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Oct 29, 2023 | 06:46 pm 363 0

Camera traps in the wild. What are they for, and how do night vision devices change the game's rules?

Camera traps in the wild. What are they for, and how do night vision devices change the game's rules?

Nature is fantastic and diverse. To learn all its secrets, people develop various devices that will help us get more information about the world around us. One such device is a camera trap. It has many uses and gives a chance to look at wildlife differently. Until recently, such optics could only work effectively during daylight hours. However, with the advent of night vision and thermal imaging, it was possible to obtain high-quality images even in the dark. Some changed our understanding of wildlife and helped make many important discoveries.

What is a camera trap?

A camera trap is a device intended for autonomous photography of various objects. It does not require human presence and can work effectively for a long time. A camera trap is a semblance of an ordinary camera with a slightly modified design. It contains a temperature or infrared motion sensor, which starts the shooting process immediately after any moving object enters the device’s field of view. The resulting photos and videos are saved to a memory card or transferred to special mobile applications.

Modern models of camera traps are equipped with an IR illumination unit. It makes it possible to work efficiently in the dark. Thanks to him, it is possible to monitor the area of interest around the clock and take advantage of every chance to photograph the animal. Camera traps use powerful batteries or many standard batteries as a power source. In both cases, the device’s energy reserves last several weeks or even months of battery life. Such a long period of operation without recharging or changing batteries is explained by the ability of the equipment to be in sleep mode and activate its activity only after any moving objects appear in the field of view. All structural elements are enclosed in durable and reliably protected housing. Its presence makes it possible to avoid the negative influence of various external factors that can worsen the performance of the camera trap or altogether turn it off. Thanks to this, the devices can function even in rain or snow, as well as in strong winds and sudden temperature changes.

There are a large number of classifications that divide all existing camera traps into several categories. At the same time, users most often divide devices into groups according to the method of storing and transmitting information. According to this classification, camera traps are standard and LTE. Models of the first type function approximately the same as conventional digital cameras. They record photos and videos and then save them to a memory card. The user must connect the camera trap to the computer to extract information. Next, you must sort all the information and discard the unnecessary. LTE-type models operate similarly to standard devices. At the same time, they use mobile networks to transmit footage. Depending on the settings chosen by the user, the data can be redirected to some modern gadget, email, or a unique mobile application. Another famous classification divides all camera traps into groups according to their purpose. It contains categories of models for security, animal observation, photography, and more. Each group has standard features and the same characteristics that allow them to cope with a particular task effectively.

Purpose of camera traps

The advent of camera traps was a real breakthrough in wildlife research. These devices revealed to us many of its secrets and helped us better understand the natural processes occurring in it. Camera traps have become no less helpful in other areas of activity, one way or another, connected with wildlife.

Most often, the devices in question are used to obtain information about the lives of wild animals, which are extremely difficult for humans to monitor. Almost always, they are species listed in the Red Book. To meet them in a particular area, a person may need several hundred hours and a lot of effort. Camera traps solve this problem and make it possible to film without the personal presence of an operator. This significantly expands the capabilities of scientists, allowing them to simultaneously observe all the rare species living in the study area. In addition, camera traps are becoming the only means of obtaining images of shy animals that do not allow people to get close to them. These species have good hearing, vision, or smell, so they quickly recognize the presence of a person and move to a safer place.

To study the life of wild animals, scientists install camera traps in places where the likelihood of various species appearing is highest. Such sites are considered open areas near sources of fresh water and food, animal trails, and migration routes. Camera traps are carefully camouflaged, thanks to which they blend in with the wild nature and do not disturb various living creatures with their presence. Depending on the species that interests scientists, cameras can be placed on multiple surrounding objects (trees, bushes, stones), exceptionally increased strength and stability tripods, or even on the earth's surface. In all cases, they are firmly fixed and equipped with protective elements that help protect the device from harmful external influences (precipitation, wind, temperature changes).

