I had my suspicions. The tracks, the teeth marks, the molested strawberries — it suggested rabbits. A motion-activated camera, often referred to as a “camera trap” gave me the information I needed to formulate a plan.

Employed by hunters and naturalists, camera traps are easy to use, can be deployed in remote areas, and bear silent witness 24/7 to their environment. Prices range from less than $50 to more than $400, and sorting through the number of models and features can be daunting. Start by defining your needs and focus on the features that deliver what you want.

Power Source: Camera traps run on electrical current, battery power or solar panels. While electrical current has fewer on-going maintenance issues, it presents the greatest limitation for camera locations. Batteries allow cameras to be placed anywhere but can be costly over time. You could consider rechargeable packs to help reduce lifetime expense. Cold weather can quickly drain batteries, so you’ll have to make more frequent visits to restock and reset the camera. Some camera models include solar panels to recharge the battery system and are a great option for locations in full sun. Wooded locations can be sunny during the winter when the leaves are off the trees but may not provide enough sun in the summer to allow the system to recharge.

Data Storage and Transmission: Early camera traps stored images to internal memory cards requiring users to physically retrieve the cards to download the images. Newer models have added the ability to transmit images via WiFi or cellular systems. Cameras placed near dwellings with WiFi coverage can tap into networks and transmit images at no cost. Remote locations require either cellular transmission or manual retrieval of the images. While cellular systems offer greater flexibility, they require subscribing to a cellular package, which can be costly during the lifetime of the camera.

Location: The location of a camera trap resides at the intersection of several factors including the following: Can you mount the camera to something, will it be free standing, or will housing be needed? Is it a quiet location that will likely result in a few images a week or is it a high-traffic locale potentially generating dozens or hundreds of images at a time? Does it have easy access for maintenance or will it need to be secured to prevent theft? The height and angle of the camera may need to be adjusted after you review the first images so delay permanently mounting the camera until the ideal view is achieved. Cameras installed nearer the ground may have their own considerations and these locations should be checked after storms to ensure they aren’t covered by snow or debris. Cameras should also be secured to prevent animals from damaging or moving them. Budgets for new gear and/or the capabilities of existing equipment will help guide your location choices.

So who’s raiding my strawberries? My camera trap revealed I have two nocturnal visitors, Peter Rabbit and Mr. Fox. My plan? I’ve decided to let Mother Nature run her course, but I must admit I’m rooting for Mr. Fox to do his job and remove Peter Rabbit from my garden.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: info@absentee-gardener.com.

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