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Seeing Spots

May 5, 2014

Seeing Spots

- as seen by -

Julie Larsen Julie Larsen

Camera traps set up in the wild help biologists count animals in areas otherwise difficult to census. They’re best known for not needing a photographer continually at the controls—until I turned INTO a camera trap for a study of snow leopard spots.

Field staff in Asia wanted to set out camera traps for a snow leopard count but needed to find out if they’d be able to tell one cat from another. Each cat has unique markings amidst its thick fur, but the coat’s density makes the spots hard to see.

In my role as camera trap, I took photos of Bronx Zoo snow leopards from different angles (the forehead is one good place to see the spots) as a preliminary step to placing camera traps in the wild. The snow leopard researchers used these photos to test their identification skills on individual cats. Soon after, camera traps were set out in parts of Asia to do their work alone.

Nikon D70

Bronx, United States Map It


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Jan Kaderly
May 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

While it remains ineffable, you have captured the essence of a cat. This beauty looks like he/she may be snarling at you and ready to bounce.

Debbie Janoff
May 7, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Snow leopards are so elusive, many conservationists only spot them (pun intended) through camera trap images. Kudos to you for advancing this work – and in such a breathtaking way.

    Julie Larsen Maher
    May 7, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Snow leopards are nearly invisible in the wild. Their spots are good for identification but also help them blend into their rocky habitat. At the Bronx Zoo, visitors can see and sometimes hear our charismatic cats. They don’t roar, they chuffle – a puffing noise that serves as their purr or greeting.

    Ever hear them?

Kristen Avery
May 13, 2014 at 8:05 pm

This has to be one of my favorite snow leopard photos! Such a great closeup.

Betty Combs
May 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I love the snow leopards….. they are so beautiful, they are my favorite , my grand-daughter loves the big tiger ….

Mary Ann Leitch
May 16, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Wonderful pic. How can society continue to allow the destruction of natural habitats for creatures? Corporate greed – thru dirty energy forms and that includes pipelines to transport them, food products like palm oil that we can live without. Poaching for “so called cures”- how extraordinarily selfish and loss of habitat/prey by man’s overpopulation. In the last 100 yrs, wildlife has been reduced by 90%. Yes, “Soon Only in Zoos} but not the same creatures as the wild ones.

Patty Powell
May 16, 2014 at 7:32 pm

What a beautiful photograph. Made my day.

May 20, 2014 at 12:10 am

What a beautiful cat!

Rita Santos
May 30, 2014 at 12:22 am


Ruby Taton
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