Trail cams: What works and what doesn't

Got something rather unexpected on the trail cam a few days ago, the Double Tap in one of the possum feeders was vanishing at an incredible rate despite being held in place with wire to make it difficult for rats to carry off, so I pointed a trail cam at it. The first thing it picked up was a neighbour’s cat that had escaped out of the house and gone missing (she’s back indoors now with a warning note to keep the doors closed), the next was a possum happily eating its body weight in Double Tap. Those things must carry a ton of fleas because it was constantly scratching itself everywhere.

Anyway, as it sat there gorging on Double Tap a different cat came up behind it and started sniffing it and poking it with its nose. The possum completely ignored it and after a minute or two the cat got bored and wandered off.

The light furry object is the cat, I think it’s a creamy colour in non-B&W, the dark furry thing behind it is the possum that’s just been poked by the cat, which just kept on munching Double Tap like it was granola or something.

A day or two later a sole rat came and ate what was left of the bait. These cameras are a godsend for figuring out what’s going on in situations like this.


[quote=“kahikateatree, post:21, topic:7813”]
The possum completely ignored it and after a minute or two the cat got bored and wandered off.
[/quote] assuming the possum wasn’t dead by this stage? or feeling really ill? Handy camera work though, thanks for that. Good explanation too, as the possum’s idea of enough is obviously a lot more than what is enough to kill it …

Hey Dan

Are we able to add kiwi to the list? We get a lot of kiwi footage and it IDs it as Ferret.
Also, hotkeys would be excellent so you can quickly go through the images IDing them.
E.g. P = a confirmed possum.


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It wasn’t moving much when it was eating but had been vigorously scratching itself earlier on when it wandered around the feeder, I initially thought it might be dead given the lack of movement but it had gone the next morning (“People have got to know whether or not their possum is crook. Well, I am not crook”). Problem is that with virtually no motion in the target the camera doesn’t trigger, it was purely the cat poking around that triggered the recording of the motionless possum at the feeder.

I haven’t checked the camera for a few days because of weather and because the last time I looked the bait was still present, but then I’ve also got two rat traps set up near it to catch the rat(s) that were there, I’ll post an update when something happens.

Hello everyone,

On the topic of what works and doesn’t with trail cams… We are about to start a predator monitoring project using trail cams to monitor some trap sites. A couple of us have experience with trail cams and have learnt the hard way how to set them up, but we are recruiting trapper volunteers to place most of the cameras, and they have no experience with trail cams.

We were going to make a YouTube video to show them a few tips and tricks, but before I spend hours putting this together, I had a look on the internet if there was anything out there… I didn’t find anything.

Do any of you know of a video or videos on how to set trail cams on predator traps? Maybe on one of your group’s private YouTube channels?

Nga mihi!

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As part of the background data gathering to support our Trap Performance and Costs report (Trap Performance and Cost - comparing manual, AT220 and A24 traps), we ran a trial looking at how predators interacted with an A24 trap. Unfortunately, the trial ended up saying more about the cameras than the A24!

We had a Cacophony Thermal camera and a Nextech QC-8043 set up 4m away from an A24 trap - both with essentially the same view of the trap. They had to be that close because we needed to understand mouse interactions. The cameras were set up for three weeks. The results were sobering.

During that time, there were 100 animal events seen. The vast majority were mice… 57 of which were seen by the Cacophony Camera - none were seen by the trail cam. That’s perhaps not surprising - trail cams are more aimed at the ‘deer’ size of animal than the ‘mouse’.

It was possums that were a more sobering result. The Cacophony camera saw 18 possums, the trail cam saw 8. But here’s the sobering bit… only two of those were the same animal! In other words, the Cacophony camera saw 16 possums that were missed by the trail cam… and the trail cam saw 6 possums that were missed by the Cacophony camera! That’s a possum at 4m!

That’s fairly remarkable! We concluded that the trail cam was a bit rubbish. And that the Cacophony Camera was also a bit rubbish… and expensive!

(For those of you that have some experience with the Cacophony camera, I need to be clear about terminology. I’m counting the number of times that animals were ‘seen’ in the footage using a manual review. The AI failed to identify any animal on 10 occasions - and failed to recognise a ‘rodent’ in another 17 cases. Put another way, of the 57 mouse sightings, only 30 were correctly identified as ‘rodent’. I’ve also already filtered for the fact that the Cacophony camera only operates at night. The trail cam picked up five day time bird sightings.)

You might ask what we discovered about the A24. With all that activity, we had one trigger. It was a small mouse that ran away from the trigger! During that time, we had 18 mice go up into the trap without setting it off.

So as trials go, this was a tad disappointing. The only winners were the mice.

Hope that helps! David

4 Likes - always great to read / review others comments / insights into this activity we are trialling. Thanks for sharing this information. We are interested in a thermal camera for both pest monitoring and wetland bird monitoring - but this may have to wait.

@fannyvet - Ive recently purchased some ZIP motolures and being trialling cameras on these.
ZIP also have some good resources you can review on their website:

Plus a guide for setting up cameras

I’ve been trialling a three different cameras: a twin lense Alpha Cam (bought overseas) also sold in NZ as a Keepguard KG696, and two cheaper cameras.
The Keepguard / Alpha Cam has been the best, although its detection varies.

