Why Steal a Wildlife Research Trail Camera?

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Why steal a research trail camera in the canyon where we are recording wildlife? That stolen trail camera was an important conservation tool and the videos it recorded helped educate the public about the impact of urbanization on our local wildlife. And, the footage was also appreciated by the community. Neighbors who live at the canyon’s rim have enjoyed watching the videos and learning about the wild animals who literally live in their back yards.

The trail camera was strategically placed

The stolen camera was recently placed strategically for research. We are collecting data about the mountain lions and bobcats and I am writing about their behaviors. My articles are based on the videos of wildlife that are memorialized by the cameras, including the one stolen from us.

A mountain lion mum and her growing cub periodically traverse the canyon. They are very adept at never being seen by people who use the trails—but the cameras see them. Recently Bay Area Puma Project/Felidaefund, as part of a broader DNA study, brought a scent dog into the canyon for the sole purpose of locating and collecting mountain lion scat for genetic and health research. The spot I placed the stolen trail camera is one of the areas the scent dog identified as a puma latrine. My next article, which I was working on before the camera was stolen, will focus on puma scat and the working scent dog.

Our trail cameras document wildlife

This canyon cannot be developed for any reason—it must be protected and remain wild. It is part of a network of other shrinking open spaces that wildlife relies on in order to access resources for survival and persistence. The canyon is also fortunate to shelter some special species of concern. These animals and their canyon habitat are protected: the county will not allow development of any sort to occur there. Our cameras are positioned to document the diverse animal species in the canyon as they live their lives and navigate between the fragmented open spaces.

Dusky footed wood rat home.

Before the trail camera was stolen, it often filmed the dusky-footed wood rat–one of the species of special concern. This is one of their homes.

Community support

After years of filming, monitoring and writing about the canyon wildlife, we know that the majority of the residents support our work. Based on neighborly conversations through the years, we believe that most of you treasure the canyon and understand the importance of preserving it. Clearly, you love and respect the environment and understand the adverse impacts that urbanization has on wildlife. Unfortunately, at least one local person doesn’t feel the same way, if he did, our equipment would not have been stolen. I just don’t understand why someone felt entitled to steal our camera. The theft was not done on an impulse. The cam was secured to a tree with a locked, steel cable, a security box and a padlock.

To the neighbor who stole the camera: do the right thing, either return the trail camera, the memory card and the security box or pay for them. Place them at the base of the tree from where you cut the cable and stole them. Unfortunately, because of your theft, the valuable night footage cannot be replaced. Please support us, instead of hindering our research.


Marilyn is a certified cat behavior consultant (The Cat Coach, LLC). Not surprisingly, she’s fascinated by feline behaviors. This started with household cats and then after witnessing a puma being killed a few blocks from her home in the suburbs, expanded to include local mountain lions and bobcats. A few years after the tragedy, she joined the Bay Area Puma Project/Felidae Conservation Fund, maintaining trail cameras, writing and helping wherever she can. Her focus is on how urbanization is affecting apex predators’ behaviors.

She is also an author and educator. Her book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior issues through clicker training, environmental changes as well as other positive reinforcement techniques. She gives presentations throughout the United States as well as writes columns and articles for a variety of venues. She is also frequently interviewed for podcasts, print and on line publications. Additionally Marilyn is a frequent guest on television and radio and has appeared, along with her Bengals and Savannah Cat on Animal Planet, CBS, ABC, KGO and others.

Join Marilyn for lively discussions about all things feline on her Facebook page.

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