Cameras catch candid images of Canadian wilderness

An ongoing research project using motion-sensitive cameras to record the activities of wildlife and people in the forests southwest of Calgary is providing valuable insight into how animals are affected by human use of the popular backcountry areas along the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

The study by the Miistakis Institute for the Rockies has also resulted in thousands of stunning photographs of grizzly bears, cougars, elk and other creatures in their natural habitat, some of which are featured in a special gallery exhibition on display in the Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS) Gallery at the University of Calgary.

“Presence-absence: an exhibition of Livingstone Study images” explores the relationship between people, wildlife and landscapes in 1000-square-kilometres of provincial forest reserve at the headwaters of the Oldman River. The exhibition features a variety of color and black-and-white images captured during the last three years, along with facts and preliminary findings from the study.

“We thought a gallery display would be valuable because these images are unique from a photographic point of view and they also help to explain the research we are doing,” says researcher Michael Quinn. “They really show people what’s going on in their backyard.”

The Livingstone Study was initiated in 2003 as a multi-year research project to examine the impact of human recreation use on wildlife along the Livingstone Range of southwestern Alberta. Researchers use remote cameras mounted on trees to automatically take pictures of any person or animal using the trail; this innovative new technology allows researchers to collect valuable data without disturbing the wildlife or recreationists.

Results to date have shown that human use of the area peaks on weekends and that large carnivores tend to use roads and walking trails frequently during weekdays when human use is low. Findings from the study will be forwarded to the provincial government and user groups to help guide management strategies for the area that is of high value for wildlife habitat, resource extraction and recreation.

“Presence-absence: an exhibition of Livingstone Study images” runs April 2-14 in the EVDS Gallery (Professional Faculties Building, Room 2145). Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

The official opening of the exhibition will take place at a wine and cheese reception from 5 to 7 pm on Thursday, April 5. A preview of the show for media and interview opportunities with researchers will take place in the gallery from 10 am to 11 am on April 5. Images from the exhibition are available for media use.

Livingstone Study facts:

Study area: 1000 km2
Hours of camera operation: 300,000
Number of unique wildlife pictures/events taken (2004-2006): 4,456
Number of unique human pictures/event taken (2004-2006): 8,000

Findings to date:

– Motorized use represents over 87% of the human use recorded on recreation trails, with all terrain vehicles (ATVs) or quads representing 42% of the overall use.
– Human recreation use peaks on weekends – Saturdays and Sundays.
– Large carnivores often use roads and human trails when human use levels are low.
– Grizzly bear use was largely concentrated in the higher elevation portions of the study area. However, there are some areas of significant use in lower elevation habitats.
– Motorized use peaks between 11:00 and 18:00, while large mammal use of human recreation trails peaks between 05:00 and 12:00, and again between 20:00 and 01:00.
– Animal use the roads and trails more frequently during the weekdays when there are fewer people in the area

Contacts: Exhibit – Rachelle Haddock 220-8968, Email: [email protected]
Research – Dr. Michael Quinn 220-7013, Email: [email protected]

Miistakis Institute for the Rockies website:

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1 thought on “Cameras catch candid images of Canadian wilderness”

  1. It seems completely self-evident that these results confirm:
    1) There are more camera triggering exposures of humans using ATVs than on foot, or of animals, or of animals and humans not on ATVs put together. Simply put, ATVs enable users to cover much more ground, thus gathering more exposures.
    2) Large carnivores are more active on the trails and roads when there are not humans around. Seems they don’t want to get run over by those noisy, smelly, fast moving things either.
    3) The biggest “overlap” of human/large mammal use is when the humans first enter the wilderness areas in numbers during the morning.
    4) There is a definite correlation between human use and lessened animal activity.
    While it is certainly useful to have actual numbers to affirm observations that have been common to all who use/live on this “blue marble”, why is it newsworthy? I ask: Did someone get paid for these pithy observations? Can any of the rest of the planets population get grants or employment for studies of how such amazingly obvious phenomenon have yet to be recorded so that academia can understand what anyone watching squirrels in their backyards already knows?

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