A new video web series featuring Bitterroot Valley wildlife scavenging on deer and elk carcasses is soon to be released as part of a partnership between MPG Ranch, Raptorview Research Institute, Bitterroot Audubon, and MAPS Media Institute. The short films feature rarely-seen interactions between a variety of wildlife species: eagles, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and even skunks. The result of the project is the Bitterroot Valley Winter Eagle Series, to be released on the MAPS Media Institute YouTube channel beginning September 6, with new episodes airing weekly.
The Bitterroot Valley Winter Eagle Project documents marked eagles and other scavenging species using private lands throughout the Bitterroot Valley. “We collected well over 800,000 still photos, and hundreds of hours of video,” said MPG Ranch scientist Kate Stone. “We had over 50 re-sighting events of our research eagles, we also saw an incredible diversity of other wildlife — everything from mountain lions to American marten.”
The goal of the resulting web series is to educate the public about the wildlife behavior in natural habitats, providing both the awe and understanding that are needed for effective conservation engagement. Raptor View Research Institute director Rob Domenech notes that the motion-sensing cameras allowed scientists to document behavior few people ever witness. “Between hunters, roadkill and natural causes, thousands of ungulate carcasses are efficiently disposed by scavengers in the Bitterroot Valley every year,” he said. “What an incredible opportunity it is for these kids—and, by extension, anybody who watches these videos—to become a sort of ‘fly-in-the-wild’ and observe these events as they occur naturally.”
The video vignettes include subjects such as golden eagle vs. coyote interactions, a mountain lion burying and unearthing a stashed carcass, eagles “moonwalking,” and bald and golden eagle vocalizations. MAPS students Hannah Hicks and George Glidden were the principal editors of the collected footage. “There’s a common sentiment that technology has erected a barrier between humans and the natural world, especially when it comes to young people,” said MAPS Media Lab Director Dru Carr about the project. “But all you’ve got to do is watch these videos and you’ll see that technology can actually bring us closer to the wild. Our students now have intimate knowledge of an amazing natural process that few humans have ever had access to.”
MAPS student George Glidden said, “I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of wildlife in the footage. It was a truly fun experience and I learned how to apply my editing skills in a really creative way.”
MAPS Executive Director Clare Ann Harff said that MAPS is dedicated to collaborating with local organizations like RaptorView Research Institute and the MPG Ranch. “They offer unique, creative, and challenging ‘real-world’ opportunities for students to test-drive the skills they learn at MAPS. Client projects like this offer a type of on-the-job training that creates a space for students to grow both artistically and professionally while also positively contributing to our community.”
The Bitterroot Valley Winter Eagle Project premieres on September 6, and episodes will be released weekly throughout the fall.
To watch the Bitterroot Valley Winter Eagle Project series trailer, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6TVNtRtpAo&feature=youtube