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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Wildlife Selfies

Bighorn sheepBighorn sheep, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona. Photo by USFWS

In our lives, they’re everywhere: goofy close-ups, noses pressed to glass, against a scenic backdrop. Now selfies are proliferating on national wildlife refuges, too.

Animals trigger these candid snaps when they approach remote-action trail cameras. The resulting shots not only entertain; they also inform refuge science and help drive management actions.

photo essay from the National Wildlife Refuge System takes a look at some wondrous refuge trailcam shots.

“Biologists often depend on those photographs to help them understand what is happening on the ground,” says Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s assistant director for science applications. “Trail camera images help them make better decisions about wildlife and habitat management because they provide a definitive snapshot record of the species that are out there ...” 

Refuge trailcams help demystify the behavior and movements of rare and secretive animals that refuges are trying to protect, such as endangered ocelots and threatened Canada lynx.

OcelotOcelot, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. Photo by USFWS

“Often, we can better understand [ocelots’] reproductive status based on photos of visibly pregnant females or females with a kitten or two in tow,” says wildlife biologist Hilary Swarts at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in south Texas.

At some refuges, trailcam shots help managers monitor the size of deer populations. Data helps biologists assess fawn survival and determine when action is needed to cull growing herds.    

At Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific, trailcams revealed why protected Laysan albatross were bearing head wounds; the discovery led to a plan to deal with non-native rodents. At Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, a trailcam showed why pipes were breaking in an old supplemental drinker. Black bears were bathing in the drinker. A redesign solved the problem: http://bit.ly/2kjyhhd.

Refuge trailcams also capture scenes of high drama and serene beauty.  

Susan Morse, National Wildlife Refuge System communications

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