Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is one of the many methods used to monitor animal movements. We have used GPS loggers to track mesopredators, Blanding’s turtles, spotted turtles and box turtles. However, these loggers are often expensive, upwards of ~$2,000 and the number of animals we can track this way is typically limited. Recently, we partnered with Patrick Cain, an instructor at Georgia Gwinnett College, to construct GPS loggers at the zoo. These loggers lack the bells and whistles of their commercial counterparts, but at ~$50 per unit, we can deploy them on many more individuals. Currently, we are tracking 23 box turtles outfitted with GPS loggers and anticipate putting these loggers on all of our radio telemetry turtles.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, northwest Ohio was clear-cut to make way for the expansive agriculture industry, and many native species of plants and animals vanished. Since then, metro parks, wildlife preserves and state parks have been working together to restore native ecosystems and habitats. Several of these extirpated species may be moving back into their former habitat in the Toledo area, as they are throughout the U.S.
Wild Toledo has established an intricate web of trail camera traps in order to monitor animals that live in and move within the Green Ribbon Corridor, which ranges from Secor Metropark south to Maumee State Forest and through Oak Openings Preserve Metropark. This project helps determine the absence or presence of many animals, including bobcats, badgers, turkey, black bear, coyote, deer and mesopredators like raccoons, skunks and opossum. This Wild Toledo trail camera initiative is using cameras generously donated by Bass Pro Shops. The Nature Conservancy has also provided additional cameras for deployment on their properties.
Wild Toledo biologists set the cameras throughout the Green Corridor near game trails and in areas with high reported activity, then return to those cameras weeks later to retrieve a small SD card that holds the images. Biologists then catalog the images and sort them by species and location. With the information collected, we can learn the dynamics of the environment and the movement of wildlife.
Biologists travel in to the field to deploy cameras in areas of interest. Here biologist Justin Grubb sets a camera near a potential badger den. Trail cameras can be programmed to perform a variety of functions including photo, video and time-lapse and will collect information day and night.
Once set up, the trail camera can be left for an extended period of time. This is an advantage because it can monitor wildlife with minimal disturbance to natural behaviors and maximizes what biologists learn from the information. Trail cameras rely on motion sensors to trigger the picture taking process.
There is a surprising amount of wildlife that lives in the northwest Ohio region especially with the establishment of the Metroparks, state parks and the cooperation of private landowners to keep their properties naturalized. While collecting the camera images, biologists see a lot of interesting photos and plenty of wildlife. So far, Wild Toledo has observed 14 different species of mammals, 4 different species of reptile,several species of birds and even a few species of insects.
In the near future, Wild Toledo will have a program available online for citizen scientists to log on and assist Zoo biologists in cataloging images and identifying animals. With the collection of so many photographs, we need your help with going through them all and telling us what you observe. By participating, you’ll get a unique view of the wildlife in northwest Ohio that most people don’t get. More information will become available when the program is up and running, check back soon for more details.
On grounds wildlife monitoring
The Toledo Zoo has established multiple prairies on and around Zoo grounds. The benefit of these prairies are many and include providing valuable habitat for native wildlife. In the winter of 2014/2015, biologists placed trail cameras out in some of the prairies around the Zoo. Several interesting species were identified including this red fox (Vulpes vulpes), which was seen several times utilizing the prairie habitat. Without these prairies, wildlife like the red fox would not be able to survive in the region.
The technology used by Wild Toledo to observe wildlife is beneficial because it allows biologists to see wildlife display natural behavior without biasing them with human presence. The cameras are invaluable in allowing researchers to get an insight in to the lives of these animals.