Since early December of 2015 I’ve been involved in an effort to document the presence of flying squirrels here in northern Muskegon County, Michigan. I have a bucket list of critters I’d like to catch on my trail cameras before they die, (the cameras, not the critters) and have recently expanded the area of my efforts beyond my local haunts in order to add to my list.
My friend Doug owns a large parcel of property in the county that has been protected from development by a conservation easement. He visits the property frequently and has become very knowledgeable of things that grow, fly and leave evidence of their presence. He is the only person I know who often carries samples of animal scat and fungal growths in the trunk of his car. I kidded him that should his car ever be subjected to a search by law enforcement to have a convincing explanation prepared.
I met Doug during one of his occasional nature tours on the property. Because he became aware through his faculty contacts at Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, that they were interested in the current distribution of flying squirrels in Michigan, the two of us have made it our quest to capture one on video. Meanwhile I added “Flying Squirrel” to my camera bucket list. I can’t imagine how many other species I’ve overlooked.
While having had a number of failures to capture our elusive quarry on a video camera trap, we’ve learned a great deal. Limbs, maple in particular, have had the bark removed in many locations. We first suspected that it was evidence of porcupines. Upon further investigation it became apparent that some of the branches could not possibly support the weight of a porcupine. Sample branches taken to Purdue verified that the chewing pattern on the limbs was most likely evidence of flying squirrels. This gave us encouragement.
We moved the camera to an ideal location where a fallen maple had a great deal of bark chewed and after my camera had been in place for hundreds of hours achieved a success of sorts. But this is the twist in the story. It wasn’t a flying squirrel on the branches at which we had the camera directed. It was an accidental recording of another species on my bucket list in the following video.
We had been seeing what we thought were bobcat tracks. Doug had even had scat examined by Purdue that indicated it was probably that of a bobcat. I recently found the remains of a raccoon that had been killed by a predator and we debated if it might have been due to a coyote or a bobcat. But not until the recent video had we been able to document either of them in the area. Ironically, the second camera trap I purchased to monitor predator species at another location caught nothing while the camera positioned specifically for flying squirrels caught our friend Bob. Since bobcat was on my list, I was very happy with the results.
We’ll keep trying for the squirrels. Stay tuned…