Counting large mammals from drones

Ever wonder what a bison looks like from 100 meters altitude?  This image was taken from a DJI drone during field activities at the American Prairie Reserve in Montana last month, part of ongoing efforts to develop automatic tools to accurately count large mammals.  Beyond a total count, we’re also interested in quantifying the total number of calves, juveniles, and adults in each image, something that is extremely useful to monitor population growth.  If you look closely, you can see the calves, which have an orange tint, are smaller than the other animals in the image, and often found next to their mothers.  Much harder is differentiating sex in the juveniles.  Some of the large males, however, are relatively easy to identify and there are a few big boys in the image.  One of these large males can be seen “wallowing” near the center of the image, a characteristic of bison and how they re-shape the ecosystem, providing improved habitat for a variety of other species.

I count 46 individuals in this image, inclusive of 6 calves.  We’ll see if the computer agrees!

Image collected from a DJI Mavic Pro 2 at 100 meters across the Sun Prairie management unit in the American Prairie Reserve, Montana.

One thought on “Counting large mammals from drones

  1. Don Cayer

    Jared Very cool. Hope all is well. Next year Karen and I are doing a National Park and it ends in Montana. Can’t wait to see that part of the country. See you soon.


    Sent from my iPhone



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