Lights, camera, Leopold Live! Last month we premiered our fifth episode of Leopold Live!: Chapter 2 with our incredible partners at Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, and we truly enjoyed sharing more about wildlife management practices through the series. In this latest episode we talked with Bamberger’s resident zoologist, Jared Holmes, about game cameras and how they can serve as a handy tool in your wildlife management toolkit.
We began the episode explaining how game cameras can be an effective method for surveying wildlife by acting as an extra set of eyes on the landscape. This is an especially helpful technique if you are on a large property, like the 5,500-acre Bamberger Ranch. In addition to being a survey tool, these cameras can also help qualify your property for the 1-d-1 Open Space Appraisal through censusing wildlife populations.
Next, Jared provided us with a brief overview of the main components of game cameras and some common settings. The main components of all game cameras include an infrared sensor, the camera itself, a case, a memory card, and a power source. Most can be triggered to take pictures based on heat, motion, or a continuous timelapse. Motion sensitivity is one setting that can potentially impact your camera battery life and memory card storage space. The higher the sensitivity, the more pictures or videos that are taken, the shorter the battery life, and the more quickly your memory card fills up. All these items can be customized in the camera settings based on your target species and management goals.
Game cameras are not only a management tool – they can also be used in scientific research. Jared mentioned a recent study conducted by our own NRI researchers where they used game cameras to study pine snakes in east Texas. In this study they took photographs at specific locations every single minute and, as you can imagine, this produced quite a few images to sort through. Whether you’re trying to manage a deer herd or study an elusive snake, a good photo management system is essential so you can find the photos you need.
So now you have a game camera, where should you place it? It depends what species you are trying to survey for on your property. If you’re wanting to see a variety of wildlife species, then a trail or water source such as a water station, pond, or bird bath are good places to start. These areas tend to attract a variety of animals so you can get a good idea of what species are present on your property.
Once you find your ideal location you need to attach the camera to a tree, fencepost, or any other vertical surface that’s nearby. These cameras can be attached with a variety of items including straps, wires, zip ties, or adjustable tripods depending on the surface you are trying to place them on. We placed our camera on a tree in this video, but what if you don’t have a tree to attach it to or there’s not a tree where you need it? A quick, easy, and mobile camera mount can consist of a post in a bucket filled with concrete.
After you’ve attached your camera, you want to ensure it is pointing in the desired direction and angle. Jared highlighted that often these cameras don’t always point in the exact position we would like, but placing a stick behind them usually does the trick of propping them up at the correct angle. He also mentioned that it’s a good idea to carry a mobile memory card reader for your phone so you can snap a picture and make sure the camera is placed properly.
We ended our episode discussing how these cameras can be used specifically for game species management. If you’re trying to census your deer herd using cameras there are a few key elements you need to incorporate into your survey methodology. The preferred density of cameras is 1 per every 100 acres for properties that are 1,000 acres or less. Cameras must be placed over bait and be out for 10-14 days in a row. Jared suggested placing your camera 3-4 feet off the ground to be able to get good photos of individual deer. Once you get your pictures, you are going need to find the “known bucks” or “identifiable bucks” and do a few simple calculations to estimate your herd size.
Quail are another game species who can be managed using cameras. Jared explained that on the Bamberger Ranch they use them to monitor nest predators using dummy nests. This allows them to try to gauge nesting success differences between various pastures and to get an idea of what their main nest predators are on the ranch.
We rounded the episode out with a short Q&A session with Jared.
What time of year should I put out my cameras?
It depends on what species you are trying to survey for on your property. If you’re trying to get a population estimate for your deer herd, you should place them in mid-August through mid-September (before hunting season). If you’re more interested in trophy bucks, then it’s good to set them out on trails. If you’re after ground-nesting birds such as quail, then nesting season is the best time to put them out (between April 15th-June 15th). Lastly, if you want to monitor water sources then it’s good to have them out year-round.
How often should I be checking my cameras?
It depends on your sensitivity settings and your wildlife management goals, but every 10-14 days is a good rule of thumb to make sure your batteries are still working, you have space in your SD card, and your camera placement is correct.
When it comes to the wildlife valuation program, do you need to submit every picture you have?
No, only the target species you’re managing for.
If you have any of these same questions or are just curious about food stations for wildlife, be sure to check out the full episode!
Leopold Live!: Chapter 2 is off to a great start, and our crew can’t wait to share our next episodes with you! Keep an eye on Facebook for new episodes to premiere every month.
Current Episode Schedule
Game Cameras - September 28th at 12:00pm
Supplemental Water - October 26th at 12:00pm
Herbicides and Brush Management - November 23rd at 12:00pm