Remote photography, using camera traps, can be an effective and noninvasive tool for capturing the migration phenology of terrestrial wildlife. We deployed 14 digital cameras along a 104-kilometer longitudinal transect to record the spring migrations of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and ptarmigan (Lagopus spp.) in the Alaskan Arctic. The cameras recorded images at 15-minute intervals, producing approximately 40,000 images, including 6685 caribou observations and 5329 ptarmigan observations. The northward caribou migration was evident because the median caribou observation (i.e., herd median) occurred later with increasing latitude; average caribou migration speed also increased with latitude (r2 = .91). Except at the northernmost latitude, a northward ptarmigan migration was similarly evident (r2 = .93). Future applications of this method could be used to examine the conditions proximate to animal movement, such as habitat or snow cover, that may influence migration phenology.
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Capturing migration phenology of terrestrial wildlife using camera traps