‘Candid Critters’ project enlists volunteers to photograph wildlife

North Carolina State Parks and their visitors have been invited to be part of a statewide citizen science project to photograph wild animals with trail cameras to compile data over several years about the animals’ movements and habits.

candid-creaturesThe Candid Critters project will enlist trained volunteers to borrow the cameras from public libraries and help place and maintain the cameras in state parks and other public lands. The motion-activated camera traps allow scientists (and citizen scientists) to collect photos of animals without disturbing them. The cameras can capture thousands of digital photos, which are then stored online to gauge how the state’s mammal populations change over time and interact with humans and other species. Citizen scientists who own or purchase cameras can also contribute with photos from private property. Details of the program can be found here.

Candid Critters was created by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The museum’s biodiversity lab has already worked with state parks operating wildlife cameras at Stone Mountain, South Mountains, Morrow Mountain and William B. Umstead state parks and Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve.

Some of the details of how volunteers and will set up and maintain the cameras in state parks are still being determined. That includes compiling a list of designated camera sites – where cameras can be located safely for visitors and to protect a park’s natural resources. Researchers hope to have a list of approved camera sites ready by March.

Arielle Parsons of the museum’s biodiversity lab said a goal is to have up to 30,000 sites established across the state over the next three years, making it the largest camera trap survey ever. “Before we can answer all these questions about mammals, we need to collect massive amounts of data,” Parsons said. “In this case, we’re using camera trap images from across all 100 counties in the state. We really need the public’s help to accomplish this. The more people that participate, the more we can learn about North Carolina’s critters.”

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