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Opportunistic camera trap monitoring

A wolf walks through the snow in front of a camera trap.
Opportunistic camera trap monitoring of wolves, 2017. © KORA, DGE-BIODIV VD

The opportunistic monitoring uses camera traps at promising locations. without a systematic spatial distribution and without a pre-defined duration. For example, this can be as a reaction to chance observations reported by the public. Promising opportunities can be found at kills (wild or domestic animals), or along paths and forest roads which have been identified as promising e.g. based on tracks. For bears, known marking trees can also be used. The opportunistic camera trap monitoring can be used for all of KORA’s focus species. Usually, game wardens and private individuals help with servicing the camera traps and providing the important data. The opportunistic monitoring can generate information on reproduction, increases in the distribution range, or on the minimum number of individuals within an area. It is not possible to estimate the population size of a species exclusively from the opportunistic camera trap monitoring, but it allows for determining the minimum number of individuals. This monitoring can be performed all year round, but autumn and winter offer the best opportunities. During those seasons, chances of capturing animals on the camera are higher as they move around more with the upcoming mating season.

The opportunistic camera trap monitoring allows – with relatively small effort – collecting “hard facts” (SCALP category 1) on the species monitored by KORA, especially on their occurrence and reproduction, and in the case of lynx on the individual responsible for killing a domestic animal.

For lynx and wildcat, the opportunistic monitoring generates valuable information that complements the deterministic camera trap monitoring spatially and temporally, as it offers information outside the systematically covered areas and monitoring season. The opportunistic monitoring helps with identifying individuals and recording the number of reproducing females and their litter sizes. It also offers information on the dispersal behaviour, on the spatial ecology and on kinship.

For bears, the pictures and/or videos of females with juveniles that can be distinguished from natural or artificial markings can complement the data from genetics to determine the population size (incl. juveniles). In the case of wolves, additional data can be gained on the number of pups, the minimum size of the pack and the demarcation of neighbouring territories.

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