PS 4-52 - Using motion sensor cameras to examine wildlife use of water bodies in the northern Chihuahuan Desert

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Julia S. Alva, Biology (Ecology/Evolution), UTEP, El Paso, TX

Indio Mountains Research Station (IMRS), in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, contains only one natural, permanent spring but many man-made ephemerally-full tanks, both of which are presumably important for the survival of many species residing in that area.  The goal of this study was to examine the utility of utilizing motion sensor cameras to monitor wildlife use of these water bodies, and to determine species-specific preferences for individual water bodies, temporal activity patterns and the reasons for these preferences. We installed motion sensor cameras, weather stations and water level loggers at four different water bodies throughout IMRS, in the northern Chihuahuan Desert.


Preliminary results indicate that the dominant mammal visiting these water bodies is Peccary (Pecari tajacu), which tend to visit the tanks at dawn and dusk.  Squaw Spring, the only permanent water body in the area, had the most diversity of mammals, including mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), bobcats (Lynx rufus) and grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). When ephemeral water bodies dried, the frequency of mammal visits declined to zero. In addition to analyzing the frequency of animal visits to the ponds, we will complete a computer imaging analysis of the vegetation surrounding the water bodies, as captured with the cameras, to determine the greening of the vegetation through time and how this relates to animal use.  Research on mammal activity in the desert is challenging due to the low density of animals and extreme environmental conditions. This study has illustrated the utility of motion sensor cameras to aid in this research, and has shown that both natural and man-made tanks are important for the survival of many species that reside in this area. 

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