|Mother bear and cub. Photo: Paige Critchley|
Critchley is a local entrepreneur, a horse enthusiast, and a wildlife lover. To me, she has also become a great friend and someone who shares the passion of photographing wildlife with trail cameras. She spends a lot of her free time with her dog outdoors and with friends, but always seems to have trail cameras in the back of her mind. "Using trail cameras always builds excitement," Critchley says "It's an activity that takes my mind off work."
She volunteered some of her time to run cameras for me in Loudoun County, Virginia and I got to see her interest rise. Growing with her passion for this, is the number of cameras she personally owns and uses. It started as one but has grown to 12 cameras now.
|Black Bear. Photo: Paige Critchley|
While she describes coyotes as being her favorite animal to capture on camera, Critchley has gotten an incredible amount of bear photographs lately.
Bears aren't rare here in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, but they exist mostly in western Loudoun, parts of Fauquier, and parts of Prince William Counties. During certain times of the year, bear activity may greatly increase in more suburban areas, leading to problems in traffic. This is due to an interest in new territory and mating habits of young males. With these trail cameras, we are able to keep records on bears and do small population surveys based on the photos.
"I have about 7 or 8 bears coming through 2 different trail camera locations, at the moment." Critchley says. She adds "I even captured two bears in combat, possibly a mating ritual or territorial fight."
These black bears are not something to be fearful of in our area, but rather something to be aware of. They are omnivorous, meaning that both plants and animals make up their meals. Right now, black bears are feeding on ripened raspberries, wineberries, roots, and insects. Throughout the year, their diet changes, but usually keeps with a mostly plant based diet, mixed in with a few animals.
Capturing an image of a bear tells a lot. It can tell researchers where bears are, how many are in a certain area, and daytime patterns of an individual. Capturing behavior is another thing, and tells a whole story. The trail cameras have captured the combatting bears, young bears ripping down Critchley's cameras, different bear postures, and even bears stealing her cameras and using them to take their own selfies.
|Every time another black bear touches this log, it adds a tiny bit of scent. The scent draws in more bears and the cycle continues, sometimes for months. Photo: Paige Critchley.|
|A bobcat of Northern Virginia. Photo: Paige Critchley|