2016 Spring

One Hole, One Month

For a little over 1 month last semester, some of my research students decided to aim a trail camera at a hole in the ground. we did this for several reasons. First of all, we were interested in finding out if any animals were using the hole, and if so, which species. Secondly, we wanted to know if different species of animals preferred to use the hole only at specific times. Finally, we did this simply because we had an extra camera that we weren’t using on other projects.

The hole, which could be a past or current den, has an entrance that is about 1 ft. in diameter. It measures 2 ft. deep and looks to be around 5 ft. long. There is an old rotting oak trunk that acts as a partial cover. We tallied all of the pictures (371 total) and broke down the animals that “visited” by the hour. A “visit” was defined as an animal that either entered or looked in the hole. The following video shows this hourly breakdown and the percent of visits by each species:

As is evident, the early morning hours (1 a.m. – 8 a.m.) are dominated by opossums and skunks. They tended to alternate hours. From 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., squirrels made the most appearances, by far, with rare visits from several songbirds. A red-shouldered hawk even made a cameo during one evening. Rabbits dominated the 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. The times from 2 a.m. – 3 a.m. (skunk, rabbit, opossum, raccoon) and from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. (rabbit, opossum, raccoon, squirrel) were the only two range of times when four different species visited the hole.

What does any of this mean? Maybe nothing at all. Or, maybe it means that several different species are efficiently sharing this space. Do the different animals know when the hole is empty and available for use? Do they purposefully avoid conflict with others. We didn’t see any conflicts on camera, but that certainly doesn’t mean there weren’t any. All interesting questions to ask from one camera and one hole.