameras around the property. The thing that struck me most is how the cameras will photograph my movements as much as the dogs. This is because the dogs parallel human lines of travel, relying on 4WD tracks, roads and even passing through gates. In our case we set up four cameras on gates, two on trailside fence-posts and one on a tree on a forested ridge above the farm. Funny thing was, when I spoke later to farmer Stan, I asked him to indicate the paths that he’d seen the dogs using. He described how they came along the ridgeline and up into the forest, before dropping down into the paddock and heading west. Essentially he described a path that would take them past six of our seven cameras. I’m looking forward to seeing some pics of these dogs.
I went on camera safari next to Kruger national park last year and we went out every morning and night in a land rover over dirt tracks with the driver looking over the side for signs – tracks of animals – he could read the paw prints. “There are three lionesses up ahead” and around the corner there would be three lionesses. It struck me that the animals liked to walk on the dirt tracks and this make it possible to find them as they crossed the track or walked along the track. The signs decayed over a couple of days depending on the weather but the whole phenomena was an artifact of putting the tracks in for the vehicles.
Good luck with the dogs
Thanks for the good wishes. I suppose it makes sense to the animals to follow a nice wide, flat track rather hacking through the bush. And it’s nothing compared to coyotes in Portland taking the light rail. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2012/10/05/162300544/coyotes-in-the-city-could-urban-bears-be-next