Wintergreen Helping Smithsonian with Mammal Behavior Study - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Wintergreen Helping Smithsonian with Mammal Behavior Study

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Bird watchers are common but now skunk and other animals are also under surveillance.  High-tech cameras strapped to trees at Wintergreen are taking photos night and day of anything that moves.

The Smithsonian wants to know when and where mammals move and how humans affect their behavior, so citizen volunteers are working with scientists at Wintergreen to help find out - one snapshot at a time.

Bobcats, squirrels, turkeys and other animals are being tracked - not by hunters - but by high-tech cameras at the Nature Foundation at Wintergreen.

"With the new technology we have the ability to track and record wildlife and get this database in a way we've never been able to do before," said Doug Coleman, Wintergreen Nature Foundation executive director.

Wintergreen is one part of the nationwide project sponsored by the Smithsonian to learn as much as possible about animals everywhere and to assess extinction and disease.

"We have to understand the behavior of not only animals, the plants as well," said Coleman.

Workers and volunteers scoured 11,000 acres to put 24 cameras in the trees.

"At every site there's three cameras. One is placed on a trail. The second camera's 50 meters into the woods in a direct line and the third camera is 200 meters," said Tom Marker, Wintergreen resident and volunteer. 

They've watched cougars and coyotes walk the trails, squirrels fly through the trees and turkeys and deer walk in the woods.

"The bears  like to mess with the cameras so they're very inquisitive, they come up and we've had them actually grab hold to the camera, which is attached to the tree," said Marker.    

Marker says he is fascinated by the project and feels lucky to be involved. Coleman says citizen involvement is critical if we all hope to get along in the ecosystem.

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