Scientists from four Canadian universities used Fitbits and spy mics to record over 14,000 hours of sound from the secret lives of Canada lynx, a medium-sized cat-like North American predator. It is usually found across Canada and the north-American US region. Canada lynx are difficult to study for researchers because of their elusive nature. This led researchers to use the latest miniaturised technology to gain insights into their lives, a first in remote wildlife research. Researchers attached accelerometers and small audio recorders as collars to the animals, which are one of the top predators of the boreal forest of Canada.
On 26 lynx that were the subject of the study, researchers deployed a total of 39 collars with the recording devices that captured over 14,470 hours of data.
“The first time going through the audio files… you just hear the chaos. And then click a little bit further along and you hear what you think is bones cracking,” said Emily Studd, the lead researcher and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, in an interview to CBS.
In the recorded audio, the animals can be heard bonding, fighting, cleaning themselves and even whining after losing a meal. Studd and her colleagues spent five years on the study that offers the science community a peek into the animals’ lives.”I spent three years in the field specifically tracking them, and rarely ever saw them,” Studd underscores the challenges of studying the predators’ lives. According to her, because predators need to sneak up on their prey, they are naturally secretive animals.
The new study, which was published in the British Ecological Society’s journal Methods of Ecology and Evolution, opens up a new possibility of using such technologies to study and monitor the hunting behaviour of predators. These technologies can make documentation of even the smallest activities of elusive animals possible.