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My parents instilled in me a deep respect for the natural world, from catching tadpoles and salamanders with my Mom in the pond behind our house to learning tree and wildflower ID on walks in the woods with my Dad in western Maryland. I first got interested in wildlife cameras back in 2007 when the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), where I worked, to conduct a 3-year wildlife research study on the AT Corridor lands from Virginia to Pennsylvania to study the effect of human activity on wildlife.
My interest deepened after moving to Massachusetts to pursue my career in land conservation. Since 2013, I've been deploying wildlife cameras in the woodlands and wetlands of the Berkshires and north central MA. Within the first week of setting up a loaner Reconyx trail cam, I captured photos of bobcat, beaver and a great blue heron and I was hooked! The thrill of scrolling through an SD card feels like Christmas morning when you’ve set up on a good spot, but there are also days where all you get are squirrels, chipmunks and/or blowing vegetation. Some might say I’m addicted, especially if I told you how many wildlife cameras I own (I lost count years ago), but for me, it’s a deep passion to document wildlife in its natural habitat with camera traps and share my captures with others, reminding us all that we are part of Nature.
A friend recently referred to me as a photographer, but I see myself more as student of the natural world using remote cameras to document the hidden lives & behaviors of our wildlife neighbors in their environment where we are only guests. Often this involves maintaining cameras in the same location through all seasons, sometimes for years.
Without the photos and videos I’ve captured over the years with my cameras set up along the edges of wetlands, I never would have known that barred owls and hawks often hunt in the shallow vernal pools for frogs and salamanders in early spring; that black bears use them to cool off in summer, and that bobcats are attracted to their frozen expanses during their winter mating seasons.
Perseverance and luck are certainly part of the equation to be successful with wildlife cameras, but it also involves knowing the behaviors of your target species, the habitats they prefer, and the food and water sources they need to survive. I also attribute my success to a focused patience which allows me to see the natural world from the perspective of the bobcat, black bear, moose and beaver and experience the landscape through their senses. Sue Morse, founder of Keeping Track (and one of my wildlife mentors) has many mantras including “Half of tracking is knowing where to look...The other half is looking" which most certainly applies when scouting locations to set up my wildlife cameras.
I'm always happy to help my non-profit, land conservation colleagues here in Massachusetts with wildlife camera coaching. I also do private on site trail cam consulting throughout New England. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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