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Studying animals in an urban environment

MISSOULA – Vast wild landscapes are diminishing, and it is becoming increasingly important to study wildlife in urban environments.

“Missoula is not a giant city, but it is definitely growing and so evaluating how this development is affecting mammal communities,” said Chris Hansen.

Hansen — who is part of the Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program at the University of Montana — is looking for answers to the impacts on animals by humans.

He is looking for answers from the impacts on animals by humans including what effect development has on wildlife — and mammals in particular.

Hansen uses a noninvasive tool to look at the impacts on wildlife by using motion-sensored camera traps to detect wildlife.

“The camera locations are layered,” Hansen explained. “Going from highly urban zones and slowly moving outward towards pristine forests.”

He is therefore able to look at the patterns of activity.

“Noting the differences between the wild areas away from people’s backyards opposed to people’s backyards,” Hansen said.

With that information, we will have a better understanding of how those animals use urban areas.

The value of his research can be attributed to mitigation with mammals and so far, he has gotten over 20 mammal species around Missoula captured on his cameras.

“I think there’s a lot more wildlife than maybe people know,” Hansen said.

He added that urban wildlife research isn’t his sole passion, “I just like being involved in research and conservation.”

“I am interested in learning about that system and using the information,” Hansen concluded.

With more analyzes to process throughout his research, Hansen has already gotten impressive results.

“The coolest results of this project is 200 cameras 1.5 million photos and almost every single camera has had a wild mammal on it,” Hansen said.

“Doesn’t matter if it’s in [a] backyard or backcountry wildlife is everywhere,” he continued.

He ends with some reassuring words, “the future is bright for coexisting with these species in this town.”

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