Help Uncover the Secrets of Local Wildlife


A young buck in Hoffman Forest.

Photo courtesy of North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Do you ever wonder what animals lurk in the wildest parts of the state? Or in your own backyard? With spring just around the corner, now is a great time for North Carolina residents, particularly those in the central and western parts of the state, to help uncover the secrets of local wildlife. By participating in “NC’s Candid Critters,” a new research project of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. State University, you too can become an important part of the largest camera trap survey ever.

Camera traps are motion-activated cameras that allow scientists (and non-scientists) to collect pictures of animals without disturbing them. Since the project’s launch in eastern North Carolina last December, participants have already sent in more than 50,000 images that will ultimately be used by scientists to learn more about the distribution of mammal species across the state, which in turn informs future wildlife management and conservation efforts.

The goal of N.C.’s Candid Critters is to monitor 20-30,000 sites spanning the entire state over the next three years, which would make it the largest-ever mammal survey of its kind. According to project coordinator Arielle Parsons, research associate with the Museum of Natural Sciences’ Biodiversity Research Lab, “To collect massive amounts of camera trap images from across all 100 counties in North Carolina, we really need the public’s help. The more people that participate, the more we can learn about North Carolina’s critters.”

How You Can Help

No matter what county you live in, you can borrow a camera trap from a nearby public library to set on approved public lands. If you own your own camera trap, you can set it on either approved public land or in your own backyard. Then wait and see what critters you catch and submit those photos to the project using custom software. Photo contributors receive “rewards” for their submissions, ranging from Candid Critter koozies to t-shirts.

The North Carolina Aquariums have already deployed “critter cams” at their Fort Fisher and Pine Knoll Shores locations. Both aquariums are surrounded by large tracts of maritime forest featuring wetlands, scrub habitat, ponds and marsh. This past winter a number of deer and raccoons were spotted, while several foxes, coyotes and opossums were also photographed. “We are very excited to see what other animals are visiting the aquarium properties this spring,” says Carol Price, conservation research coordinator for the aquariums.

For more information, to sign up, or to view a list of favorite images already collected, visit

Source: North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

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