Camera trapping

These past few months I have been doing a bit of experimentation with camera traps. My target animals were foxes and badgers, and the target location was the Bristol suspension bridge. I was a bit reluctant at first because I wasn’t sure what the safest way to secure the camera would be – it is quite visible to the public eye. So after some trial and error, here’s some of my personal tips, especially when putting up a camera in a public place.

What to buy

In general trail cameras aren’t expensive compared to other bits of camera gear – £250-300 – but for those looking to buy a camera trap (trail camera), there’s relatively little selection in the UK. Bushnell seems the most common brand here, with very little variation. If you’re looking for more options you should consider looking to the US in terms of price range (but customs will add on a charge if they stop it) – they use it commonly for hunting so the market is considerably bigger there. Also ask yourself what you end purpose is: is it general surveillance? (No high-quality gear needed) Photography? (Mid-range could easily give you 8MP shots) Video? (Bushnell now do HD cameras which I didn’t know when I bought mine – I have to settle for 680×480 at this moment in time).

From personal research I would suggest the following:

  • Low range: Tasco and Moultrie seem to be good ones but they may only be available states-side. Otherwise go for a bushnell X-8
  •  Mid range: Bushnell trophy camera will average around £200. Good, secure option – has been very widely recommend.
  •  High range: Go full HD!

Hawke is another UK-wide brand, or otherwise have a look at Minox though they are pricier.

How to do it

When looking for advice on the internet there wasn’t really much in terms of how or where to set up. So here’s a few things I’ve learnt from personal experience:

  • Make sure there’s a clear field of view from your camera to your subject. This means that there shouldn’t be any leaves or twigs in front of the trap otherwise it will set it off all the time and drain your battery very quickly.
  • Because of the point above, scout out your desired location and make sure there’s a good place to attach it to – otherwise you might need to hammer in your own pole.
  • Use lithium batteries! I tried cheaping out on alkaline but there’s a reason all cameras use lithium-ion batteries, and there’s a reason they’re a lot more expensive (I got 8 for about £8 on ebay) – they last! My others couldn’t hack more than a day and a half. A few weeks on, and mine are still going strong.
  • Test it out to see how wide the angle of view is. If there’s street lights around then you can see a surprising amount, but if there’s nothing other than the infrared beam you might be a little disappointed.
  • Adverse weather shouldn’t be an issue (nor should it deter the animals) but fog will be.
  •  There’s no point in keeping it up during the day. (a) you won’t get anything and (b) there a higher likelihood of it getting stolen.
  •  Sensitivity: doesn’t need to be too sensitive – I’ve had little insects make my camera go off. I usually keep it on ‘normal’ or ‘low’.
  • Baiting can help but can also attract ones you don’t want
  • You will always get some embarrassing setting up shots. Fact.
  • Have fun with it! It’s really addictive to see what the animals up to when no one is around or to scare them off.

Security

This was a big concern of mine, as my trap was going to be in the public eye on a popular bridge overnight meaning the risk of theft was high.

The best way to secure a camera trap seems to be using a bear box. To protect it from, you know, bears. But bears and humans have a very different idea of perseverance when it comes to taking out a camera strapped to a tree, and I felt a box might make it a bit bulky as well as that my biggest issue was keeping the camera strapped to the pole, not necessarily damage to the trap itself.. I’m using a Bushnell trophy cam and the plastic through which you lace the strap isn’t as strong as you might think. Certainly not strong or big enough to allow a lock to go through it, and other than a bear box, or drilling your own holes in a different container, there aren’t many options.

So this was my solution: a combo of white tape (if attached to a white pole), the strap, a heavy duty (usually used for falconry) cable tie, a lock keeping the camera trap closed and then a bike lock which is attached to the lock on the camera itself. Seems to have stood the test of time so far (knock on wood!)

Camera trap set-up

Camera trap set-up in one of the more secure locations

What did I get?

So far, I have gotten a lot of this* (these are all screenshots from video footage)…

Feet in front of camera trap

Feet in front of camera trap

And this…

Feet walking across the screen

Feet walking across the screen

Sometimes a bit of this…

Crow eating

Crow eating

And when I got lucky, I got some of this…

Fox camera trap Badger camera trap

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