Cameras capture 60 wildlife in the eastern trail gap
Wildlife abounds in the 1.6 mile gap between the Eastern Trail in Scarborough and where the trail resumes in South Portland, and for the past four years the animals have been filmed.
The GapTracks project, led by University of New England Professor Noah Perlut and students from his Terrestrial Wildlife course, has documented thousands of videos and still images of 60 animal species living, feeding and crossing the gap.
Wildlife includes coyotes, deer, turkeys, bobcats, river otters, short-tailed weasels, gray foxes, and even a moose.
The project is using its data analytics to help the Eastern Trail Alliance, which is working to fill the gap between trails in the Black Point area of Scarborough and the Wainwright Recreation Complex in South Portland.
“It’s a huge benefit for us in terms of understanding how wildlife use this trail and after it’s built, how they will use it, after it’s built and it gives us a better understanding of our impact,” Jon said. Kachmar, executive director of the alliance. .
Distant cameras placed in space capture images and sounds.
“Every time there was movement or sound, a photo was taken and then a video,” said Nicole Corriveau, an environmental science major at UNE. “If there were animal sounds or animals in the image or videos, we would tag that video and put it in our database of the species it was about.”
Perlut students spend two hours a week sifting through videos and photos and collecting data.
However, many of the clips captured by the cameras are about the wind.
“That’s a lot of viewing footage that has nothing on it,” said environmental scientist Cameron Indeck. “But the few clips that you end up finding in there that have a deer and a walking fawn or a fox, it’s very gratifying.”
Madi Harvey, a young environmental studies student, agrees that “hours spent watching videos of the blowing wind are getting a bit daunting”.
“But it was worth it – seeing beautiful videos of royal red foxes, red-tailed hawks chasing squirrels, big raccoons waddling around,” Harvey said in an email to The Forecaster.
Catching a moose on camera in the fall of 2020 was a bit of a surprise.
“There was a moose that showed up on the football field at Scarborough High School on the morning of a school day,” Perlut said. “He hung around there for a while and went to Willard Beach where he was tranquilized and taken to the forest away from the suburbs.”
While the moose was on the loose, it appeared on camera.
“I was blown away that we actually had footage of this moose on our cameras,” Perult said. “It’s a great example of how important this place is… places to stay and eat and also to get around.”
One of Corriveau’s favorite captures was that of a coyote and a mouse.
“He literally could have eaten it at any time,” she said of the coyote. “But it was just kind of a game with it.”
All three students appreciate the opportunity to work on the project and how it differs from their other coursework.
“It’s another way for UNE to show me a real project, which is actually going to have implications for the Eastern Trail,” Indeck said.
Students don’t normally have the opportunity to see more than 60 species of wildlife for themselves, Corriveau said, and she looks forward to future findings from the project after graduating this spring.
“It’s something I’m going to follow even when I leave here,” she said. “I’ll be happy to see what changes happen.”
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