Florida panthers are among the world’s most endangered — and elusive — animals. For approximately four decades, scientists have been researching this small population of panthers that inhabit the dense forests and swamps of south Florida. Because of their wide habitat range along with an absence of clear visual features, these animals are difficult to detect and identify. In 2013, however, researchers released a study that used camera trap images collected between 2005 and 2007 to generate the first statistically reliable density estimates for the remaining population of this subspecies.
Camera traps — remotely activated cameras with infrared sensors — first gained measurable popularity in wildlife conservation in the early 1990s. Today, they’re used for a variety of activities, from species-specific research to broad-scale inventory or monitoring programs that, in some cases, attempt to detect biodiversity across vast landscapes. As this modern tool continues to evolve, it’s worth examining its uses and benefits for wildlife management and conservation.