Wildlife Cameras – Frequently Asked Questions

by | Pakatak kit in the field...

Wildlife Cameras – commonly asked wildlife camera questions…

How do I choose the right wildlife camera for my needs?

Choosing the right wildlife camera is not always easy considering the hundreds of options there are out there. Consider factors like image and video resolution for clearest recorded footage.   Trigger speed for quick captures (although it’s notoriously hard to confirm the manufacturers claims on trigger speed!).  Battery life for extended use, some wildlife cameras hold more batteries than others.  Some cameras use 18650 batteries rather than AA and so will run for longer before needing recharging or a battery change.

Always opt for a camera suited to your location, for example, in a location where the camera may be open to theft you’d probably want to choose a model with “no glow” infrared so it has the best chance of not being spotted at night and stolen.  If the camera is going to be in your garden then you might want to use “low glow” infrared as this can give you brighter images and video at night than “no glow”, and if the camera is on your own property then hopefully there’s less chance of theft.  An increasingly popular night vision type is white light, this illumnates the area and means you can record in colour at night but it’s not at all covert, so is not suitable for all applications.  There are many factors to consider but these are the basic questions to ask yourself before a purchase.

Where should I place my wildlife camera for the best results?

Good placement for your wildlife camera is important and will determine, in part, the quality of the images recorded.  Optimal spots include game trails, water sources, and bait sites or feeding areas. Even in your own garden the wild visitors will have their prefered paths and trails, entrances and exits.  Mount the camera at a height of about 3-4 feet for most UK wildife such as foxes and badgers etc.  Slightly lower for hedgehogs and birds on the ground maybe.  Slightly higher for larger animals such as deer.  and angle it slightly downward to frame animals.  Try to ensure it’s well-hidden to avoid detection and disturbance if it’s located in a public area. Regularly check and adjust positioning for the best results.  Trial and error is always the best way to find the optimum camera location and position.

Try to avoid large areas of contrasting light.  For example, facing a trail camera towards a dark shaded hedge but with the other 50% of the camera view being the bright blue sky above the hedge.  These contrasts will make it difficult for the camera to decide whether it needs to lighten or darken the view, to use infrared or not.  Ensure the majority of the camera view has similar lighting conditions for the best results.

What type of bait should I use to lure wildlife into camera view?

Putting treats out for the local wildlife is a sure fire way to attract some visitors.  You also often get better images this way too, as your guests hang around for longer in the camera view!  What food to leave out, of course, depends upon what sort of wildlife you’re trying to attract to your camera site!  Foxes, badgers, hedgehogs and birds will all have their own particular favourite treats.  A nice drink of water for your visitors is always a great idea too!

Badgers love eggs and nuts.  Hedgehogs a partial to some cat food! Birds like peanuts and a variety of seeds.  It will always depend upon the wildlife you’re looking to attract though, for example Robins love mealworms but other creatures may not…

How do I prevent “false” triggers?

This is something many first time wildlife camera users often ask.  It’s rare to actually have a camera recording on false triggers unless it has a fault.  “Empty” video footage or images will more than likely always have been triggered by something!  It could be an insect very close to the sensor, maybe a bird flying past at speed thatw ould not be seen in the recording.  Branches or leaves that have warmed in the sunshine could also cause a recording trigger if they are warmer than the ambient air temperature.

So video footage or images that appear to have nothing in them are part and parcel of using trail cameras and in most environments are unavoidable at times.  Don’t worry too much about them and work too hard trying to stop them happening.  Just be pleased that your camera is out there doing it’s thing.  Most trail cameras can take high capacitty memory cards, so the odd empty image is not going to make too much difference anyway…

How can I extend the battery life of my wildlife camera?

This will depend upon the camera itself and the accessories or add ons that are available for it.  Some wildlife cameras have additional battery packs available that can be connect to the camera via a short cable to extend running time.  Many trail camera brands offer solar panels that can be connected to their cameras.  Solar panels, in the right conditions, can vastly increase running time and good light can keep charging the solar panel battery.

What are the advantages of using a cellular wildlife camera with remote access?

The main advantage is that a cellular camera can transmit and image or video clip to your email address or phone just after it’s been recorded.  So you get to see what’s triggered the camera within a minute or so of it happening.  This feature does mean ongoing costs though, as the camera will need a SIM card inserted which will connect to the phone networks, this creates an ongoing cost.

How do I retrieve and organize the photos and videos from my wildlife camera?

Your wildlife camera will have a memory card inserted.  So you can take the card from the camera and connect to any laptop or desktop computer to review the recorded footage.  In the meantime, you could insert another card into the camera to avoid any downtime if you want to leave the camera at the subject site.

Another option which some trail cameras have is to connect the entire camera to a USB port on your computer.  This option is a little more cumbersome and means you cannot leave the camera in place to continue capturing footage.

WiFi trail cameras are becoming increasingly common and these offer yet another option for playback.  If you’re within range with your smart phone, you can open an app and view recorded footage and images on the phone without actually touching the camera itself.

Are there any legal or ethical considerations when using wildlife cameras?

Privacy Concerns: While wildlife cameras are primarily used to observe animals, they can inadvertently capture images of people, their activities, or property. Placing cameras in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy may lead to legal issues. Always respect the privacy of others when deploying your cameras.

Property Rights: Ensure you have permission from the landowner to install cameras on private property. Trespassing to set up cameras without permission can lead to legal consequences.

Data Collection and Sharing: If you intend to collect and share data obtained from your cameras, consider the laws governing data privacy and sharing. Make sure you have proper consent to share images or information about individuals captured by your cameras.

Camera Placement: Avoid placing cameras in sensitive or protected areas, as it can harm ecosystems or disturb endangered species. Always adhere to environmental regulations.

Ethical Considerations: Even if something is legally permissible, it may not be ethically sound. Always prioritize the welfare of wildlife and the environment when using wildlife cameras.

What are the best practices for maintaining and protecting my wildlife camera from the elements and theft?

Portable cameras that can be placed easily in any location may always be slightly vunerable to theft.  If it’s easy to place them, it could be easy to take them.  Having said that, there are a few things you can do to help prevent theft.  Trail cameras are often camoufalged which helps so choosing a model which will belnd into the environment you intend to place it can help.  Use cameras with covert “no glow” infrared so they are harder to spot at night.  Security boxes can be purchased for many different model of wildlife camera.  These boxes can be fixed in place more pemanently, making it a harder and longer job to break them open and access the camera, or more difficult to take the whole security box away.

Protecting your wildlife camera from the weather…

In terms of helping your camera to last as long as possible, try to protect it as much as possible from the weather.  Any sheltering will help and prevent it from being battered by heavy rainfall or roasted in the hot midday sun.  A security box can also help with this.  Sometimes due to location, sheltering a camera from the elements can be next to impossible but anything you can do may help your camera last a little be longer.

Can I use a wildlife camera for home security purposes as well?

Yes, definitely.  Trail cameras are becoming more and more popular for use as home security cameras.  This is often due to their portability, they can be moved around depending upon where you want to surveill.  They are also completeyl wireless so installation time is pretty much zero.

Councils all over the UK now use this type of camera in fly tipping hotspots and areas of anti social behaviour.  If they go unnoticed, they can provide fantastic video for evidence of crime and wrongdoing.

I hope the questions, answers and advice above help you with your wildlife camera choice.  Choosing a camera can be very difficult due to the amount of models there are available but try to choose a retailer you can trust, one who can answer questions and is there to support before and after sale.  Think very carefully whether your retailer can and will honour any warranty attached to the camera too.



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