San Dieguito River Valley ConservancySan Dieguito
River Valley Conservancy

Detecting carnivores


Scientists use unique tools such as cameras traps to detect and study these animals without having to be near them. You can see an example of this camera trap attached to a post on the left and some examples of the photos it takes on the right. Everything from a mountain lion to a coyote, a fox and another bobcat. It’s almost as if the camera traps allows scientists to take selfies of these carnivores to get to know more about them.

The cameras observe interesting behavior like this bobcat laying down in a meadow. What do you observe in this photo? Is the bobcat taking a nap? Is it getting ready to pose for the camera? What can these photos tell us about these animals?

Here is another example of a different bobcat? Is this one doing yoga? No, probably not, it looks like she’s going after something like a mouse that she sees or hears in the grass. Camera traps are a great tool for scientists to understand carnivore behavior in certain areas, but because they are only put in a certain place – we need additional tools to gather more information.

Beyond camera traps, scientists use other tools to understand more about carnivore behavior and where they are going. Can you use your observation skills to identify another tool in this photo that we use to study these animals….If you noticed the black tracking collar on this bobcats neck – great observation!

Tracking collars, not much bigger than the collar you might put on your dog, are used to track animal movements across a landscape. A collar has a small GPS chip in it just like a cell phone and it tells scientists where the animal is. The more advance tracking collars can sometimes give us information about the animals themselves. Scientists can use the antenna to track the animals movements over time and learn about the animals behavior. At this point, you might be wondering a very important question – how do scientists get the bobcat to wear the collar?

In order to put these important devices on the animals – First, scientists have to capture them. Don’t worry, the scientists are specially trained and carefully plan their work so that the animals are safe throughout the process.