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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On camouflaged trail cams

The eyes give it away every time

"What's that thang stuck on the tree over yonder?" The cowboy asked his friend.
"Y'mean that thingmabob with the eyes?" replied Rusty.
"Yep, that's it, what the hail is it?"
"Why that's a trail cam. Some city boy musta stuck it up there." 
"Well", said the cowboy, "I think we jus' found us a new toy."

Why do manufacturers camouflage their trail cams when the lens, flash, and passive infrared (PIR) sensor windows look like an upside-down face with a toothy grimace?

Camouflage is disruptive coloration and even if the colors don't match the background it tricks the mammalian eye by breaking up the outline of the object or animal.

Trail camera users and camera trap home-brewers seem to like their cams painted in camo, and trail cam manufacturers try to satisfy the need.

But as I've said before, detecting a camo-painted trail camera is easy if the animal can smell better than it can see, and finds itself downwind of the camera.

Our good vision blinds us to a world dazzling with scent.

My point is that trail cams could be more effective in deluding visual creatures like people.

With their rectangular heads, shiny eyes, and toothy grins camouflaged trail cameras are still attention getters.

They don't fool many would-be camera thieves.

I am not suggesting that trail cam companies stop camouflaging their products, but they could make a camouflaged trail cam that is more than a designer statement.

Just put a dull finish and a disruptive pattern on the fresnel lens and flash, and find a way to disguise that glaring IR flash.

Some home brewers could also disguise their cams a bit better by putting camo tape and Sharpie pens to shiny camera parts in the case.

I said "some" because many home brewers are clever artisans, especially when it comes to faking tree bark with Liquid Nails Adhesive.

All of this got me to thinking about living camo over the holidays.

So I started collecting lichen, moss, and bark blown from the trees on the flume trail.

Decorating a cam seemed appropriately festive.

So I hot glued the plant debris to thin wood squares and velcro'd the pieces to a big old Pelican 1060 case.

The camera's eyes didn't go away, and now it kind of looks like a bearded troll with one Andy Rooney eyebrow.

That green PIR window needs to be toned down, but once that's done I think I'll set it under a pile of fallen branches.

I wonder how long it'll take for someone to steal it?


dr_fiehlgood said...

The camera disguised with bark looks great. Maybe a snap-on "skin" with different available materials to match different habitats. But what to do about those darned eyes?...

Anonymous said...

I did that with my first trail camera - however, I applied too much dusty material which I think got into the seal over time and may have allowed moisture in which might have ruined the card slot. I can't be sure of course. But anyhow, to be on the safe side, make sure your bark/leaf material is clean and dust/dirt free as possible.

I bought a new one last year (the little Bushnell like yours) and I just got another one (a tiny Tasco - $89.00).

I am looking forward to the 2 cams this year!!


trustthapo said...

Maybe you could cover the eyes with Buckram? I dunno if the sensor would still work, but, since buckram is cheap, you won't have to worry about wasted money.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Hmmm, buckram -- where can I find it? Isn;t this waht used for making book covers?

Joe said...

Nice camo job. I finally find a S600 and I'm going to build my first homebrew. Might use some of your camo ideas.

KB said...

I like it! I think that I might try something similar.

trustthapo said...

Buckram, unless I'm horribly mistaken, is mesh-like fabric that is used a lot in costuming because it's see-through. You could try looking at fabric stores like Jo-Ann's fabrics or, if not there, craft stores.
There's also that netting that keeps bitey bugs like Lady-Mosquitoes away from faces and out of tents, though I couldn't tell you where to get that.
You inspired me to start observing wildlife through camera trapping, and now you've inspired me to glue everything under the sun to my first camera! ;)

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

Very cool! hiding these things is always the biggest challenge (especially when you're in an area of hight theft, like I am).

J. Kapfer

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Cunningly disguising a trailcam as a pile of particularly smelly dung would seem to be the best option for high-theft areas, particularly if a tip mechanism which released skunk essence if the camera was moved were included. Alternatively, try a trick beloved of farmers who've had electric fence energisers stolen: rig the thing so the entire casing is energised froman electric fence or similar; most thieves aren't smart enough to think their way past that one.

Camera Trap Codger said...

I like it, Dan. The potato gun is my fantasy camera trap surprise, but an exploding pile of dung laced with skunk essence is even better.

bigcatdetective said...

I try to put my cams on a tree that,s bigger than them then wrap camo net around it,the type pigeon shooters use.I did use moss once but some sort of bird pecked it all away and used up 2000 odd pics...

Jenn said...

That's a work of art. Nice.

Johnathan said...

Trail cameras are the best in this situations !