Our wildlife enthusiast Ben Shrader saw few animals on the cameras this trip up Tinker Mountain. Here are his thoughts:
I have now maintained trail cameras in Tinker Mountain for 5 years. My offer still stands to share the data with an environmental science or wildlife student that needs a project. I have observed several changes in patterns of wildlife there but this series represents the least number of photos and the least number of species of any I can recall. This period had no bear, bobcat, nor coyote photo. I am at a lose to adequately explain the dramatic drop but it underscores the complexity of wildlife balances and or mini migrations in the area. I have attempted to brainstorm possible reasons as follows:
Fewer cameras, I brought in a malfunctioning camera again today, that makes 3 in the junk heap. Maintaining the fragile China made electronic technology in the outdoor exposure is challenging. I am considering abandoning the Cudebacks for a more reliable brand but it is costly going from about a $300 camera to $700.
Being post hunting and trapping season, wildlife may be licking wounds and laying low in fear. We are now several years into much more liberal seasons for deer hunting. Deer populations had gotten so high that action was necessary to control so fewer deer could be a very good thing indicating some success of deer management policies.
Bears had also become a nuisance to local agriculture to the extent that justified kill permits and liberalized hunting. Although Carvin’s cove is closed to hunting, the hunting policies of the private lands also impact all bears in the whole area.
Wildlife food supplies, the top of Tinker Mountain being all forested area produces less wildlife food than the lush cultivated farmland and is especially impacted this year in which there was little or spotty mast crops in the mountain areas. Maybe the deer and bears have just moved to where the find food more plentiful. I hope it is not your trash can or vegetable garden.
Decades of overpopulation of deer have almost eliminated some plant food sources. This may be a deficiency that will take years to partially recover even if deer numbers could be held down. Deer, a natural prey species, were dramatically restored into our landscape without restoration of their natural predators, mountain lions and wolves. Maybe focusing on these small trends blinds us to the more gradual trends that take centuries to re-adjust to a natural balance.
One seasonal food deficiency has a domino effect on other species. For example bobcats and coyotes feed on deer and bears eat both some deer and depend on some of the same foods as deer. When deer move out to the farmlands the coyotes and bobcats follow but in some way most other species are also affected in some way.