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How Yamal scientists use photo traps to study predator fauna in Erkuta.

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Yamal scientists continue photo hunting for the inhabitants of Baydaratskaya tundra. They have been using traps with cameras for the last 12 years to study the predator fauna of Erkuta. All work starts in spring: it gets warmer, which means that cameras will operate for a longer period of time. Daylight becomes longer too. Evgeniya Chetvertak will provide more details.

A couple of minutes and everything is ready. The process of changing memory cards is simple and straightforward. In order to attract animals, scientists always leave a bait in front of the lens.

Monitoring of the predators starts here, on the eastern coast of the Baydaratskaya Bay. Sensors located at the same distance from each other go inside the peninsula for 50 kilometres.

The photo traps used by Yamal scientists now are high tech. To configure the old ones scientist needed 40 minutes at each spot.

‘In the past we used to spend 2 days for this check. Today, for the first time, thanks to the support of the regional authorities, we will try to do it in one day because there is a possibility to divide our group. Two snowmobiles will check 5 cameras, and one off-road vehicle will check the other 5 cameras,’ says Alexander Sokolov, deputy director, Arctic Research Station, RAS Ural Branch.

10 photo traps take pictures every five minutes. Within a few weeks each of the memory cards stores almost 4 thousand photos. It is not a problem for the scientist to travel across the tundra. It is much more difficult to look through and analyse the captured data.

‘Here, let's say we have 1,000 photos. Out of 1,000 photos only 100 photos are with an Arctic fox. So, 10 per cent of photos with an Arctic fox. This is at least some data that we can put on a graph. Then we have 10 cameras in that direction, so we will have 10 numbers. It repeats every year,’ says Ivan Fufachev, junior researcher, Laboratory of Arctic ecosystem dynamics, Arctic Research Station, RAS Ural Branch.

This time only Arctic foxes decided to show off for the scientists’ cameras. Biologists hope that in the next few weeks cameras will capture portraits of foxes, wolverines, gyrfalcons and snowy owls.

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