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Cameras capture wildlife in first national mammal survey
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Cameras capture wildlife in first national mammal survey

Hidden cameras

Wildlife across the United States were photographed for two years to measure their populations. 

Called Snapshot USA, more than 150 scientists worked together to collect the information. They set up 1,509 cameras that automatically take photos when something moves in front of them, called camera traps. The cameras were set up for two months in the fall of 2019 and captured more than 166,000 images of 83 different mammals.

The information, collected from 110 different places in all 50 states, is the first large-scale attempt to measure mammal populations. Guess which animal showed up the most? If you said white-tailed deer, you would be right. Eastern gray squirrels and raccoons were not far behind. Coyotes showed up in all of the states, except Hawaii.

The least photographed animals were pygmy rabbits, mountain beavers, hog-nosed skunks and marsh rabbits.

Developed areas tended to have the highest overall mammal detections, with Urbana, Illinois; Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., photographing the most. A camera set up in Missoula captured more than 4,400 images, ranking 8th highest.

"These new data show that the urban mammal paradox, with more animals actually living close to people, is not just an isolated phenomenon," said study coauthor Roland Kays, a scientist at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

The research results appeared June 8 in “Ecology,” a publication of the Ecological Society of America. The information is available online for anyone to use for research, such as the evaluation of changes in animal populations over time.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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