On my previous blog post I talked about monitoring for predators and a few of you reached out to me to ask suggestions about trail cameras. Much like other gear, you will hear different opinions about trail cameras but with a lot of models in the market, I just want to point out a few things you should be looking for if you are getting into monitoring. These are by no means written in stone but are things that I find will help out when it comes to monitoring.
1) Quality night pictures:
This is a crucial element, especially if you live in areas where similar-looking species such as wolves and coyotes exist. Being able to distinguish species at night is crucial, especially since most predators do tend to be nocturnal and don't tend to stay around the cameras enough. So during your shopping around make sure you look at samples of the night pictures each camera has to offer and make sure you are satisfied with the outcome. Trailcampro offers great reviews and samples of most camera traps available and definitely worth looking into.
The actual number varies on preference but you ideally want something faster than slower. I suggest a trigger speed of at least 0.4s as it captures faster moving targets which do tend to be predators. This ensures that there is a higher chance of an animal getting caught on camera when moving in front of it. Faster trail cameras tend to be more expensive so it may have to be a compromise between budgetary restrictions but well worth looking into. A word of caution though, really fast trigger speed could mean a lot of false triggers or a lot of images were only part of the animal can be seen going towards the same. So make sure trigger speed isn't the only determining factor.
This one is a crucial trait to look for. Rapidfire is the ability to take a number of consecutive pictures after a trigger such as an example below:
As you can see the camera took three pictures within the same trigger which was the coyote moving by. This rapid-fire function will allow you to get a better perspective of an animal as it moves by and therefore allowing you to more accurately identify a species.
Without rapid-fire, some triggers can leave you wondering about an animal's species or how many are actually there. The overall number of pictures does not matter but between three and five is the sweet spot I am comfortable with.
4) Battery life:
There are a few ways to increase overall battery life in trail cameras such as using lithium batteries, solar or a 9v battery. But it is crucial to look into this especially if you plan on leaving cameras out in the field for a while. I always suggest using lithium batteries but regardless of battery type, a good trail camera should last at least six months in the field. Numbers on this can extremely vary as a site with a lot of triggers will use up the batteries a lot faster than a site with very little triggers. Manufactures have a good idea of how long a camera will last in the field taking a certain number of captures a day so it's a good idea to do some research. Just remember that in extreme heat or cold, alkaline batteries will underperform as opposed to more consistent lithium.
There are other things to consider of course such as quality control, overall picture quality, storage capacity, and so forth. There are a lot of options to consider and ultimately it comes down to personal taste and budget. Personally I prefer having five $100 cameras over ten $50 cameras since cheaper cameras tend to be unreliable in the long term. However, others prefer to cover a lot of ground with as many cameras as possible and replace them more often rather than leaving areas unmonitored. There is no wrong or right trail camera so long as it suits your needs but I would advise shopping around a bit and looking at reviews to get something reliable for the long term.