Smile, You’re on Herpetology Camera!

Frogs are great at letting you know where they are by emitting their species-specific calls with gusto, which is wonderful! But how do you find out what quieter salamanders, snakes, and turtles are nearby? With the loan of a brand-new tool the Black Swamp Conservancy will be able to accumulate data and photos at our Forrest Woods Nature Preserve and share that data with the rest of Ohio.

Black Swamp Conservancy was recently chosen as one of only three organizations in the state to receive a temporary equipment grant from Ohio Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (OHPARC).

OHPARC works to conserve amphibians, reptiles, and their habitats as integral parts of Ohio’s ecosystem and culture. We will be part of their system of proactive and coordinated partnerships to collect information. An integral part of wildlife conservation is knowing where species of interest are currently located, and that’s what this grant will help us do.

OHPARC has loaned the Conservancy two high-definition cameras to be used for herpetological (reptile and amphibian) surveys at our Forrest Woods Nature Preserve. The cameras are mounted within a specifically designed “trap” system called the Adapted-Hunt Drift Fence Technique.

The setup consists of an entrenched drift fence, which intercepts small animals moving across the landscape and directs them to a modified 5-gallon bucket containing a camera trap. Animals passing through the bucket trigger the camera, leaving behind photo evidence. This method of wildlife surveying offers a gentle way to assess which species are using a site while the animals go about their regular activities.

In addition to the generous equipment grant, OHPARC hosted a workshop at Ohio State University to help grant recipients learn to set up and deploy the system. The Conservancy’s stewardship staff deployed our camera traps in late March, just in time for the beginning of spring and tons of herpetofaunal activity.

We’ll collect image data from April through October, at which point we will return the camera to the organization. The data we collect will be submitted throughout the season to the Ohio Herp Atlas.

In addition to adding to the state database of reptile and amphibian species accounts, this is a great opportunity to supplement the Conservancy’s species records at Forrest Woods. Knowing what is living in our woods helps us make decisions and monitor our progress.