Wildlife cameras produce exciting findings

The remote camera that Land Trust of Napa County volunteers Paula Peterson and Penny Proteau visit every few months in California suggests at least one conclusion: an abundance of curious bears.

By Jorgen Gulliksen July 7, 2020

"The first time we went to the location, it looked like a bear pulled the camera from the stake, put a tooth through the lens and tossed it down the trail," said Proteau.

"Fixing the camera to a stake didn't work. Putting it in a steel box didn't work," said Peterson. "It wasn't until we strapped the steel box to a tree with steel cable that the bears finally met their match."

The accredited Land Trust of Napa County has been using an array of motion-activated cameras deployed across nearly 5,000 acres to gain a better understanding of wildlife on land trust properties and Napa County wildlands.

"In addition to showing healthy levels of overall mammal diversity, our first two years of data indicates that we have a particularly high abundance of black bear," said Land Trust Stewardship Program Manager Mike Palladini.

A dedicated group of land trust volunteers help maintain the cameras — including those that bears have pawed, bitten and even knocked over — and catalogue the images. The land trust then analyzes the data from those images using a standardized scientific protocol referred to as the Wildlife Picture Index.

Now in its third year, the WPI project has begun to paint a detailed picture of mammal richness and abundance. The project is also yielding data that can be used in conjunction with other WPI projects in the North Bay to monitor wildlife species at a regional scale.

"We hope to build on the current project to gain a better understanding of how species like the black bear — which has a large home range — are utilizing habitat linkages to move between existing protected natural areas," said Palladini. "We know we have high bear abundance, but we'd really like to know how bears move across the landscape, particularly how they are using remaining wildland corridors."

Learn more at the Land Trust of Napa County and read an article about critter cams in Saving Land.