Other active users of camera traps are hunters and wildlife watchers. They use such devices to obtain photographs and video materials that cannot be obtained even with the help of state-of-the-art cameras. Thanks to the ability to film without a cameraman, it is possible to capture dozens of species of animals that would never allow a person with a camera in their hands to approach them. The resulting images add to your personal photo collection and are used on various information or educational resources (for example, on websites dedicated to wildlife). This allows everyone to get more details about secretive animals and enjoy their natural beauty. In their work, photo hunters and lovers of observing living creatures always use modern equipment. It makes it possible to obtain photographs and video materials of the highest quality.

Very often, camera traps are used in hunting farms. They are indispensable equipment that makes obtaining a lot of helpful information possible. With its help, game managers carry out a lot of complex work necessary to maintain the natural balance in the hunting area. The principal value of photographs and video materials obtained using camera traps is the possibility of recording animals leading a secretive lifestyle. In addition, the collected data provide a lot of information about the population structure of hunting species, the number and condition of trophy individuals, and the percentage of males and females. In some cases, it is possible to determine the migration routes of animals using camera traps. These devices will be no less helpful in the process of planning a hunt, as well as when creating advertising materials.

Another vital purpose of camera traps is to increase the efficiency of security measures. Most often, they aim to protect nature from humans' destructive influence. So, with the help of the resulting images, it will be possible to quickly identify poachers, territory violators (relevant for closed private hunting grounds), and simply careless people who negatively affect wildlife. Carefully disguised cameras are used for security so intruders cannot see. They are configured so that it is possible to examine a person in detail, identify him, and bring him to justice. Very often, camera traps are used for security purposes not only by hunting farm owners but also by caretakers of nature reserves and other objects under the protection of environmental organizations.

Advantages and disadvantages

People often evaluate any device by the number of advantages and disadvantages. Camera traps are no exception. They have several positive qualities that users value and love. They are not without their shortcomings, which are also essential to discuss.

Main advantages:

  1. Works without human presence. The main advantage of camera traps is the ability to operate effectively without the constant presence of a person. Thanks to this, it is possible to save a considerable amount of time and effort, which can be spent on studying the collected materials. The absence of a person with a camera allows the animals to behave naturally, which is essential for obtaining more accurate information about their behavior and lifestyle.
  2. No harm to nature and animals. Camera traps are always placed in secluded places that will not disturb animals. These devices are carefully camouflaged and left for a long time. They do not harm the environment in any way and do not cause the restless behavior of various living creatures. Thanks to this, camera traps can be installed in large numbers and get a lot of valuable images and video materials from them.
  3. Possibility of round-the-clock recording. All camera traps produced today make it possible to record around the clock. To achieve this, they are equipped with a night vision function, which ensures good image quality even in inferior lighting. Thanks to their 24/7 operation, these devices do not miss a single animal, giving optics owners a complete picture of the species diversity of the area, the behavioral characteristics of all individuals at any time of the day or night, the number of representatives of each species living in a given area, and much more. Useful information.
  4. Possibility of storing large amounts of information. All modern camera traps are equipped with large memory cards. This makes collecting gigabytes of vital information possible and keeping it until someone arrives. All recorded data can remain untouched for a long time, essential in cases where camera traps are left unattended for several weeks.
  5. Information content of the resulting images and video materials. In most cases, camera traps are set up to record and take pictures of animals that come close to the camera. Thanks to this feature, it is possible to obtain high-quality large frames, with the help of which you can assess the condition of a particular individual and determine its species, gender, and approximate size. In addition, these images may contain many other helpful information that camera trap owners want to obtain.
  6. Efficiency under any external conditions. Modern camera traps are reliably protected from precipitation, moisture, dust, and high and low-temperature exposure. This allows them to work effectively under almost any external conditions. If the device has a thermal imaging function, it will generate high-quality images even in foggy weather or heavy rain. In addition, the effectiveness of camera traps is independent of the time of day. Thanks to night vision technology, they will be equally helpful at dawn, during the day, in the evening, and at night.

