50 Wildlife Cameras Annihilated, But You Can Help Restore What Woolsey Fire Destroyed

Wildlife biologists at the National Park Service use wildlife tracking-cameras to monitor local wildlife and keep tabs on the health of the local eco-system, including the animals - and yes, humans - that live in it.

The devices, mounted on trees or hidden in caves, are motion and heat sensored. They record both video and audio.

The cameras are some of the most essential tools used by biologists to track Southern California's most famous animals, including P-22.

When the Woolsey Fire blazed through the Santa Monica Mountains in November of 2018, it destroyed around 90 percent of National Parks Land.

"In that area, we had many remote cameras, of course," said NPS lead mountain lion biologist Jeff Sikich. "So we've lost close to 50 remote cameras between the coyote study, mountain lion study, and bobcat study."

The Woolsey Fire killed two mountain lions: one was engulfed in flames, the other died days after the fire due to burned paws.

A countless number of other animals perished during the blaze, while the rest ran away from it.

"As a wildlife biologist who is charged with capturing these animals to radio collar them for the study, these cameras are so helpful," said Sikich.

To study bobcats, the National Parks Service often set up two cameras across from one another. This alignment method ensures that the cameras capture the pattern of spots on the bobcats' coats, which later helps biologists identify which individuals come and go from particular landscapes. Thanks to this set up by bobcat researchers, two of the cameras lost in the Woolsey Fire were perfectly positioned to film each other getting obliterated by flames.

Miraculously, the SD cards inside the cameras were left intact. The photos and timestamps collected from this incident helped researchers identify exact times the flames moved through the area.

Wildlife cameras will be a crucial part of monitoring which animals return to the burn areas, and when.

The Santa Monica Mountains Fund is currently raising funds to purchase new cameras and asking for public donations.