The term camera trap seems to be the standard name for these types of cameras, but they are also know as remote cameras, trail cameras, hunting cameras, etc.
What Do I Need?
In order to start camera trapping you will need the following:
- Camera Trap
- Do your research and select a model that fits your budget and needs. There are many local and online stores that sell commercial camera traps, or if you feel adventurous you can build your own.
- You will need to buy (good quality) batteries. The camera trap manufacturer will specify the size. (Most camera traps use either AA or D.)
- SD Card
- Also known as a camera memory card. These are sometimes included in the deal by the supplier. You can buy one at any digital camera shop.
- Naturally you will need to have access to a good location with lots of wildlife activity.
The above list is all you really need to get started. However there are some other things that will come in useful during your camera trapping adventures:
- Stake / Pole
- There isn't always a good tree at hand that can be used to strap your camera against, and growing one at the spot you need it will take far too long. That is why it is a good idea to carry a mobile tree with you. A simple fence pole / stake will do fine. You can drive it into the ground and then strap the camera to it.
- GPS Device
- If you will be placing your cameras in the "wild out doors", then I strongly recommend using a GPS Device to mark where you placed the camera.
- It is always a good idea to carry a notebook around with you.
- Cutting Tool
- A pocket knife or pair of scissors can come in very handy when you need to clear away some vegetation that is in front of the camera trap.
- Additional SD Card.
- It is very useful to have two memory cards per camera, making it easy to swop them out without needing to remove the camera from the field.
- Ideally you would like to store your photographs on your computer for future reference. You can also use various software packages to help organise your files.
What Do I Do?
The basic concept is fairly simple:
- Identify a location with high animal activity.
- I good example of this is a game trail or water source.
- Make sure it is setup correctly and will monitor the area you are targeting. If there are trees around try to use one, otherwise drive a stake into the ground and attach the camera trap to it.
- Check the batteries to make sure they have enough power left. Make sure the SD card has enough space left for the new photos. Before leaving make sure the camera is turned on.
- I would recommend to leave the camera undisturbed for at least 2 weeks. The ideal is to only check the camera after about 2 month. Camera traps are designed to be used outdoors and will withstand the sun and the rain. Most camera will can last more than 2 months on a single set of batteries.
- After enough time has passed collect the camera and review the images.
- For best results rinse and repeat. The more time the camera spends outdoors, the better your changes are of getting that photo you are after.
What Comes Next?
Once you have the basics down you can start experimenting with different camera angles, new locations and different species. For example camera trapping smaller species can be very tricky and rewarding. You can also consider capturing your camera trapping data and analysing the results, or work on creating your own calendar. The possibilities are endless.
Most of all remember to enjoy your new toy, spending time in the wild and learning about nature.
What Is The Camera Trap Blues?
Don't worry, we all get them. If the camera trapping bug has bitten you, then you will inevitably at some point in time find yourself singing the camera trap blues. As you push your limits as a camera trapper you will run into problems. Cameras failing, slow trigger speed, knocked over cameras, lost cameras, missed photographs, terrible photographs, almost perfect photographs, warm wind, warm grass, etc. etc. etc. But do not despair. Camera trapping is a crazy roller-coaster ride. One day the universe is against you and the next it is all going your way with great results waiting for you on your camera trap. Hang in there, you never know what surprised are waiting for you :)