The diversity and abundance of mesocarnivores (marten, fishers, foxes, coyotes, lynx, etc.) is an indicator of the health of an ecosystem. The Friends of Elk Island Society (FEIS) is helping run a project examining mesocarnivore use of landscapes with different degrees of human impact in the Cooking Lake moraine, east of Edmonton. This project uses wildlife cameras and hair traps to capture images of wildlife and hair samples for analysis. Hair analysis will confirm species identification, and will also be used to determine gender, individual and relatedness for fishers, a focal species of the project. The Friends of Elk Island Society has provided two of the trail cameras using TD Friends of the Environment funding, and members of the Friends are maintaining a total of eight camera sites within Elk Island National Park.
At the time of writing six members of the FEIS board have received project specific training from the research team leaders and we are just beginning our second summer of monthly monitoring visits. More than a dozen society members have visited the sites as volunteers, helping us to maintain the cameras and collect samples.
Results are promising. All of the cameras have recorded fishers as well as other mammals, both small and large, including bear and lynx. The presence of fishers is significant as these mammals were reintroduced into the area relatively recently and are one of the few predators adapted to prey on porcupine. The bear images are also interesting as they seem to indicate that at least one animal is overwintering in the Park.
There are no longer any volunteer opportunities associated with this project. For other opportunities, please see our Meetup group on meetup.com.
Baiting the tree and fixing the hair trap.
Setting the camera.
This image, captured by one of our cameras shows a fisher climbing a tree to get the bait. The image clearly illustrates the size of the animal relative to the height of the bait (about seven feet) and the diameter of the tree (about eight inches).