- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - People in North Carolina will soon be able to check out motion-activated trail cameras from the library to get close-up pictures of the deer, coyotes and other critters that wander through their backyards.

It’s part of a plan by state wildlife officials to enlist the public’s help in learning more about the habits of mammals across the state.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports (http://bit.ly/2eQDIN5 ) organizers of the Candid Critters program hope to have the camera traps at 20,000 to 30,000 locations in backyards, state and national parks, game lands and forests over a three-year period. The cameras will be camouflaged and use an infrared flash so they don’t disturb the animals when they go off.

“For a long time, scientists have wanted to collect this kind of large-scale data using camera traps,” said Roland Kays, the head of the Biodiversity Research Lab at the state Museum of Natural Sciences. “But it’s daunting to do by yourself. We basically have built an e-Mammal data management system so that researchers can see and use the information that comes from citizen scientists’ camera traps.”

Kays said scientists are especially interested in studying the distribution patterns of deer across the state, and how that relates to the number of coyotes. Coyotes aren’t native to North Carolina, but they have increased in recent years. Kays said scientists also hope the project will yield new information about bears, skunks, chipmunks, feral hogs and other animals.

Beginning next month, citizens in the eastern third of the state will be able to check out the cameras from their local libraries, said project coordinator Arielle Parsons, a research associate with the museum’s Biodiversity Research Lab. The project will expand statewide in March, Parsons said.

She said the project is beginning with 300 cameras purchased with grant funds.

The Candid Critters program is being operated by the state Museum of Natural Sciences, the Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina State University.

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com

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