The province is using a photo contest as bait to get people with trail cameras to share images they've captured of deer and bears so officials can better understand the populations of these species.

Trail cameras are set up in wooded areas and take pictures when triggered by movement.

The information collected from the photos will complement other work done by the Department of Natural Resources. The department already learns about the deer population by examining deer feces in the spring, and information about the reproductive rate of the species is gathered by examining roadkill.

"That's giving us half of the picture, but the other half is how many of those fawns are surviving," said Emma Vost, a biologist with DNR.

Location information needed

This is where the trail camera photos come in handy.

Besides submitting photos from trail cameras taken between Sept. 1 and Dec. 10, 2017, people must complete a survey providing information about where the photos were taken and what was observed in them.

Vost said the photo locations won't be revealed to the public.

Bears trail camera Nova Scotia

The contest will also provide Department of Natural Resources officials with information about bears. (Farmland Outfitters/Facebook)

"We don't make that information public. The area is really more for us on our end to have an idea of how well the trail cameras are spread out and what kind of coverage we're getting over the province," she said.

Hunters and anglers are notorious for being protective of their favourite spots.

'Cool images'

"I wouldn't like for other hunters to know where I'm hunting," said Dave Jensen, a hunter who lives in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S.

He has eight trail cameras and uses them to find bucks and learn about their patterns so he has the best shot at success.

"I'm like a kid in a candy store when I go to collect my memory cards out of my trail cameras. I can't get to them quick enough and I love seeing the deer," said Jensen.

Trail camera deer Nova Scotia

Dave Jensen said this is one of his favourite photos out of the thousands his trail cameras have captured over the years. (Submitted by Dave Jensen)

"I don't just love hunting them and killing them. I love taking the pictures and seeing what's there and seeing what type of cool images I can gather."

Jensen said he's considering entering the contest if he has a great photo to submit.

His trail cameras have captured more than deer and bears in the past. He's also seen bobcats, coyotes, eagles, rabbits, porcupines and even the odd human.

Unusual insight

Dave MacLeod, who owns Farmland Outfitters in Millbrook First Nation in the town of Truro, said he thinks the contest is a good idea, as it will give officials a better idea of what animals are in which areas.

Dave MacLeod Farmland outfitters

Dave MacLeod owns the company Farmland Outfitters. He said the contest will help give wildlife officials better insight into where species are living. (Robert Short/CBC)

Trail cameras can provide some unusual insight into the populations of species. Vost said DNR officials have sometimes heard from people in the past that there are no bucks in their area — just does and fawns.

"One of the things that came out of this trail camera survey was that a lot of the bucks just are nocturnal during hunting season, when you aren't allowed to hunt them at night," she said.

"So that's interesting. It's telling us a little bit about behaviour and answers that question about why some hunters weren't seeing bucks."

This is the fourth year of the contest, and it closes on Jan. 18, 2018.