Trail camera theft is unfortunately no longer uncommon. Thewildtrend.com has compiled the most important options for securing wildlife cameras: First of all to keep them from seeing animals and to minimize the human impact and second to avoid stolen malicious people.
Unfortunately, even the most inaccessible places in the woods are the destination of a continuous human pilgrimage. Furthermore, wild animals tend to prefer beaten paths and former mule tracks to facilitate their movements, so it is normal to place camera traps in open places or on paths.
Tips to secure your trail camera
Of course, each hunting camera is camouflage in color and it is certainly highly recommended to use padlocks, steel cables and any metal boxes to protect them. Here you will find an article with many tips on how to protect your trail camera from thieves.
But this is not enough. Some small measures must be used to prevent theft.
1. Secured with a cable lock
Cable locks like Python are generally used to secure wildlife cameras. The great advantage of the lock is the individually adjustable length. Between 30 and 180 cm, the Python cable lock can be clicked into place at any point, similar to a cable tie.
This means that you can even secure more than one trail camera to a tree with one cable lock. Another advantage is that the eyelets, which are found on the back of the housing of all well-known hunting cameras, can be used with a maximum cable diameter.
Trail cameras can be very well secured against theft with these cable locks, especially in the forest, as the villains usually strike spontaneously and usually do not carry any heavy equipment with them. It provides only limited protection against vandalism. A metal housing is the best solution here.
2. Secured by metal housing
For the most common trail cameras, you can find custom-made steel housings in camouflage on Amazon. This makes particular sense if it is a higher quality photo trap. In the case of photo traps of wildlife cameras, you have to consider whether you really want to invest.
With a metal housing, the wildlife camera is not completely protected against vandalism. But you make the theft of the camera more difficult. In addition, at least the SD card with the photos of the culprit is usually retained. The steel case itself is secured with a solid padlock at the bottom or on the side.
Tip: be sure to paint the padlock with a spray can matt black or green. Because the mostly brass-colored padlocks look like a foreign body in the forest. If the wildlife camera is secured with a cable lock or a metal housing and then stolen, it is a “particularly serious case of theft”.
3. Activate PIN query
With almost all trail cameras known to us, you can enter a freely selectable four-digit security code, similar to a PIN, via the menu. This means that as soon as the thief wants to enter the setup menu of the wildlife camera, he must first enter the PIN.
Disadvantage: Even the rightful owner of the camera must first enter the PIN before entering the menu. The navigation keys do this much more slowly than you might be used to from your cell phone. And even if you have secured the camera with a PIN – it is usually gone anyway.
The trail camera thief only recognizes PIN protection when he is at home with the trail camera.
4. Marking of the trail camera
Trail camera manufacturers such as Bushnell allow you to enter an individual name, which is then visible in every photo. A trail camera thief can override this setting unless the trail camera is PIN-protected, but the trail camera is not always stolen by an evil thief.
- Engrave Telephone Number: This allows you to clearly identify your camera. It is recommended, for example, to engrave your own telephone number. It may well be that a hunting tenant is of the opinion that only he has to hang game cameras in his hunting area.
- UV markers: Since the classic game cameras are quite widespread, it is not so easy for the stolen person to identify his own game camera afterwards. Marking with a pen that is only visible under UV light is an interesting approach here.
5. Cellular wildlife camera
An MMS or GPRS game camera secures itself. Because the moment a vandal discovers the camera, his photo has already landed in the mailbox of the owner. If the mobile phone camera was used to protect property, ideally you can even send the police to the scene. Even if it is hundreds of kilometers away.
This also works if the camera is guarding the holiday home abroad.
Unfortunately, reliable MMS / GPRS wildlife cameras are expensive. A solidly functioning mobile network camera can hardly be bought for less than 300 $. If this trail camera is stolen, it is indeed extremely annoying. If you don’t necessarily need the option of sending images immediately, you can get two regular trail cameras for the same money, which can then secure each other.
6. Mutual security
Having two or more wildlife cameras in use at the same time has many advantages.
- One takes care of the other: The monitored area is at best twice as large with two cameras operated in parallel. Because you can secure one with other. If the camera is discovered and stolen, there is a high probability that the second camera will be overlooked and that photos of the thief will be available.
- Different types of game cameras: We know from daily practice that every hunting camera has different strengths. One is invisible at night, but the other takes perfect night shots. A third one is super small or super durable. If you use several trail cameras at the same time, you can combine the respective strengths of the various models.
7. Safe game camera positioning
In the wild, you don’t necessarily have to expect the camera to be discovered and then stolen. Here you can position the photo trap where the best shots can be expected and you don’t have to worry about camouflage or security.
With property protection, however, there is a fundamental risk that a villain will discover the camera and then have to steal the unpleasant evidence. Therefore, you should give particular thought to the positioning of the trail camera.
