Sky Island FotoFauna: How do Humans Influence Wildlife?

Caption: A Border Wildlife Study camera detects a rare sighting of SIA Program Director Emily Burns!

Has this happened to you? You sit down to see which wildlife species have shown up on your trail camera in recent weeks and suddenly realize that your very own house cat has made an unexpected cameo on your camera—or that a neighbor’s dog has been visiting your yard! Well, this exact scenario has happened to me, and it made me wonder how human and domestic animal activity influences which wildlife species show up on camera.

At Sky Island Alliance, we are interested in seeing which of the Sky Island wildlife species on the FotoFauna checklist are more likely to avoid people, cattle, cats, dogs, and other livestock.

The presence and people and domesticated animals could repel wildlife for a variety of reasons. Even our scent and the noise we make could scare animals because we are predators. Conversely, the presence of chickens could attract wildlife species. In addition, grazing livestock can change the vegetation structure of the habitat, making it more or less habitable for different species. Any of these potential influences on our trail cameras and their detections each month will vary based on the frequency that people and domesticated animals are present in the area.

We’ve added a few questions to the monthly Sky Island FotoFauna checklist to help us investigate which species are more sensitive to high levels of human activity. We don’t expect you to count the number times people, domestic cats and dogs, livestock (cattle, chickens, goats, sheep, horses, etc.), and vehicles appear on camera—we simply want you to reflect on the relative level of detections you’ve had over the calendar month.

  • Select “Never” if you did not detect any humans, domestic cats or dogs, livestock, or vehicles on your camera. Select “Never” even if there are sightings of yourself on camera (during camera maintenance), as we assume this will be similarly minimal for all cameras and have adjusted to include this assumption in our data.
  • Select “Few Days” if you saw people, domestic cat or dogs, livestock, or vehicles at least once or only periodically on your camera. (Few Days = less than half the days during the month.)
  • Select “Most Days” if you frequently detected people, domestic cats or dogs, livestock, or vehicles on your camera. (Most Days = more than half the days or daily during the month.)

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