Things I have picked up:

  • set the camera down low, particularly for mice (I got about a dozen short video clips of mice accessing a bait station), approximately 600 mm of the ground.
  • use a No Glow camera - one camera I have has standard night time LED’s and some pigs looked rather spooked when the camera went off.
  • I have set up a camera 3m away from a bait station and picked up many (but not all) pests, although I do have a stoat tail as it disappears up a tree - the camera sensor / trigger speed was too slow - not in the ZIP report about possible detection zones for sensors.
  • we are trying to set up cameras on a “party zone area” with multiple trap types, but getting a clear area with few waving branches is often quite hard.
  • if you can afford cameras with an inbuilt viewer (some Browning trail cameras and others) - this is handy to check the initial positioning of the camera when setting up - otherwise you can miss animals tracking across the ground (I haven’t yet bought a Browning camera - would love to)
  • the cheaper cameras often only pick the animal up when past the middle of the sensor - so they are walking out of the picture (or video)
  • pictures vs short video clips - the short video clips are interesting watching the interaction of pest animals in the setting (feral cats walking through, possums sniffing trees with lures, rats and mice in bait stations, hedgehogs scuttling past, plus blackbirds, quails, and legs of pig hunters poaching - we are on private land!)

I’d love to see a Mesh trail camera set up that was affordable, paying for multiple GSM fees on a monthly basis ends up being exorbitant! There is the Instant Detect 2.0 being developed in the UK - but no details on costing… dreams are free.

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Great to read everyone’s experiences with trail cameras!

I note in some posts that some are finding setting up the cameras a bit of a pain in terms of turning them on, off, checking the SD card on laptop then deploying again. We have been using USB-C to SD card readers which are super handy as they just plug into your phone, much easier than lumping a laptop around and/or having to go back to your desk.

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If you have mobile coverage then check out the WiseEye Data Cam, we tested all of the available 4G cellular cameras here in NZ, the DataCam is next level, Automatic Species detection and you can tag images as you see fit. local NZ support

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Wow, that’s pretty impressive! I assume they’re using a US carrier for the coverage because no NZ carrier will let you do what they’re doing, a long-standing problem with running 4G-based anything here - we’re running Telefonica SIMs for that reason, a one-off USD20 for 1GB data.

Cameras have a Pre-Paid AT&T Business SIM - Auto connect to Spark or Voda :wink:

Are you using these around your place Chris? What are you finding? Or are these for serious hunting? cheers, Tony

Hey Tony, multiple use cases, security, hunting, building up a picture of deer, pigs, possums etc, how often they appear, what times they appear etc. Very good clear images & video.

That would have been another question I had as well, the web site mentions “deer, hogs, and turkeys” which sounds like it’d work best in the meat section of a supermarket rather than to ID possums, rats, etc :-).

I also noticed the cabling required to locate the solar panel away from the camera is marked as out of stock, it looks like you can make this up yourself by soldering 4.0/1.7mm barrel jack connectors onto 2-core cable, optionally run in flex conduit if you’re worried about chewing or other damage. Pity they didn’t use the more standard 5.5/2.1mm, there’s a ton of 12V gear around with that, although you can always butcher it to use the 4.0/1.7 connector.

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:wink: Currently, it’s Deer, Hog, Turkey, People, Vehicle, Predator, Other, the detection model is being continually updated and improved and will support more in the future. The Solar Panel comes with a power cable but it’s only about 1m long, absolutely right nothing to stop you from making a custom 4.0/1.7mm barrel jack and cable. The ones out of stock are made from a stainless steel coil, up to 10m long so you can locate the panel away from the camera if you need to, deploy once and not have to worry about something chewing through it.

It’ll be interesting if they can add some context to the detection, for example during the day a smallish moving thing is likely to be a dog (there are walking tracks nearby) while at night the same thing would be a possum.

Anything small at the moment is tagged as other (rabbits, rat, mice etc), dog sometimes shows up under Predator. Hopefully more categories will be provided soon

I think with trails cameras you get what you pay for. Higher quality cameras from brands such as Browning or Reconyz seem to regularly pick up mice, most cameras that cost less that $300 are pretty hit & miss.

Some more detail on this for anyone else looking at it, they’re sold as travel SIMs by KeepGo, The service provider they use is Telefonica, sort of like Warehouse Mobile here uses 2Degrees, the SIMs ship from Australia and, for the last one I got, took about a week from ordering to get here. Make sure you get the World SIM, not the Europe-only SIM.

The cheapest NZ option I know is the aforementioned Warehouse Mobile, which is $9 per month so $108 per year per SIM, you also only get 300MB of data but it rolls over so unless you’re sending a lot of stuff all at once you should be set with that once you’ve built up a reserve. However it’s nowhere near as reliable as KeepGo/Telefonica was, every few days I’ll get a notification that connectivity has been lost and then it’ll return shortly afterwards, although sometimes it can take several hours. The Telefonica one never had that problem.

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Another trail camera-like option is to use a solar-powered WiFi camera like this. Now the specs for these cameras are admittedly the third greatest work of fiction after vows of fidelity were included in the French marriage service and the special 1917 edition of “King and Country”, but they will run more or less indefinitely once set up unless you’re waking it up to do a lot of manual video streaming rather than letting the camera run automatically. In other words it uses close to zero power until woken up by the PIR sensor, meaning that even with the gutless battery and solar panel it actually comes with it can run unattended for a long time.

In terms of comms, unlike a 4G camera where each camera would need its own SIM, this only needs to talk to a 4G gateway with a single SIM shared across every camera within WiFi range. So technically it’s the wrong thing, but given the almost-unavailability and high cost of M2M SIMs when you can get them in NZ it’s probably a cheaper option than running a bunch of 4G cameras.

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