Saturday, January 21, 2012

Camera trappin' blues...

...who's with me?

I keep seeing posts of "The Slump" people have been experiencing with their camera traps, and not just local to me! The professor who got me into both camera trapping and blogging has blogged about his inactivity with the critters: JVN's Backyard Beasts, he's the closest to me that's mentioned his lack of activity. But, all across the country people seem to be coming up with nothing. Why is this? Are animals sticking close to home? Not as willing or able to wander? In the Finger Lakes region of NY, as of last Monday (January 16th), it was 50 degrees F here! At the moment we have snow, but I don't think we've had more than 6-8" of snow at any given moment. So, the snow shouldn't be holding them back. It has been unseasonably warm, food is easier to get at...I don't get it.

I've had 4 cameras set at Finger Lakes Community College's East Hill Campus in Naples, NY:

Aren't our Finger Lakes beautiful??? Naples is the 'A' at the south end of Canandaigua Lake.

Of the four cameras I had set, I had one Moultrie Game Spy D-50, one Cuddeback Capture, and two Cuddeback Attack IRs. I've had this configuration of cameras set since probably November and had pretty good luck of frequency of pictures and variety of critters. The last time I checked the cameras was New Year's Eve, so it's been three solid weeks. I was excited to see what I know, it's like Christmas morning when you walk up to your camera, open it, press that button that tells you how many images/videos have been taken...and then nothing happens because two of your cameras have been battery dead probably since you set them last. Whew...long sentence! I'm not really doing anything except playing with the cameras, and three of them belong to my college, so my instruction was to pull them all in once the batteries died. Last time I must not have noticed the batteries were dying, or tried to suck a bit more juice out of them. So no pictures for my two most active cameras- bummer.

Then I checked the other two, and I thought I hit the jackpot. Between the two SD cards I have close to 1,400 pictures and videos. I popped them in my laptop AND...............deer. Well, I did get one of some gray squirrels and a blurry red fox, but other than that: tons of deer. Big deer, little deer, nice deer, mean deer, boy deer, girl deer. Deer. Don't get me wrong, I love wildlife, pretty much all of them, but I'm sick of white-tailed deer! They are camera hogs! I'm dying for a gray fox, bobcat, otter, bear, owl...anything really other than deer! I'll share some of the better pictures and video though, because there are some keepers...

Three fuzzy deer butts and another on the way...I love the daytime shots in the snow!

I'm waging a guess that this is a Mommy Deer and Baby Deer. The one in the front has a shorter muzzle, which is a good indicator of younger age.

Look how fuzzy! They are furred out for winter. I know deer are not "fur-bearers" but don't they look warm?

These next two are interesting. I zoomed in and cropped so that we could get a better look at what's going on. These were taken on 1/3/2012 at 8:12 and 8:13pm. I was flying through pics looking for the deer doing "something cool" and I got this. I think this deer is doing something with it's tarsal glands.

Here's a better picture of the tarsal gland "trapped" by Blogger's very own Camera Trap Codger:

That dark patch is the tarsal gland. Also, I believe this deer is a mule or black-tailed deer, which is a different species than what I'm talking about, but several Cervids seem to do this behavior.

Apparently the tarsal gland is a noxious zone that emits sweat and sebum, and then the deer hunch over awkwardly to urinate on these patches to "activate" them. This is a chemical communication between deer to alert eachother of I'm assuming: sexual status (sex and maturity), age, and physical condition. I googled "deer tarsal glands" and this is what I got...

BUT males AND females do this?

A VERY informative blog entry entitled Black Tails Tarsal Organ by the Camera Trap Codger which explained to me the process of "activation".

And also, 3 Things All Hunters Should Know About White-tail Tarsal Glands. Here's a brief excerpt from the FieldJournals Blog:

1. The tarsal gland is one of the most widely used glands by whitetails for communicating. But the tarsal gland isn’t only on buck’s – its on all sexes and ages of deer – a common myth misunderstood by many hunters. The tarsal gland is on the inside of a deers back legs. Its easily identified by a patch of longer hairs on the back legs with the glands located underneath.

2. The glands secrete a fatty substance that clings to the long hairs that are around the gland. If anyone has ever messed with a tarsal gland you know how pungent these glands are. Few hunters understand that the scent comes from the combination of the gland and the deer urinating on these glands – not just the gland itself. That’s why its important to check and see what is the fluid mixed with a tarsal gland from an outdoor company if using one as an attractant.

3. According to a University of Georgia research study, the process by which deer urinate on their tarsal glands is called rub-urination, this was more frequently occurring at night. Its also a way deer can distinguish individual deer bucks will do this more frequently during the rut when testosterone levels are higher. They will also tend to do this in and around scrapes and rubs.

Cool! Aren't animals amazing?

I'll end my posting with two videos of deer doing deer thing...


  1. It's funny that the "dry spell" on camera trapping is so widespread. My hypothesis is that our animals are using human trails and roads because they're packed down... and camera trappers tend not to put cams on these routes because they might be stolen.

    But, you got some nice deer picts and videos. The tarsal glands are fascinating.

    Have you been watching the den cams from Ely, MN? A female named Jewel is showing signs that she's close to giving birth, and they have a cam in her den that's live on the web.

    1. KB- YES! I am 'friends' with on Facebook and I see Sue Mansfield's posts. And a friend also just sent me a link to Jewel. I have been watching with bated breath. I'm hoping in the next couple of weeks or so to get out in the field with NY's biologists to check on our own sleeping mamas and babies!


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