08 May 2010

Missing Camera

Winter has finally arrived down here in the Western Cape province. The rainy weather cleared up a little yesterday and I managed to go check the cameras at Tygerberg. I checked the Moultrie trail camera first. It had some more nice images of the Small Grey Mongoose (Kleingrysmuishond).

I headed over to the spot where the Bushnell was set up, but as I got closer I became worried. I could not see it... I started looking around and finally arrived at the spot itself, but there was no sign of it! I pulled out the GPS and double checked my location. I was right on top of it, but there was no sign of it anywhere. I was starting to get a bad feeling about this and suspected that I might have lost my first camera... Maybe the heavy rains somehow dislodged it and washed it a bit down hill? I spent some time searching the area and then head down hill, praying hard to find it.

You might notice that there is no camera in this photograph... It used to stand in the dark spot next to the little green shrub on the right

Finally I gave up. It felt terrible to think that somebody would actually crawl down the slope and steal my camera... Finally giving up, I turn around and started heading back up the slope. Then, in the corner of my eye I spotted something. It wasn't the camera but at least it was the stake I strapped it against. So, at least the thief had the "decency" to leave the pole behind...

A glimmer of hope...

Then I saw it, my camera!! Tucked away underneath a bush, about 4 meters away from where I set it up, I saw my camera. I was so relieved :)

Battered, beaten and full of mud but still working

At closer inspection of the pole I noticed some teeth marks on it... I can't preview the images from the Bushnell on my digital camera and I don't have the Bushnell Trophy Cam model with a built in viewer, so I rushed home to download the images to my computer. The SD card was full and I thought maybe I had some pictures of the culprit, but it might have filled up with warm leaves before the terrifying event.

I got home and scanned through the pictures. I was surprised to find a new species, but more about that next time. And then, the culprits showed themselves: two porcupines!

Two Porcupines (Ystervarke) still unaware of the camera...

The infrared flash of the camera is invisible to the naked eye, but the LED lights on the camera itself do glow faint red and this possibly caught the attention of the porcupine

You can see part of the porcupine in the right half of the image while it was carrying the camera away

I have photographed a lot of porcupines since I have been camera trapping and they usually just ignore the camera. Sometimes they will come check it out and maybe give it a sniff or two, but this is the first time any of them ever moved the camera.


  1. What a wonderful story. Do you suppose a trace of scent from your hands could have attracted the porcupines?

  2. I have had lots of similar setups where the camera is very visible/smellable, and they usually just pass on by or give the camera a quick sniff before moving along. I'm not sure what triggered the animal to pull the camera out. I think it was possibly play behavior, because one of the porcupines was a youngster and the pole had some chew marks on it when I found it.