Caught on camera: Austin’s urban wildlife documented for nationwide effort

Fox captured at night. Photo courtesy of Amy Belaire/Wild Basin Research Center.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As more and more people move to central Texas, it’s becoming even more crucial to preserve the land of our local wildlife. That’s why Austin has just joined a nationwide effort to help better understand the relationship between humans and wildlife in rapidly growing cities.

In Austin, Wild Basin Creative Research Center is leading the effort in partnership with St. Edward’s University, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the city of Austin, Travis County and Texas A&M University.

The center is leading the effort to collect and analyze data from green-spaces all across Austin. After all, it’s the greenery and scenery that makes much of Central Texas so appealing. Not only to us, but for dozens of wild animals.

This has led to Austin joining eight other cities across the nation in this initiative to study the wildlife in urban areas.

“In each of the cities, we’re conducting sampling, putting up wildlife cameras in green spaces across each city and we’re sampling in four seasons,” says Amy Belaire, Wild Basin Research Director and Faculty Associate at St. Edwards University.

Through the use of motion triggered wildlife cameras, every time an animal walks by, the camera snaps a photograph. While squirrels are the most common species captured by these cameras, Belaire says that nearly 15 various species have been spotted so far, including armadillos, foxes, coyotes and even entire families of deer.

Belaire explains, “In our last sampling season in April, we actually had cameras in 14 green spaces across Austin, and we collected 8,000 images — over 8,000 images of wildlife moving in front of our cameras.”

After using 14 sites from the April sampling season, Belaire says that their team plans to more than triple the number of sites to nearly 40 sites for the July sampling season (see maps in gallery below).

“Ultimately what we hope to be able to do with all of the data is be able to make recommendations to planners and managers about how do we design and manage cities to minimize conflict between humans and wildlife, and how do we create cities that are more wildlife friendly and support biodiversity,” says Belaire. “The bottom line is — what’s healthy for wildlife is healthy for us.”

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