We have switched Wild Suburbia - NY & CT from our custom online survey to the inaturalist platform. This was to make the survey more user-friendly and more usable for us when it came time to download and analyze the data.
The new project is here:
So what's the difference?
From 2012 - 2014, we encouraged people to submit sightings from their property and from anywhere else, and the two types of observations were treated differently in our analysis (currently in the final stages) as we could make different assumptions about each type of submission.
Our diligent young intern, Ben, is putting together a big analysis of our 2012 - 2014 data and plans to present his findings at the Northeast Natural History Conference this spring. We will keep you informed on how that is going.
From here forward however, we will not make the distinction between "At-Home" and "Elsewhere" sightings, now will we collect negative sightings, eg, "I did not see species X."
This limits somewhat our ability to perform certain analyses but in the end it is simpler for our users and will allow us to shift the project to a long-term monitoring effort. We hope WS can continue for many, many years and we can examine trends in how these animals live and adapt (or fail to do so) in suburbia.
Our midwest chapter will continue to use the old-style survey and paper forms.
This website will continue to be a repository for info and updates. We will also post on the inaturalist project home for updates related to the NY & CT effort. Please feel free at any time to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone who has participated and continues to help us!
Chris will discuss his work on the Gotham Coyote Project and highlight the new effort to expand Wild Suburbia to NYC and Long Island to better document the arrival of coyotes into Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk. He will also talk about urban coyote ecology and co-existing with coyotes and other wildlife.
Registration (starting 2/10/2015), conference schedule, and other information for the Long Island Natural History Conference is at www.LongIslandNature.org
Learn more about the Gotham Coyote Project at gothamcoyote.com
We've added a few more questions to both surveys (groan!) that ask whether a given observation was obtained with a camera trap. Many of you are using them to monitor your property (which is great), but for our purposes data from camera traps needs to be treated differently than regular sightings.
The new questions just ask whether the sighting you're entering was obtained from a camera trap, and, if so, when did you first deploy the camera and when did you take it down.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions!
I want to thank everyone once again that has helped us continue this project and collect good data.
More recently is expanding the area we are looking at to NYC and Long Island. The Mianus Gorge has studied the ecology of coyotes and other species that live in NYC Parks since 2010. Coyotes in particular seem to be expanding their range and we expect them to cross into Queens and eventually Nassau and Suffolk Counties. You can learn more about this project at our other website, at The Gotham Coyote Project.
This is an exciting event, but it is impossible for us to monitor this huge area ourselves. The Wild Suburbia model is an excellent way for us to enlist and interact with the community, and hopefully find those first few founders that make it across the East River/Long Island Sound and manage to find a home on Long Island.
Thus Wild Suburbia is now hosting 2 surveys:
- Our original survey focusing on bobcat, coyote, fox, bear, and fisher in Westchester, Fairfield, and other "upstate" areas, and,
- A new "Long Island" survey that focuses on sightings of coyotes, red fox, and (a new one) gray fox sightings in New York City and Long Island.
Lastly, many of you have been employing trail cameras, aka camera traps, to see what critters live near your property. Most of the pics on our picture page come from such cameras used by our participants. In the coming months we are looking at ways to allow those who have trail cameras on their property to submit their pictures and the associated info (model of camera, dates of deployment, how long did you have the camera out, etc.). These types of techniques are a more reliable method for getting the type of data we are looking for, and are a tremendously fun way to learn about local wildlife.
If you are interested in getting a trail cam of your own, there are many brands and most will get good pictures (Reconyx and Moultrie are the most popular brands). The quality/price difference comes from the level of weatherproofing and overall toughness of the unit and the shutter speed. To catch fast moving animals that could run past the camera very quickly, you need a very fast shutter, and for hard research purposes we recommend Reconyx brand. But many other cameras exist for less expensive price tags, and with a bit of homework you can find a reliable camera for a decent price.
We wanted to update you on a few things this season. The first is that we are planning to add more information about each species’ natural history to the website. Keep checking our website for that information. The second is that we updated the Sightings Maps in February with many new sightings/no sightings reported over the winter. Thank you for your continued efforts!
We currently have about 350 participants and would love to exceed 500 by May. Please pass the word around about our project so that we can reach our goal. We have another Wild Suburbia workshop planned for the end of the month. On March 27th at 7pm, come to Teatown Lake Reservation located at 1600 Spring Valley Rd, Ossining to learn more about the Wild Suburbia Project, the animals, and how you can contribute to the project. Please RSVP to email@example.com. Tell others about the opportunity, and bring your family and friends!
- January 11th @ 10am-12pm located at the Armstrong Education Center, Pound Ridge Land Conservancy (located at 1361 Old Post Rd, Pound Ridge, NY)
- January 12th @ 7-9pm located at the Pound Ridge Library (located at 271 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge, NY)
The maps were again updated mid-December with a few new sightings and no sightings reported. Remember that your reports of no sightings in your backyard are just as important as reporting a sighting. By reporting that you have not seen an animal on your property tells us something about its distribution as well. Sighting or no sighting, all the information is valuable for analysis of the data.
