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Mammal activity

Madhavi Sreenath, Sarah Glasshagel, Eli Peñate, and Melinda Ervin
Conservation Biology class, BIO 345, Biology Department, DePauw University
Fall semester 2015

The goal of our project was to gather evidence of mammals in the DePauw Nature Park through use of motion-sensing cameras, bait, and ink traps.  We were interested in compiling a comprehensive list of all mammal species present in the park. 

We conducted our survey at multiple sites including the Quarry Pond, Creekside Trail, Big Walnut Creek, and Quarry Hillside.  We used motion-sensing cameras to take photographs of mammals.  Cameras were checked once a week for six weeks.  We set up ink traps to detect nocturnal and inconspicuous mammals.  The ink traps consisted of a small tent-like cardboard structure with a plastic bottom lined with copy paper.  A small plate was placed in the center with food inside a small dish surrounded by red paint powder mixed with vegetable oil.  We also searched for signs of mammals such as tracks and carcasses.  We emailed faculty and staff with questions about their experiences with mammals in the park; this was used as evidence in the form of eyewitness accounts. 

We found evidence for 17 different species of mammals in the DePauw Nature Park.  We photographed 8 species of mammals using the motion-sensing cameras.  Deer were photographed at the most locations, followed by raccoons and gray squirrels.  Raccoons were photographed most frequently.  We also took photographs of opossums, rabbits, fox squirrels, red fox, and coyote.  Our surveys of faculty and staff yielded eyewitness accounts of mink, woodchucks, dogs, cats, jumping mice, voles, shrews, field mice, skunks, and beaver, in addition to deer, squirrels, raccoon, and coyote.  The ink traps were less successful at gathering evidence; apparently the traps were disturbed by raccoons.  We observed evidence of beaver activity along Big Walnut Creek where multiple trees had been freshly chewed and felled. 

Motion-sensing cameras were the most effective way to gather evidence of mammals.  We captured images of many mammals in the park.  In the future, it would be appropriate to conduct these types of surveys over longer periods of time and during different times of the year.