Photo by Jeffrey Esparza
Motion-activated cameras placed on the TECS campus over the winter break caught these photos of a mule deer and 14 images of bobcats. The night-vision camera also caught the silhouette of a mountain lion (not pictured). â€śIf you have healthy, large predators it means the whole ecosystem is in good shape,â€ť says Science teacher Jeffrey Esparza.
With the kids away, it was the wildlifeâ€™s turn to play at the Topanga Elementary campus during winter break.
Science teacher Jeffrey Esparza and some of his Topanga Elementary Charter School (TECS) students set up motion-activated camera traps to watch the trails while the students and staff were off-site enjoying the holidays. The experiment was a huge success, resulting in multiple bobcats, three mule deer, and a mountain lion all being captured on the cameras during the three-week period.
â€śI was teaching my fourth- and fifth-grade classes about camera traps, and then we did our own experiment to see what roams the trails of our school campus,â€ť explained Esparza. â€śWe set the cameras in trees in what we thought would be high-traffic areas, and let them run for the duration of winter break. One of the cameras was right next to the amphitheater, and another was just beyond it. They are motion- and heat-sensing cameras activated to snap any movement in range.
â€śIt was awesome. We captured photos of three mule deer, our native deer in the Santa Monica Mountains. We also caught 14 bobcat images, and after studying those I was able to confirm it was at least six different individual bobcats. We captured one mountain lion image which was the major highlight. It was taken in the dark and the night vision on the camera wasnâ€™t working too well, but I saw the silhouette of those big shoulders and body, small head, and long tail, and I knew what it was immediately. After we lightened up the image, I was able to confirm it was a mountain lion.â€ť
After they returned to school last month, Esparza told his excited students that the images show what a healthy ecosystem surrounds them in Topanga Canyon.