Main disadvantages:

  1. High cost. Camera traps are pretty expensive equipment. This is due to the complexity of their design and excellent performance characteristics. Budget models are also on sale, but their operating efficiency could be higher. In addition to the device itself, users may need additional components at a higher price. Most often, they are auxiliary batteries or some protective structures.
  2. Inability to obtain physical samples. Camera traps only provide photographs and videos. They are helpful and informative but will not provide biological samples (such as animal DNA). This limits scientists a little and forces them to only guess about the various body parameters of the animal of interest. In other cases, this drawback will be almost invisible.
  3. The impossibility of detecting small animals and individuals living in water underground. Camera traps are only capable of capturing medium to large-sized animals. In this case, small individuals (insects) will be inaccessible to them. In addition, it will be very difficult or even impossible to monitor animals that spend most of their time underground or in water. However, there are exceptions. Some modern models are designed specifically for use in water. They have increased protection from moisture and some additional design elements (allowing improved image quality in abysmal visibility).
  4. Difficulty in identifying species. This drawback is typical for slightly outdated models used 24 hours a day. Under certain external conditions, their capabilities are insufficient to create the highest quality and most explicit image. This will significantly complicate the process of identifying living beings. At the same time, modern models do not have this drawback. They make it easy to determine the species of each individual that comes into the camera’s field of view.
  5. The need to process large amounts of information. One of the main negative aspects of working with camera traps is the need to process a large amount of data constantly. For many, this can be a complex process since the video often shows not only animals but also various unnecessary moments associated with malfunctions of the optics. They should be culled, leaving only the most important images and frames. Data processing often takes a lot of time and requires specific skills. Therefore, it is better to trust such work to an experienced person.
  6. Need for more reliability. Camera traps must be called moderately reliable devices. They can often be damaged during installation or masking, so this work should always be carried out as carefully as possible. In addition, camera traps are resistant to various impacts and other physical influences. Because of this, even a tiny contact with an animal can cause the device to fail. It is challenging to eliminate such a deficiency. To do this, you must use additional security elements, which require considerable financial costs and increase the device's dimensions.

Night vision in camera traps

Modern camera traps are designed for round-the-clock surveillance of a particular terrain area. In this regard, they need night vision and thermal imaging functions. They will make it possible to obtain video materials and pictures of good quality in conditions of minimal or even zero illumination. Also, both technologies will allow the device to operate effectively in adverse weather (for example, fog, snowfall, and heavy rain). Thanks to their capabilities, camera traps can capture wildlife at night, which is no less attractive than during the day.

Thermal imaging and night vision have enabled scientists to study nocturnal animals. These living creatures are often distinguished by their unusual appearance and atypical behavior, which creates additional interest for scientists. The information collected by camera traps provides a complete picture of the habits of nocturnal animal species and their food preferences. Based on the data obtained, scientists make significant discoveries that change the understanding of the animal world of our planet. The presence of thermal imaging and night vision is substantial in cases where the research object is a rare representative of fauna or living creatures that are difficult to find independently in the dark.

Scientists and other professionals benefit from using thermal imaging and night vision technologies in camera traps. For example, both of them make it possible to take photographs of nocturnal animals that no photographer has previously been able to capture. The resulting materials are added to various databases and used for educational purposes. In modern devices, manufacturers combine the advantages of both technologies, thereby maximizing the capabilities of wildlife photographers. Thanks to this, the number of high-quality images grows exponentially yearly. Another excellent example of the effectiveness of thermal imaging and night vision in camera traps is the protection of protected natural areas. With the help of modern technologies, it is much easier for environmental organization representatives to identify violators, poachers, and other similar persons. Almost all current device models can cope with such work, even in meager light. There are many other problems that camera traps with night vision and thermal imaging can help solve. Using these technologies opens up new horizons for users and makes it possible to look into the future confidently.

Wildlife is worthy of being studied in detail. Unique events take place in it every minute, which until recently were hidden from our eyes. With the advent of camera traps, the situation has changed. Scientists and ordinary people could take a new look at the world around us and truly appreciate its greatness. Night vision helped expand human capabilities even further. Combined with camera traps, it made photography possible in the dark, which previously seemed fantastic. This gave people a lot of helpful information, based on which amazing discoveries were made. They all changed our understanding of wildlife and showed us its magnificence.

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