Having grown up in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, each autumn brought a barrage of Bigleaf Maple leaves that coloured and fell from the trees. While the Bigleaf Maple doesn’t colour as elaborately as the maples of eastern Canada and the northeast United States, it brought a subtle beauty and contrast to the lush green landscape of my youth. The Bigleaf Maple doesn’t grow in my current province (Alberta) however a trip to Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park in late September included seeing this old memory of autumn and was a reminder of places once lived.
This post has been in the works for a few years now and it’s time to share a few images/videos and experience with trailcams deployed in south central British Columbia.
A Little Bit of History
I don’t know when the first trailcam came out for retail sale but my first experience was part of a wildlife class while attending post secondary education approximately 15 years ago. The camera we used was a film-based point-and-shoot camera attached to a separate motion detector. It was a large and awkward looking device that involved a trip to the local photo lab once the film roll had been filled. Thankfully technology has advanced and a variety of brands have streamlined the cameras into one small package with functionality to suit the needs and budgets of hunters, researchers and geeks alike; they also have a security aspect for those seeking peace of mind with their property.
Choosing a Camera
Choosing a trailcam can be a bit daunting; battery life, image quality (for both day and night photos), trigger/response speed, reliability are things to consider in choosing your camera. I obtained my own trail camera in 2012 and it ended up being equipped with a runaway trigger, a common issue with cheaper trailcams where the camera starts taking images and doesn’t stop. Playing with the settings helped a bit but let me say it can be disheartening to return to a trailcam to find dead batteries and a memory card full of images with no critters. In time, the camera met its fate via being chewed on by a Black Bear and the eventual switch to Reconyx trailcams has provided great and reliable results. In my experience, Reconyx products and customer service are both top-notch.
Placing the camera in an appropriate location is a big factor in obtaining images. Game trails and junctions are great places that often see good amounts of animal traffic; roads less travelled (old public forestry roads) also tend to produce a good amount of images as many animals will travel the path of least resistance. In some cases, the amount of grass and forage available on such roads attracts animals to a location, so long as there isn’t too much human presence. Not far from my family cabin on a lake in British Columbia, a small isolated spring produced a steady flow of critters including Black Bears, Moose, Deer, Pine Marten and even a Barred Owl. Generally speaking most didn’t notice the camera and went about their business, but a few critters got curious and checked it out. Not all of the critters use the spring in the same way, most came by for a drink, some for a rest, a few times one Black Bear came through to cool off and one Mule Deer ran into a bit of trouble when it stepped into the muddy bottomed spring.
Protect the camera
It’s a good idea to get yourself a bear proof/security box to protect the camera. Painting the box helps keep them incognito and less prone to theft; there are bastards everywhere :( Be prepared for the occasional comedian to show up in your images.
Such a great way to collect information
Having cameras in the area surrounding the family cabin has been an incredible experience enjoyed by almost everyone. Upon return from spending time at the cabin, the usual question as to how the time at the cabin went has often been replaced by “what animals are on the trailcam this time?”. Prior to deploying the cameras, we often thought that cougar were around and it didn’t take long to confirm that. . We had never seen this cougar before and true to their reputation it has remained elusive/private showing up on the camera from time to time, depending on where the camera was placed. The images collected via camera also showed the pattern of their appearances varied according to time of year/climate. In the summer months the cougar made its way on a loop that took approximately 1 week to cover. In the winter, the cougar followed the Mule Deer around on south-facing slopes with less snow than other areas. On one snowshoe trip in the winter, the cougar triggered the trailcam on the cabin driveway 3 times in the 24hrs before our arrival into the area. After our arrival; nothing. The fact that the cougar left the area upon the arrival of humans shows it’s a healthy cougar that reacts appropriately to its instinct to avoid humans.
One Black Bear had 3 cubs with her during the summer of 2014, she appeared on the trailcam several times. To my surprise her little brown cub showed up on its own in the spring of 2015, in the same location where its mother taught it to forage as a cub.
Another critter that had us all quite amazed was a Red Fox vixen. From mid May to mid July of 2014, the fox came through the trail camera a whopping 43 times with many occasions having successfully hunted rabbit, more than likely for its offspring in a nearby den.
With respect to other predators, the presence of wolves was a lingering question. As with the cougar, they hadn’t been seen in the many years we have been visiting the area but with wolf populations at a high in British Columbia, they made their appearance on a few occasions. With the cougar and wolf both occupying the land around the cabin, how did they compete for food? Based on the appearances of each critter on the cameras, the cougars predominantly stayed in the forested area and were only observed a few times near more open habitat. The wolves on the other hand were observed only near open habitat and predominantly in the spring months. Is this information scientific? Not really, but it certainly adds a dimension to experiencing the landscape when you know what critters are around.
Go Buy A Trailcam
That in a nutshell has been my experience with trailcams over the past 3 ish years. Retrieving the images is always a lot of fun with no shortage of enthusiasm by all who see them. For anyone who enjoys the outdoors and wants to to experience wildlife in a whole new aspect, I highly recommend picking up a trailcam or two.
Situated on the banks of the Li River, Yangshuo in southeast China is surrounded by limestone mountains that are a beautiful backrop to a culture filled city. It was the last day on a visit there in September of 2013, an early morning rise to catch a bus to the next city made for a last chance at capturing this stunning landscape.
Over the last few years I’ve had a few encounters with American Badgers but almost all were very brief and limited to seeing them scurry across paved highways in my travels throughout southern Alberta. Known for being very private with natal den sites and putting on an impressive display of attitude towards intruders; finding this den with 3 young of year last week was a rewarding encounter that was an exception to the norm. While she watched closely, the female allowed me to photograph a tender moment with one of her young.