Last spring SooToday featured a short story on Tom McClelland known as Trailcam Tom (Instagram: @trailcam_tom) for those interested in following him. The story generated a great deal of interest so we decided it would be fun to check in on him to learn about his latest visitors.
For over 20 years McClelland has been selectively setting trail cams near home in locations just east of the Sault. His goal is to capture the unusual visitor and the occasional wow photo all while getting an intimate glimpse of those visitors passing through his chosen areas.
Basic activities of scouting locations, setting up and retrieving cameras, cards and changing batteries have become commonplace to him and his dogs in addition to being a way to keep both fit while getting fresh air.
While on his expeditions McLellan will often spot and salvage unique pieces of wood that make the trip back home with him for crafting one-of-a-kind rustic furniture - his other side hobby.
"I generally have approximately eight trail cameras out at any given time. I do have close friends and/or relatives that occasionally send me pictures from their cameras as well. Should I post a picture of theirs it would be with their permission and I would acknowledge such. People are fascinated to discover what could be roaming around their property and I am always available to assist with setting up a camera or two for them.", said McClelland.
Sometimes the journey is not for the faint of heart.
"The main risk that I take in the bush is having my two dogs chase something and then subsequently returning to me with something in pursuit of them. I have had encounters in the bush that have been a bit exciting," he said. "Years ago I had a lone black wolf briefly follow myself and my older golden retriever. That was highly unusual and I was quite concerned about my dog as I had no weapon at all with me."
"Oddly enough I have had two occasions where I was again very concerned about my dogs and aggressive otters (one just the other day)."
"I know for a fact that I have been extremely close to bears many times but have never encountered one that concerned me. Looking into a den and seeing a set of eyes staring back can elevate the heart rate," explains McClelland.
McClelland now prepares for any possibility making sure both he and his beloved pooches are safe should the situation arise. Sometimes it's the smallest things that can make a very important difference.
"In the winter I walk across a lot of ice surfaces and I never go without a set of ice picks - I went through once into deep water years ago and I never want to experience that again!" McClelland says.
In terms of keeping his dogs safe while in the woods McClelland now makes sure to carry a large, stout very sharp knife.
"In a worst-case scenario it would at least give you a better chance than fighting something off bare-handed," he said. At his daughter's urging he now carries bear spray and during the appropriate hunting seasons a firearm.
Most recently McClelland's cameras recorded a wolf/bobcat sequence.
"When I get my SD card into my computer I generally anticipate seeing many photos that are very similar to ones I have seen before. I delete hundreds of photos and keep only those that have some appeal. On this particular sequence, the first picture that popped up was the back of the wolf with the guard hairs standing up and you can see the set of eyes glowing through the guard hairs. My first thought was 'what the heck is that'? As I scrolled ahead I was astounded at this odd interaction that occurred over a 12-minute timeframe."
McClelland goes on to explain, "Knowing that this was highly unusual I Googled this unique occurrence and could find nothing like it"
"I posted the photos on Facebook and Instagram with hopes that it could be shared somewhat, seeking out similar instances of this happening.
"To date, I have heard back from wildlife biologists from British Columbia/ Washington State, Wisconsin, France, Belarus who specialize in predator interactions and none have seen such an interaction between a bobcat and a timber wolf.
"Two of the researchers offered the opinion that this could very well be the first-ever documented instance of this occurring....so score one for Northern Ontario....now if I could just get a cougar and a sasquatch on camera."