We wanted to again thank you for your continued reports. Keep up the good work and please tell your friends about the project!
Identifying an animal by its tracks is tricky and they can often be mistaken for something else. For this reason, please DO NOT REPORT A SIGHTING BASED ON TRACK IDENTIFICATION. Only submit a sighting if you have visual confirmation of the animal.
General notes on tracks: Bobcat, coyote and red fox have four toes that register (leave prints) in the snow (the fifth is reduced on their inner legs, like that of your house cat or dog). All five toes of the black bear and fisher may register in the snow.
General notes on gaits: Animals will use different gaits, or patterns of movement, depending on their body structure, whether they are hunting, moving quickly through an area, exploring, etc. Walks, trots, lopes, gallops, hops and bounds are all methods of describing how an animal moves. Many of the photos we provide here show walks (slow), trots (faster) or lopes (fast). Direct register walks, trots or lopes describe a movement where the rear foot lands exactly where the front foot had been. We also provide some pictures of overstep walks in which the rear foot lands beyond where the front had been. Direct register is more commonly used than overstep in deep snow.
To learn more about identifying animal tracks, we recommend looking into Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch, and Peterson Field Guides to Animal Tracks by Olaus Murie.
Coyote tracks are similar to dog and fox tracks. Looking at behavior and a few key features of tracks and trails can help to differentiate the species.
Coyote tracks range in size (a), but are typically larger than fox. Dog tracks can be the same size, smaller or larger than your average coyote track, depending on the breed of dog. Dog tracks are usually splayed with thick, blunt claws and toes pointing in four different directions. Alternatively, the toes of coyote feet are close together, revealing a tighter track than dogs. Four claws can register in a coyote track, but often only the front two will be evident (b) and point towards each other. Claws are also sharp and pointed on a coyote.
(a) Sketch of coyote track and dimensions. Photo from Beartracker's Animal Track Guide
(c) Direct register trot of a coyote. Note narrow trail and straight movement. Photo from Roger Lupton on Flickr.
(b) Red fox tracks in snow. Photo from Walnut Hill Tracking & Nature Center.
(c) Overstep walk of a red fox. Photo from Kawing Crow Tracking.
(d) Tracks left by a red fox hunting for prey in the snow. It pursued prey under the snow in two instances in this photo. Photo from Wildwood Tracking.
Bobcats also use the direct register walk in deep snow (c). If you follow bobcat tracks you may come across a spot where the animal sat down on its haunches leaving a similar print to that depicted in (d). This is often done when the bobcat is hunting and has a good view of an area.
(a) Drawing of bobcat tracks. Note that claws rarely register in tracks. Photo from Beartracker's Animal Track Guide.
(b) Bobcat track in 5 inch deep snow. Note the amount of snow displaced along the edge of the tracks due to thick fur on the feet and legs. Photo taken at Teatown Lake Reservation.
(c) Bobcat direct register walk in deep snow. Photo taken at Teatown Lake Reservation.
(d) Bobcat sat down in the snow. Photo from Alderleaf Wilderness College.
All five toes and claws can register in snow tracks for fisher (b and c). The thick fur on the bottom of the feet can distort tracks to an extent.
(a) Sketch of fisher tracks, trail and scat with dimensions. Photo from Cape Cod Wildlife Calling Guide Service.
(b) Rear tracks landing almost directly in the tracks of the front feet. Photo from Duluth News Tribune.
(c) Fisher track in deep snow. Photo taken at Teatown Lake Reservation.
(d) Direct register lope of a fisher moving quickly through deep snow. Photo from Teatown Lake Reservation.
(a) Sketch of black bear tracks. Size of foot will vary depending on whether heel registers in the snow. Photo from Beartracker's Animal Track Guide.
(b) Black bear overstep walk in shallow snow. Photo from North American Bear Center.
(c) Black bear direct register walk in deep snow. Photo from North American Bear Center.
Hello from the Wild Suburbia Project! We hope you are all enjoying the change of seasons.
We wanted to send out a much-belated update to our research partners, first, to thank you for being part of the project and second, give a few updates on what has been going on.
First off, we are very happy with the number of sightings you have given us. We're up to 300+ but would ideally like to hit 1,000 by the time we pull it all together and start analyzing (although 500 would be fine). So please recruit your friends!
We have updated our website quite a bit if you have not already seen it.
- Our sightings maps are updated as of mid-October. Included are only the residential sightings, for now.
- New page: Living with Wildlife - Here you can get some info and hopefully some food for thought about living near wildlife
- Pictures - Many of you have submitted pictures along with your surveys. This page displays some of your pictures. If you have a picture to send or any other questions or comments, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have scheduled another training/informational workshop at Bedford Audubon on Nov 13 at 7pm. Feel free to come and ask us questions or bring interested friends to learn about the project.
We hope to continue collecting observations through the Spring of 2014, and will begin analyzing your data soon thereafter. We will continue to update the online maps (semi-)monthly as new observations come in. Please continue as always to keep us updated of any sightings you have on our online survey.
In other but related news, please check out our other urban wildlife research study, the Gotham Coyote Project, which incidentally will be featured on PBS Nature January 22 in our area.