Rule Nr. 1: “No false Triggers!” – The art of camera trapping

It feels like Christmas. You had to wait for a long time but then the day is there! Finally, you open the lid, press the buttons and wait for the window popping up on your laptop that indicates that it recognizes the SD card you just entered. The camera trap is a present you make yourself every time you put it up somewhere.

What are you expecting to see? Have you been successful? Have you had the right feeling and seen the important indicators for positioning your trap at the perfect place?

The window opens and it says “1832 elements found”. Must have been a great and well-visited location, but when you open the photos you see: plant, plant, plant, plant in the sun, plant. Something must have gone terribly wrong when choosing the location for the camera and you hear Fraser’s (our teacher doing the camera trapping course) voice in your head repeating “Rule 1: No false triggers!” over and over again.
When it comes to setting up cameras, there are several things to keep in mind: the settings such as trigger time, the angle towards the spot you want to survey, the sun, the vegetation, the object you want to survey, the characteristics of the camera you have. But when you did everything right (and have had a good portion of luck as well) camera traps offer a great opportunity to survey the fauna without harming, annoying or disturbing it in its natural habitat.

Cameras have become a ubiquitous tool in ecology and conservation and are well deployed in different Ambios projects such as work done by the conservation group of the ROC guys as well as badger surveys and more general data gathering on biodiversity.
When it comes to research, one can surely ask: Is camera trapping effective or respectively effective enough to serve as a reliable source for data? Of course, the effectiveness always depends on how the camera traps are used and in which context, but research suggests that they show a significantly higher effectiveness (88%) compared to other tools such as live traps, which in the context of Ambios also have been employed for badger and dormouse monitoring as well (Wearn & Glover-Kapfer 2019).

A big advantage we noticed for the cameras is that they can show us a lot in addition, all sorts of “bycatch” but the project they are based on primarily, as they show us all “living things walking by”: they detect a large number of species from birds over people to mammals. This makes camera traps particularly suitable for broad-spectrum biodiversity surveys. Besides daily visitors as roe deer, foxes and (a lot of) squirrels, we were able to identify rare species on the farm estate such as pole cats and otters with the help of the cameras.

If you are interested in camera trapping, check our Facebook page for updated videos every now and then about our newest shots. You will be surprised what is out there. Stay tuned!

By: Ronja Schuetz

Sources:

Wearn, O. R. and Glover-Kapfer, P. (2019): Snap happy: camera traps are an effective sampling tool when compared with alternative methods. The Royal Society. URL: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.181748.