Avoid eye-level: If you do not want to capture animals, but people unnoticed, you should absolutely avoid mounting the photo trap at eye level. It is better to position it near the ground, or even better use a bird’s eye view. But then it is essential to take test photos to ensure that you can recognize the face of a person who has been recorded.
If the trail camera is to be used as a surveillance camera, you should avoid positioning it at eye level if possible: the camera was simply placed on the post at the bottom left next to the pergola.
Looking for unexpected positions: Traditionally, wildlife cameras are attached to the trunk of a tree at a height of about 1.50 m. Anyone looking for a wildlife camera will look for it right here. Therefore, branch forks or strong side branches are possibly much better suited to position a game camera. Branch forks also have the advantage that the game camera cannot be seen from the side.
8. Avoid heavily trafficked areas
Human beings are inherently lazy creatures and each time they will take the path of least resistance rather than the hardest one. Use this trend to your advantage when hiding a trail camera. Wild animals also tend to think this way, so they very often use the same paths.
9. Use a camera without glare and flash
Surely to reduce both theft and any damage caused to wildlife I recommend you avoid devices with flash or with visible LEDs. Let us remember that we are guests in the woods and we must, as guests, respect the true masters: wild animals and nature.
Also ask yourself this question: if you are committing an illegal act and you noticed that a car with a flare or flash probably took a picture, how likely would you leave it in the woods?
I would say that most likely the attacker would steal it or take it away or, worse, destroy it. Low-light or red camera lights indicate their positions and are a major drawback.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to properly set up your camera trap?
When setting up your camera trap, it is essential to follow these tips:
The camera should ideally install with a north or south orientation to avoid overexposed shots. Position the device at a height of approximately 1.5 / 2 meters, orienting it very slightly downwards. The camera must be positioned on a strong tree that is not likely to move with the wind so as not to accidentally trigger.
To monitor a pour, we recommend placing the device in the direction of the flow and not perpendicular to be sure you can see the animals passing by. If the camera is positioned perpendicular to the flow, the device will trigger but there will be nothing on the photos/videos because the animal will simply have triggered and left the surveillance area.
Check that there are no grasses or branches that can pass in front of the device in windy conditions to avoid accidental tripping. Make sure the batteries are full and the memory card is inserted correctly.
How to disguise a trail camera?
Almost all the camera traps on the market have the external packaging made with camouflage colors to try to blend them with the surrounding environment.
However, you can use the foliage or material you find in the woods to improve camouflage or even to cover any reflections from the sun, which are still detrimental to the quality of the footage. With a little ingenuity, you can reduce its visibility, without blocking the camera lens or the detection sensor.
The field of view and the detection zone are both triangular-shaped areas leading from the camera to the left and right. Even partial blocking of one of these areas can result in repeated blurry images and blank frames.
It must be remembered that natural camouflage has the unfortunate tendency to die when removed from a plant. The green leaves will soon turn brown, so you have to pay attention to this too.
How is a natural box for trail camera built?
Sometimes an old rotten stump of a tree might be enough as a natural box to hold the camera trap. This method takes some work, but the reward can be a truly invisible position for your device.
Or put it inside an artificial bird nest. They are the perfect place for a camera because most people will assume it is empty or may contain a breeding bird.
Where is the best place to install a hunting camera?
To set up your trail camera, it is important to know what you want to take in a photo or video. It is essential to clearly identify where to install your camera for taking pictures of animals. If you want to set up a camera trap in the forest, the ideal will be to place the device in a passageway.
In a forest environment, we recommend installing the camera near the following places in order to obtain the best shots:
- The soil: This is a pool of mud in which animals are used to going to roll in. The soil allows them to refresh themselves but also to remove the parasites present on their body. Stains are highly coveted by deer (deer, roe deer, etc.) and wild boar.
- The pond: This is the place where all the animals come to drink and cool off. This is a place where you find all the species inhabiting the forest. This shooting spot is often very coveted and the passage of animals is very large.
- Forest roads: forest roads, in addition to being used by humans, are also used by animals to move around. There are sometimes very nice surprises in these paths when the animals use them.
- The feeder: This is the place where the game is fed by humans. This place is a space where the animals visit frequently. They go there several times a day/night to feed. At this point, you are sure to have the passage of all the species inhabiting the forest.
You have to be patient to find the right place and get results. It sometimes happens that you place your camera in a strategic place and not have any results. It is very frustrating. To do this, you should ideally leave the camera long enough in the same place and not go and pick it up every day.
Knowing how to hide a trail camera means learning to think like animals or like an attacker. Walk around the property and explore the places where animal trails are, avoid areas that can be visited by humans and hide the camera trap as much as possible. With a little care and effort, you can beat any enemy.
When aligning, you should be careful not to aim the camera in sunny surfaces. Backlighting can cause annoying glare spots to be seen in the images. So never point your camera towards the south to avoid this phenomenon. Avoid shrubs, branches, or foliage in front of the camera lens, as these can lead to false alarms.
Thank you so much for reading and happy camera trapping!