Do most of the species pictured below—and all of the predators—“compete” with each other and harm bighorn, mule deer, pronghorn and ecosystem health as the wildlife agencies say? Or do they complement each other? Is biodiversity good or bad for our deserts?
Recent studies of the Serengeti shed light on this debate. They confirm that the great herds of migratory wildebeest are the keystone species for grassland health as were bison in the pre-European desert Southwest. The big nomadic herds of these and other large grazers determine whether we have grassland, brush land or forest.
Many, many species of predators and prey are needed in these healthy systems. The presence of suitable prey animals governs the number of predators which in turn governs prey animal numbers. As it turns out, plants need animals as much as animals need plants; in turn, prey need predators as much as predators need them. Without migratory grazers alongside many predators sustained by plentiful prey, the ecosystem breaks down.
This observation is consistent with the holistic management concept of using concentrated cattle herds under planned grazing as a substitute for bison to maintain open grasslands relatively free of brush. In addition, at Circle Ranch we protect predators—large and small—and increase the variety and populations of prey species — large and small — these predators need. Expressed simply, we push biodiversity everywhere, all the time. We believe this completely different management method is why our wildlife and habitat thrives.
At Circle Ranch, we review thousands of photos each month and publish the most interesting ones. We are mainly using the Moultrie M-880 cameras. They seem to be very user friendly and some have taken quite the beating from some larger animals and are still keeping up. We have had a very few instances where they did not read the card and one where the screen blanked out, but on all occasions Moultrie’s customer service was very helpful and got us fixed up.
They’re fairly easy to set up. We usually position them about 12 – 15 yards from the water source and facing north if possible, keeping them fairly level with the area you want to photograph. Be sure there aren’t any branches or grown up brush in the vicinity that will trip the motion sensors or you could wind up with 2,000+ photos on a windy day.
If you’re going to run quite a few of these you may want to look at purchasing AA batteries on Ebay. You can get 100 Duracell AA batteries for about $30 or 500 for around $130. The Moultrie cameras do pretty well though on battery life. We usually change them every other month at high-activity waterings and every 3 – 4 months or so at low-activity waterings. We probably change them sooner than we should when they get to be less than 40 percent, but we rely heavily on these photographs as we make management decisions, so we practice caution.
……Jerad and Tawny Zachary maintain our cameras, and collate photos. Jerad wrote the camera tips.