2017-09-01 / Community

Trail cameras track wildlife at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

By Kristina Hsu
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary intern


Deer are among more than 19 animal species recorded at Corkscrew Swamp. 
Contributed Deer are among more than 19 animal species recorded at Corkscrew Swamp. Contributed Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is home to a meandering boardwalk where visitors come to enjoy a peaceful stroll through old growth cypress and sight quintessential Florida wildlife from American alligators to zebra long-wing butterflies. What most visitors may not see, however, is all the work that goes on beyond the boardwalk to understand and manage our western Everglades home.

At the Western Everglades Research Center, Dr. Shawn Clem and her team of Audubon technicians, interns and volunteers collect data across the sanctuary past the boardwalk, trying to get a finger on the pulse of the swamp. The trail camera monitoring program, started in 2013 with 10 cameras, continues today with 17 cameras positioned in pre-restoration, restored and natural habitats.

Primarily installed to monitor medium-size mammal populations, the cameras have captured photos of opossums, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, armadillos, squirrels, foxes, coyotes, otters, bobcats, deer, bears, hogs and panthers. Clem and her team also collect data on the ground birds, wading birds, hawks, owls, ducks, reptiles and amphibians that trigger the cameras. The staff enjoys sharing unique, adorable, and goofy animals captured by the trail cameras in the “Trailcam Tuesday” feature on the sanctuary Facebook page.


Deer are among more than 19 animal species recorded at Corkscrew Swamp. 
Contributed Deer are among more than 19 animal species recorded at Corkscrew Swamp. Contributed To date, trail cameras have collected 680,311 photos. They have monitored for the equivalent of 19,331 days, and have recorded more than 19 mammal species on the grounds.

With data from the long-term monitoring project, Clem – along with biologist Mica Rumbach and a team of conservation interns — hopes to describe large and medium-size mammal populations and document their distribution and habitat occupancy prior to significant impacts from large non-native reptiles like Burmese pythons. The data will also help compare mammals’ use of the sanctuary’s natural habitats with that of restored wetlands in Panther Island Mitigation Bank on the northwest corner of the property.

On the Panther Island Mitigation Bank, thousands of acres of what once was farmland have been turned back into natural uplands and marshes. But have the animals returned? Can they live here? These are some of the questions that information from the trail cameras will help to answer.

For now, the big questions remain as the team at Corkscrew pores over the photos, converting pictures into numbers on spreadsheets and looking for patterns.

The sanctuary is open every day from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Last admission at 4:30 p.m.) For more information visit corkscrew. audubon.org or follow Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary on Facebook and Instagram.

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