02 November 2010

Tunnel Travelers

It can be tricky to find a good location for a camera. Although I'm not much of an expert and most of what I know is self taught, I'll try and talk a bit about how I go about picking camera trap locations.

The most common area used to place a camera trap is a trail (natural or artificial). Trails can be anything from a gravel road used by vehicles, to a faint path going through the vegetation warn out by the repeated passing of animal feet. The thing to remember is that, in general, if the trail makes it easier for you to get around, then it will make it easier for the animals as well. Animals will tend to follow either the least difficult path or the most rewarding one to get from point A to B.

Caracal (Rooikat - Caracal caracal) using a tunnel to pass underneath a road that intersects the Tygerberg nature reserve

Another thing to look out for is evidence of recent animal activity on the path (such as scat, remains of a kill, tracks and disturbed vegetation). For the above photograph I found plenty of animal tracks in the dry mud inside the tunnel and also a lot of other signs of frequent traffic along the rest of the path.

A Leopard Tortoise (Bergskilpad - Stigmochelys pardalis) also uses the tunnel to get around

You can increase your odds of trapping an animal along these trails by looking for natural funnels and forks in the road. The tunnel is a perfect location because it forces the animals to pass through the small bottleneck to enable them to cross the road and enter the linked section of the reserve.

The Caracal didn't even seem to notice the camera thanks to the infrared flash

I had another camera about 200m down the trail and 1 hour and 43 minutes later the same Caracal walked past the second camera. The second camera was placed in an area where the trail runs close to the fence. The leave litter clearly indicate a well worn out path (mainly thanks to the vigilance of the Helmeted Guineafowls).

Helmeted Guineafowl (Tarentaal - Numida meleagris) eyeing the camera

Trails are by no means the only good places to find concentrated wildlife activity. There are many other "places of interest" that attract animals.


  1. The intersection of two trails is a great place for a camera, because animals will often pause. Foxes, coyotes, and other predators will leave scat or urine to mark their presence at a trail intersection.

  2. "Marking trees," where mammals spray or rub their scents, are also supposed to be good places for cameras.

  3. Love that your cam triggered for the tortoise. Maybe its shell is hot from being in the sun?