Oak Bay urban wildlife photographer awarded for cutting edge research

Wildlife society uses motion-sensor cameras to track deer

A pink and white tagged doe is caught by one of Sandra Frey’s motion-sensor wildlife cameras in Oak Bay. The photographer has 39 that she sets up around Oak Bay as part of the Urban Deer Research Project to monitor population numbers and animal behaviour. (Photos courtesy of Urban Wildlife Steward Society)

The photographer who posts 39 wildlife camera traps around Oak Bay for the Urban Deer Research Project has been recognized with a prestigious award for her work.

Sandra Frey, a recent University of Victoria graduate, was given the MITAC award for wildlife camera trapping in the Rocky Mountains as part of her Masters in the School of Environmental Science. Frey has already taken the skill and applied it to Oak Bay, where she posts the camera traps on private and public property to monitor the urban deer.

Frey’s cameras are triggered by motion and heat.

Frey has been part of the Urban Deer Research Project since 2018 when they installed GPS trackers on 20 does and then collared another 60 does in 2019, which were also given the immuno-contraception booster.

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“Cameras are one of the main tools to manage how deer are distributed across Oak Bay and how many there are,” Frey said. “Because Oak Bay wants to manage its deer population, we need to do it with as much robust research as we can.”

The photos add up to a lot of data that needs to be processed. For now, UVic students manually look at each image to see if it’s one of the 80 does that are tagged. In Oak Bay, the camera also records raccoons and barred owls (landing) but has not caught a cougar.

Reducing the detection of non-deer entities in the urban environment requires a lot of finesse, Frey said.

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“There’s a lot of cats and pets, even hummingbirds, and it does create a lot of data that we have to go through.”

For her academic research, she used them to look at the entire carnivore community of wolves, bears, coyote, lynx, martens, wolverines, and more. The study looked at wildlife behaviour of two similar landscapes Kananaskis and Willmore Wilderness area, north of Jasper. While the landscapes are the same, Willmore is remote and protected from humans and development without any motorized access. There are only a few hiking trails into the perimeter, whereas Kananaskis Village and the surrounding area is a destination for outdoor recreation.

Frey’s research with Oak Bay is projected to continue for another two years.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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