Remote Camera Research

Trap cameras enable scientists to take pictures of elusive, rarely seen animals in the wild, without being there to press the button.  The cameras are placed in the animal's natural habitat and are automatically triggered to take a picture when an animal passes by.  These cameras are also know as passive infrared cameras. The camera is linked to a detector that is constantly scanning the surroundings for sources of infrared wavelengths.  Warm-bodied animals give off infrared as the heat from the animal's body radiates out into the environment.  Passive infrared cameras are rigged to take a picture whenever a moving source of heat is detected within the scanned area. Essentially, the cameras function as eyes in the forest so that scientist can be away from that area but still know what species or which identified bear is in the area.

The photographs taken by trap cameras are collected monthly and enable scientists to identify individual spectacled bears by analyzing the white facial marking around their eyes. Once a bear is identified the data is entered into an on going table which is used to calculate how many spectacled bears are found in the area. This is done through a statistical method known as "capture-recapture." Scientists note how many individual spectacled bears the camera takes a picture of (or "captures") during a certain period of time--for example, 4 months.  Then they monitor how many of the same bears the camera takes a picture of ("recaptures") during the following month.  Computer programs use statistical modeling to convert these pieces of information into an estimate of the total number of spectacled bears in the area.

SBC began a remote camera trap study in 2008 with funding from the International Association of Bear research and Management and his continued this study with continued support from The Zoological Society of San Diego. Remote water holes were discovered and 2-3 cameras were deployed at each site. To date over 35 individuals bears and cubs have been identified using these cameras and a population estimate is currently under way.

Click on images below to initiate a slide show.


Research. Education. Community Outreach.