What takes place in Scenic Hudson parks once the sun goes down and people go home? A series of motion-activated cameras in the forest at Shaupeneak Ridge and Black Creek Preserve give us a peek into the nocturnal activities of the park’s resident wildlife.
The cameras have been placed strategically to aid work by members of Scenic Hudson’s Science, Climate and Stewardship Team. At Shaupeneak Ridge, they help team members study “connectivity” — how animals pass from one patch of habitat to another — by gauging when (and if) forest-dependent animals move across intervening meadow habitats, roads and developed areas. They also support research into which forest wildlife use the preserve’s seasonal waterbodies, known as vernal pools.
At Black Creek Preserve, the cameras help locate any weak points in a deer exclosure, an area fenced in to support the growth of plants harmed by the animals’ over-browsing.
Still, team members admit part of the thrill of the cameras is discovering what’s “on the roll of film,” so to speak. Since their installation in early 2020, the cameras have taken thousands of infrared, no-flash photographs. Squirrels, turkeys and raccoons figure prominently, though strangely no chipmunks (which may be too small to detect). A fisher and an owl are two of the more exciting animals to be captured. But by far, the most picturesque image is one of a coyote in an early morning light that looks like an artist’s rendering from a bygone era.
What animals would the stewardship team like to find? “I’d really like to see a bear, or a bobcat that’s more than a blur,” says Land Stewardship Coordinator Dan Smith, who maintains the cameras. In time, the team hopes to install more cameras in more of our parks, both for research and to increase the likelihood of exciting new discoveries.