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Could your backyard be a wildlife research site?

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Is your yard a stomping ground for cougars, coyotes, raccoons, skunks or bears? Would you like to see what passes through your yard even when you’re not around? We’re looking for community members like you to allow us to place a remote camera on your property to collect data for our new research study: the Washington Urban–Wildland Carnivore Project.

A black bear's image caught by a remote camera in the study. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

A collaboration between Woodland Park Zoo and the University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the Washington Urban–Wildland Carnivore Project is exploring ways to promote coexistence among humans and carnivores in King County. The research explores how carnivores respond to urbanization and human activity by studying where and when they occur, what they eat, and what happens to the system when apex carnivores are absent.

Bobcat. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

We’re focusing on cougars, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, striped skunks, and domestic dogs and cats. By allowing us to temporarily attach one of our remote cameras to a tree on your property, you'll be helping us to study these elusive species without interfering with their activity patterns.

A remote camera is temporarily attached to a tree. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Remote cameras are often used by researchers to observe wildlife, but this marks the first time we’re working with community members to deploy cameras across a wide range. Our study relies on placing wildlife monitoring cameras along the gradient of human development and activity in King County—from urban settings to wildlands. Other cameras have been placed along game or human trails, roads or other landscape features that maximize the probability of detecting wildlife, using federal, state, municipal and private lands.

Cougar. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

When you participate, not only will you help us conduct valuable scientific research, but you’ll also get a rare opportunity to see what type of wildlife may be visiting your home. The commitment is brief—cameras will be removed four to six weeks after installation—but the value of the information could have long term benefits for achieving human and wildlife coexistence in the Northwest.

Raccoon. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.

Robert Long, PhD, a senior conservation fellow in Woodland Park Zoo’s field conservation department, oversees the project for the zoo and UW graduate student Michael Havrda coordinates and conducts research on the ground. Long, a carnivore research ecologist, is known for spearheading innovations in noninvasive wildlife research methods. He also is currently focused on wolverine research and conservation in Washington state, and is helping to expand the zoo's Living Northwest conservation program.


We hope you’ll consider joining our research effort and learn more about how to get involved.

Coyotes. Photo: Woodland Park Zoo.


Anonymous said…
How do I find out what the results of your study are?
Research is still underway and we'll share news of publications here or more immediately on Thanks!
Ryan Jones said…
I actually live in Snohomish County (outside the King County area), but I finally got a trail cam for my own back yard. It backs up to a wooded area and some animals I have caught on my trail cam includes: deer, a bobcat, several coyotes, some feral cats, as well as various small animals (such as birds, oppossums, rabbits, and squirrels). I saw a bear once too just down the hill from my house once. Also saw a red fox once near Monroe (along Robinhood Lane), sighting happened at night though.