Animal Selfies: A Vintage How-to

P72-115_86, Beaver cutting down tree, photo taken at night by trip wire by SN Leek

(WSA P72-115/86, photo by S.N. Leek)

Long before motion activated trail cameras, photographers relied on ingenuity, and a little luck, capture wildlife on film. Sometimes they were able to stalk the animals and set up a nice shot, but that did not always work, especially at night. Stephen N. Leek, professional photographer and wildlife conservationist, was apparently having difficulty taking photos of beavers, which are most active after dark, so he devised a way for the creatures to photograph themselves. He described the process as such:

There were 5 small trees in this group. A wire was run through  the branches around  them, so whichever tree the beaver cut down first in falling it would pull the wire. This was attached to a trigger firing the flash powder. This in turn was [connected] by wire to release of shutter on camera. The beaver took his own picture by flash light. Note the tree in the act of falling. Photo by S.N. Leek

Today, motion activated cameras are used by scientists, game wardens and sportsmen to photograph wildlife and monitor their movements. These photographs can provide an accurate account of types and numbers of animals visiting a particular spot. Over the course of several weeks or months, the images can also be studied to determine the habits of individual animals.

Game cams are used by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to prove the effectiveness of several animal underpasses/overpasses installed along wildlife migration corridors to prevent motor vehicle collisions with big game. Cameras have captured deer, antelope, elk, coyotes, bobcats and even moose using the tunnels.

Mule deer using an underpass

Mule deer using the big game underpass at Nugget Canyon near Pinedale. (Wyoming Game & Fish photo)



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