Love wildlife? B.C. wildlife foundation looking for hikers to help with animal cameras

Mule deer caught on camera by the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project.
Bear captured on camera by the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project, a common mule deer predator.
Four cougars, common deer predators, caught on camera by the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation is hoping outdoor enthusiasts can spend this summer helping maintain backcountry cameras so researchers can track specific animal behaviours.

The BCWF is looking for a few dozen people passionate about wildlife and the outdoors to check cameras, change out batteries and collect sim cards full of wildlife images for one day of the year.

Anyone with a backcountry road map, a GPS or smartphone and sensible shoes can play an important role in this scientific endeavour, according to camera site coordinator Grant Hiebert.

Since 2019, Southern Interior Mule Deer Project volunteers have been tending wildlife cameras across 30,000 square kilometres of the southern interior to better understand changes in the mule deer population including their health, movements, and predators.

“Our goal is to discover what is causing the continual decline of the mule deer population, but we are covering a vast area, from 100 Mile House in the north all the way to the U.S. border,” he said.

The Southern Interior Mule Deer Project, also know as SIMdeer, operates 150 cameras in 250 locations which have historically been moved with the seasonal migration of the deer.

“We hope to have cameras permanently installed at every research location later this year and that will require new citizen scientists,” they said in a news release.

Some people assist the project locally, while visiting relatives, or on fishing and hunting trips, BCWF told Black news Media. More than 2.5 million images have been collected to date. Data analysis will be supervised by University of Idaho PhD candidate Sam Foster.

“Our team will determine how factors like wildfires, logging, roads and people influence the distribution and activity patterns of mule deer as well as the strength of interactions between mule deer and the many other species that eat or compete with them,” said Foster.

Deer aren’t the only animals seen on the camera – wolves, bears and cougars are also frequently captured. Placing some cameras in bushes, or by road or quad trails, allows the project to find if predators are successfully using human-made pathways to access their prey, Hiebert said in a news release.

Giving one day a year can play an important role in a multi year international study of B.C.’s mule deer.

To volunteer for camera service, contact Grant at simdeercameras@gmail.com.

The next phase of the SIMdeer Project will involve examining millions of images to identify the animals captured on camera, along with the time and location to begin data analysis. This phase will also require volunteer citizen scientists.

To participate in image analysis, contact Sam at samuelfoster@uidaho.edu.

Wildlife