Minnesota Trail Camera Captures 365 Days of Wildlife

by Jennifer Shea

A team of researchers in northern Minnesota left a motion-sensitive camera at the edge of a beaver pond near Voyageurs National Park for a year. It captured 7,000 videos over the year. And among them is revealing footage of wolves, bears, white-tailed deer, raccoons, herons, mink and fishers. 

Minnesota Project Showcases Wildlife

The camera was a joint project between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park. The videos showcase the denizens of the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem as well as the stark seasonal shifts the area sees, Earth Touch News reports.

The researchers’ original plan was not to put the camera out there for so long.

“But [then I saw] all the wildlife activity in the first few months,” head researcher Thomas Gable said. And “I got the idea of leaving the camera out for an entire year to capture all the wildlife that crossed the dam.”

Beaver dams sometimes serve as highways for different species of wildlife that venture near the water. Indeed, beavers were far from the only critters caught on camera over the course of the year. Geese with their goslings, white-tailed deer, wolves and a black bear were just some of the animals that wandered into the frame.

Beavers Key to Ecosystem

“Understanding how wildlife use beaver dams would be interesting from a natural history perspective for sure,” biologist Austin Homkes told the News Tribune. “The data would not be particularly groundbreaking or surprise any biologist. But it is another piece of information that shows how beavers impact a variety of different wildlife!”

The researchers released a telling study on wolf predation last year. It suggested the loss of beavers can set off a chain reaction that changes wetland ecosystems. 

The study found that wolves often eat “dispersing” beavers, which are scout beavers out to find new turf. When those beavers died, their ponds would stay uninhabited for the rest of the year. And if there were no beavers to build dams, the forests would fail to convert to ponds and wetlands, triggering broader ecological effects.

In a Facebook post, the researchers announced that another trove of video footage is forthcoming. It should shed some light on the role of different species in the wetlands ecosystem and provide a welcome glimpse of wildlife in its natural habitat.  

Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota near International Falls. Its name is a nod to the French-Canadian fur traders, or voyageurs, who initially settled the area. To its east lies the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The two parks together take up about one and a quarter million acres of land.