Re­mote cam­eras can be great tools for gar­den­ers

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - DEAN FOSDICK

Trail cam­eras are be­com­ing as pop­u­lar with gar­den­ers and farm­ers as they are with hunters, who use them to mon­i­tor an­i­mal be­hav­ior.

These re­motely op­er­ated de­vices can de­tect any­thing mov­ing through or­chards or fields in day­light or dark­ness, good weather or bad.

“The na­ture mar­ket is where our cam­eras were pop­u­lar in the be­gin­ning, es­pe­cially in Europe and the U.K.,” said Darin Stephens, prod­uct man­ager for Bush­nell (Corp.) “We’re talk­ing wildlife ob­servers, sci­en­tists and back­yard nat­u­ral­ists.

“But they’re also be­ing pur­chased now by peo­ple who have just been plant­ing things in their patch. They’re see­ing some in­cred­i­ble stuff.”

That can in­clude sur­prise wildlife species, such as moun­tain lions in ter­ri­tory where none were known to ex­ist, or deer eat­ing their fill in subur­ban veg­etable beds.

Some­times, the trail cams also record un­in­vited guests pil­fer­ing mel­ons from gar­dens or si­phon­ing gasoline from farm fuel tanks.

“A friend of mine has his set up to watch coy­otes and other preda­tors to safe­guard his cat­tle herd,” said Robert Good, a wildlife watcher from ru­ral New Mar­ket, Va. “I use mine pri­mar­ily to see what’s out there that’s not sup­posed to be there.”

Un­like pocket cam­eras, mo­tion-sen­si­tive trail cams are re­motely op­er­ated by in­frared sen­sors and pow­ered by bat­ter­ies last­ing up to a year. The small, weath­er­proof units come in cases that can be at­tached to fence posts, util­ity poles and trees, or mounted a few feet above the ground near trails and ponds.

Im­ages can be still, time-lapse or video, and many of the de­vices in­clude au­dio. Newer mod­els can trans­mit real-time im­ages di­rectly into com­put­ers. Prices vary from around $100 to more than $400.

These op­ti­cal gate­keep­ers have come a long way since be­ing in­tro­duced a few decades ago, said Stephens.

“We of­fered mod­els with 1.3 megapix­els (the num­ber of parts in a dig­i­tal im­age) when we started out,” he said. “That was good enough for see­ing what was get­ting into your garbage. We have 8-meg cam­eras now.”

That mag­ni­tude of en­hanced res­o­lu­tion de­liv­ers mag­a­zine-qual­ity pic­tures. Their con­tent has be­come the stuff of photo con­tests, Web sites, even new busi­ness ven­tures.

Jim Schoenike of Me­quon, Wis., works in the in­vest­ment ser­vice in­dus­try when he isn’t bow hunt­ing or stalk­ing the state’s forests and prairies. His trail-cam-gen­er­ated wildlife pic- tures have be­come so pop­u­lar that he’s be­gun im­print­ing and sell­ing them on cal­en­dars, note cards and cloth­ing.

“You never re­ally know what’s out there,” Schoenike said. “Look­ing at the mem­ory card af­ter the cam­era has been po­si­tioned for a while is like open­ing Christ­mas presents. I’ve come up with some un­com­mon pic­tures of bob­cats when I’ve been ex­pect­ing to see less cau­tious rac­coons.”

Cap­tur­ing can­did wildlife im­ages re­quires more thought than sim­ply stash­ing a trail cam in the woods, Schoenike said. Some sug­ges­tions:

—“You need good qual­ity light,” he said. “I have a bias to­ward point­ing my cam­eras to­ward the north to avoid get­ting any glare from the sun.”

— Re­move grass or tree limbs that might grow large enough to block sight­lines or trip the cam­era if it’s to be left unat­tended for long pe­ri­ods.

— Limit the time you spend around the re­mote setup to re­duce or elim­i­nate your scent. “Hu­man scent spooks a good many an­i­mals,” Good said.

AP PHO­TOS

This un­dated pub­lic­ity im­age pro­vided by Bush­nell Cor­po­ra­tion and Howard Com­mu­ni­ca­tions shows the Bush­nell No. 67 mo­tion sen­si­tive trail cam­era that pro­duces still, time-lapse or video im­ages, and is re­motely op­er­ated by in­frared sen­sors and pow­ered by...

Robert Good, a hunter and na­ture watcher, who has pur­chased three trail cam­eras since they hit the mar­ket in the late-1980’s, is shown in New Mar­ket, VA He uses them to ob­serve deer be­hav­ior as well as to see what is mov­ing across his prop­erty that...

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