Catching Cool Carnivore Predatory Behavior on Camera!

Carnivores are elClick on image to see larger photos. usive species that tend to be nocturnal (active at night), especially in areas with a great deal of human activity (hikers, dogs, car traffic, etc.).  Aside from a few bold coyotes begging for food, unnatural behavior brought on by people feeding them, we are usually asleep or far away when urban carnivores are roaming around.   So glimpses of these species are usually rare unless they are on TV or dead on the side of the road.  Further, the only behavior people are likely to see is watching the animal running away. Fortunately, camera traps are so noninvasive that wildlife ignore the camera as they go about their daily life, which means camera trap photos sometime provide images of carnivore behavior rarely seen by humans.  The photos I discovered on my camera traps placed as part of the Griffith Park Corridor Study (see 'Projects' page for more info) revealed amazing predatory behavior.  Click on the photos to see the displays of predatory behavior for yourself!

Carnivores Hunting, Transporting, and Caching (i.e. hiding/storing) Prey: Why is the predatory behavior of carnivores so interesting, and amazing to catch on camera?  Carnivores are killing machines.  They are born with some of the ability (speed, strong sense of hearing and smell) and equipment (sharp teeth, claws, etc.) to be good predators but some of the behavior is learned. Predators learn these behaviors by watching their parents hunt, play fighting with siblings, and by practicing on smaller prey and working their way up to bigger prey.  Another tool in their arsenal is that predators are always on the look out for prey and develop what is called a "search image" of these prey species in their brain, which allows them to quickly zero in on prey within a sometimes cluttered landscape.  Rabbits and rodents reproduce often and can reach high population numbers quickly, at which time they can become pests and damaging to the plant communitiy unless their populations are surpressed.  Predators are crucial in keeping these populations down to healthy levels.

So as you can see coyotes and bobcats are excellent hunters and do not need handouts from people.  In fact, feeding carnivores like coyotes and raccoons is illegal mainly because it can lead to human-carnivore conflicts.  These conflicts can lead to the lethal removal of the habituated coyote or an entire pack.  Although the main purpose of the study is to see if wildlife are able to get in and out of the park, it is nice to know that these cameras are giving us a glimpse into the natural daily behavior of an urban carnivore.