Camera Trap on a Lion Kill
Trail cameras have become a very popular tool for both sportsmen and wildlife researchers in the last decade or so. A camera trap can not only record wildlife activity 24 hours a day, but can do so without capturing or harming and animal, and can avoid the intrusion of a human observer.
A camera trap consists of setting up a trail camera or cameras at a strategic location where wildlife are likely to be seen, often a water hole, trail or food source, using a motion or infrared sensor as a trigger. If an animal shows up it triggers the camera, which then records pictures or video allowing a wildlife researcher or manager to download the recordings at a later time and interpret the story that the photos tell.
In July this past summer, Blue Valley Ranch employees had an opportunity to record quite a story. After discovering a lion kill near a major ranch road, they set up a camera on the yearling elk carcass and waited to see what showed up.
The first animal to appear (actually, return) the following night was the lion herself. This is likely a female that had been observed on another kill earlier in the month with a kitten. The kitten never made an appearance on camera, but the lioness returned to the elk several times.
The next evening, in the daylight, she was back again. However, after less than 30 minutes she had a visitor.
While most people’s initial reaction might be to caution the coyote, the wily coyote seems to know that the lioness is either easily hassled, or has already eaten her fill and is not feeling particularly aggressive. After about ten minutes of persistent harassing, from a safe distance of course, the coyote succeeds in goading the puma away and is rewarded with a meal on its own.
Lions often bury their kill after they have initially had their fill to hide the remains for later feedings. However, repeated visits from many visitors, like this coyote, may have prevented her from stashing the carcass. Hopefully the coyote ate quickly, because just after dark that same night some herbivorous, though no less intimidating visitors stopped to make an inspection.
Finally, in the early morning hours of the same night, long after the bison had left, the lioness was back again to eat in peace without any coyotes to keep an eye on.
Both lion and coyote returned a time or two over the next few days. However, the following night yet another major predator made an appearance for the first time to claim a share of the kill. He looked rather pleased with himself, as would anyone who manages to find a free meal.
The bear hung around through the following afternoon, moving the carcass around quite a bit, though not out of the camera’s view, luckily.
By day 4, the elk has been picked over pretty well by repeated visits from multiple predators. Birds, small mammals and insects certainly finished it off in over the next week, but there was still enough to provide a snack or two for a coyote.
The camera recorded multiple visits from many different animals over the course of a week, including lion, coyote, bear, bison, elk and deer. In just a few days time, one camera managed to record an impressive display of predator diversity, as well as a glimpse of their behavior and interactions with each other. Not bad for an automated camera.