Hello my name is Ms. Heard. Please join me as I travel to Nova Scotia to study small mammal populations!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Last night was extremely cold.  That meant that animals who would normally eat at night probably did not.  As a result, we had nothing in our traps this morning.  Nothing except a dead shrew that got caught in one of my traps.  Shrews are not supposed to be in the traps, but sometimes they go in.  The traps have a hole especially designed for shrews to escape, but the hole on this one trap had been taped over.  When we discovered the shrew this morning, Christina, one of the scientists, was very upset.  "It is my responsibility that this shrew died" she said.  She has worked hard to design a trapping system that not only keeps the animals alive, but also comfortable and happy.  I am impressed with her concern for the animals' experience.  It helps me feel sure that I am participating in research that is not at the animals' expense.

After checking our traps, we learned how to set infrared camera traps.  The cameras have motion sensors.  When something moves in front of the camera, it takes three still pictures.  It is important to place them in a way that they are likely to catch animals moving rather than leaves blowing in the wind.  I had to place one by the porcupine sleeping tree I found yesterday.  On my last day in the field, I'll find out whether that camera caught any porcupines.  I also had to set one near another tree favored by porcupines.  Rigging up the cameras turned out to be a challenge.  6th or 7th graders, can you figure out what conditions I had to look for in choosing how/where to set the camera, and why it was difficult?

At the end of the day we checked the traps again.  Out of the 100 traps we set, we caught 2 live red-backed voles.  Once an animal is caught, the scientist then clips a little spot of the hair.  This is a great way to mark the animal because the tips of the hair are a different color from the rest of the hair, and clipping it does not hurt the animal.  Then the animal is weighed.  Today the female we caught weighed 18 grams, and the male weighted 20.5 grams.  Then the animal is released in the spot where it was caught.  If that animal gets caught in a trap again this week, we'll know because of the clipped hair.

Phew.  I'm tired.


  1. Morgan Krell 2018March 30, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    you had to set the traps in a spot where a porcupine would walk and the trap would not be set of by leaves or other disturbances.

  2. Morgan, you are right! That was difficult especially since it has been windy here. Ms. Heard