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TOGIAK: Remote CamerasHelp Biologists Better Monitor the Imperiled Pacific Walrus
Alaska Region, November 30, 2010
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Example photo of walrus haulout event from time-lapse camera stationed over South Firebaugh beach at Cape Peirce on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.
Example photo of walrus haulout event from time-lapse camera stationed over South Firebaugh beach at Cape Peirce on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Remote camera station deployed in a security enclosure attached to a steel post.  This camera was stationed to record walrus haulout events on North Firebaugh Cove, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.
Remote camera station deployed in a security enclosure attached to a steel post. This camera was stationed to record walrus haulout events on North Firebaugh Cove, Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: n/a

by Stacey Lowe, Wildlife Biologist

 

For more than 20 years, biologists have monitored the refuge‚Äôs Pacific walrus population through ground surveys and aerial photos at various haul-out sites. However, given the infrequency of these counts, it is likely haul-out events and peak numbers of walrus are missed. A walrus haul-out is a beach where groups of walruses periodically haul-out to rest.  

Taking advantage of recent advances in remote camera technology, biologists implemented a more intense monitoring program. Programmable still cameras were used to monitor numbers and timing of Pacific walrus at four land haul-out sites on Cape Peirce during the fall last year. 

Four cameras (Reconyx PC85, 3.1 megapixel resolution) were installed on the cliff edges overlooking the haul-out beaches.  The cameras were set on a programmable time lapse schedule at 60 minute increments during daylight hours.  The recorded photos were retrieved from the cameras in early winter and photos containing walruses were counted in a GIS program to determine when the haul-out events occurred, how many walrus were present during each haul-out event and the duration of each event.   

Overall the remote cameras were successful and recorded a total of 5,392 photos and 22 haul-out events from August until early November 2010.  The number of walrus present during the haul-outs ranged from 1 to 989, and the longest haulout event recorded lasted 16 days.

Photo counts were compared to visual counts conducted simultaneously from the ground and yielded walrus counts on average 15% lower than those conducted by observers. By changing the locations of some of the cameras, the count accuracy is expected to increase and provide a feasible addition to current monitoring strategies for Pacific walrus on Togiak Refuge.  This monitoring effort will also be expanded in the future to include additional haul-out sites on Togiak Refuge.


Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov



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