A trail camera also known as a game camera or camera trap is used to capture images of wildlife with as little human interference as possible. Historically they were used in wildlife research to study animal activity and behavior. With the incorporation of digital technology, they give a fascinating insight into nocturnal and diurnal wildlife habits.
Camera traps enable collection of photographic evidence of rarely seen and often globally endangered species with little expense, relative ease and minimal disturbance to wildife. They can also be used for more than just nature viewing or scouting and can be a powerful tool for landowners, landmanagers and hunters. Information can be collected on animal movement and range size, minimum population size, demographic data, identifying nest predators and catalogue vertebrate diversity. In the face of deforestation and habitat destruction they can document wildlife presence, abundance and population changes.Another important use of camera traps is for creating awareness worldwide with Non-governmental organizations embracing the tool as a powerful way of reaching out to the public through electronic media.
Trail Cameras provide the users with an opportunity to document and view elusive species and observe their behavior. For e.g. forhunters they allow scouting of multiple areas over the same period of time and monitoring 24 hour activity at specific locations. For Wildlife enthusiasts they help document shy or rarely seen animals e.g. bobcats, ocelots and mountain lions.
Most cameras are encased in a weatherproof protective shell that is mounted to a tree or post. This protects the camera from damage from animals and the environment. They are also equipped to take still pictures or short video clips. The camera is triggered by heat and/or motion of animals within a certain distance. Sensitivity of the trigger can be adjusted to optimise use in day or night settings or for different species. The placement of the camera is often decided by the target species. They should be mounted to a tree or post within effective range of wildlife. For e.g.3-4 feet above the ground is ideal for deer.
Trail Cameras can be used for a variety of species. The white tailed deer can be photographed from various angles .This helps survey the quality and abundance of deer on a property.
They also monitor the habitat use and movements of Upland gamebirds such as wild turkeys, northern bobwhite, scaled quail and Gambel’s quail. These data can provide information on the composition and productivity of population and changes which occur on annual basis. They can also be used for nest surveillance for a variety of different bird species. They allow researchers to monitor bird behavior, nest success rates and the Predator community.
Nongame species can also be viewed using trail cameras. They allow one to capture rare species such as ocelots, mountain lions or black bears.Smaller species like timber rattlesnakes and small rodents have also been documented.
It is fun and educative to use trail cameras. They provide useful evidence on the presence or absence of wildlife species. As they operate silently animals will not be disturbed from their normal habits by a foreign object in their habitat.