Identify Critters and Vandals with Wildlife Cameras

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Homeowners are often frustrated by damage or vandalism that occurs on their property. Short of staying up all night to see who or what is causing the damage, what can one do? Wildlife cameras are digital cameras that can shoot still images and video. These weatherproof cameras are intended to be mounted in the wild, hidden from view if necessary, where they can be set to capture still images at specific intervals or capture still images and/or video when they detect motion. The cameras can be left in place for months with the hopes of capturing some unique images. Many rare creatures have been documented using wildlife cameras.

B&H carries a wide range of wildlife cameras. Many of them cost less than $100, so you don’t need a small fortune to buy one. And there are multiple applications for wildlife cameras, even if you’re not interested in wildlife. Maybe you want to find out what kind of varmint keeps digging up your tulip bulbs or whose dog keeps going on your lawn. Or perhaps you want to determine what kind of critter keeps getting into your garbage cans. Or you may want to identify some trespassers or vandals that keep destroying your mailbox. You might even be well aware of a problem, say with wild hogs destroying your property, but need a wildlife camera to determine roughly how many animals you’re dealing with.

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Like conventional digital cameras, wildlife cameras offer a certain resolution, or number of megapixels. Sometimes a wildlife camera will offer more than one resolution, with the higher resolution good for capturing the most detail and the lower resolution better for fitting as many images as possible onto a given memory card size. Trail cameras typically record on SD cards up to 16GB or 32GB in capacity, and they don’t usually come with one, so be sure to add a card to your order if you want to be able to use the camera right away.

Because trail cameras must be powered by batteries, and because one might leave a trail camera unattended for many months at a time, it’s a good idea to get one that will hold a lot of batteries. Most trail cameras require a certain minimum number of batteries, say four AA cells, and many of them will accept extra batteries to extend their run time, say, a maximum of 12 AA cells. If you are using a trail camera in an area that you can revisit often, such as your backyard, then it doesn’t matter how many batteries it holds. But if you will be setting up a trail camera in a remote, snowed-in forest to photograph bear cubs exiting their den in the spring after a winter of hibernation, then you’ll want to be sure your trail camera holds a lot of batteries.

Speaking of batteries, some trail cameras can be powered by rechargeable battery packs whose charge can be maintained using solar charging panels. The solar chargers are typically optional. The beauty of a solar charger is that, provided that enough sunlight reaches the solar panel, a charge can be maintained indefinitely.

Because trail cameras are often deployed for many months at a time with no available power source other than batteries, it’s important that trail cameras conserve battery power as much as possible. One way to conserve battery power is to take a series of time-lapse pictures at intervals set by the user, every minute, every hour and so on. Another way to conserve power is to use passive infrared, or PIR sensors to detect motion, while leaving as much circuitry as possible turned off. A PIR sensor detects the moving heat pattern given off by an animal (or person) against the cooler surroundings. When motion is detected, the sensor activates the camera circuitry, which takes a certain amount of time to become ready to take a picture; this time delay is known as the Trigger Time. The camera can then snap one or more pictures or capture video for a set period of time.

In the daytime, no flash is needed to take pictures. But at night a flash is needed. An standard flash tube lets you capture color images but it could also startle any animals within range, causing them to run away and you to miss the shot. That’s why trail cameras are available with infrared flashes (a cluster of infrared LEDs) that shower the scene in infrared light, which animals and people cannot see but nonetheless illuminates the scene. The tradeoff is that the images look as through they were captured using night-vision equipment. You will usually see a range for this flash listed in feet in the product specifications, and it’s basically the distance from the camera that the flash can illuminate.

All trail cameras have weatherproof cases, so you don’t have to worry about inclement weather. However, if you’re setting one up in an area where people you don’t know will come and go, you might want to invest in a security case. Made specifically for certain model cameras, or certain brands of cameras, metal security cases can be locked onto a tree or other sturdy object. The camera could still be damaged, but it won’t be easy to steal without some heavy-duty tools.

109 Comments

Looking for an outdoor camera to use for backyard pesting, works at night, has instant mobile notifications, and does not trigger a light (unless IR for the night vision). Is there anything that is able to avoid movement of natural surroundings to reduce false triggers? Would prefer to avoid Thermal as I know that is generally more expensive. If thermal is the only option please show me though. Thanks! 

I’m looking for a camera I can move around the edge of my house along the ground to monitor any snake activity.  Suggestions?

 I would recommend the Browning Strike Force 850. Please take a look at the following link:

https://bhpho.to/3nN0bkH

It has motion detection, night vision, and it can also shoot in the daytime. The motion of a snake would easily set off the camera to take a photo.

Hi B&H, I'm looking for a nighttime camera to record invertebrates such as moths visiting flowers. I realize that security cameras are best for video, while trailcams could provide time-lapse or short clips. Which option would provide the highest resolution of small creatures? I see the two birdcams in the comments have been discontinued. Needs to be water resistant/waterproof. Thanks for your advice.

Hi Andrea - 

Neither of these cameras have close-up capabilities, but a wireless surveillance camera might yeild the best results.
 

Dahua Technology DH-IPC-HFW1435SN-W-S2 4MP Outdoor Wi-Fi Network Mini Bullet Camera with Night Vision B&H # DAHFW143NWS2  Key Features:

  • 2560 x 1440 Resolution at up to 20 fps
  • IR LEDs for Night Vision up to 98' - Auto and manual IR on/off control
  • 2.8mm Fixed Lens
  • 97° Horizontal Field of View
  • 2.6' close focus distance
  • 16x digital zoom
  • White balance modes include auto, natural, street lamp, outdoor, manual, and regional custom
  • Digital WDR, backlight compensation, and highlight compensation
  • Smart H.265+, H.265, Smart H.264+, H.264, and MJPEG video codecs
  • 0, 90, 180, and 270° image flip
  • 100M RJ45 Ethernet port
  • Up to 20 users
  • Compatible with Internet Explorer (9 & 11 or higher), Chrome, Firefox, DMSS, iOS, and Android
  • 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Connectivity  -  802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi standards
  • Complies with ONVIF Profile G, S & T
  • 128GB microSD Card Capacity

Are there any trail cameras that can do scheduled recording? E.g. record video from 5-6 pm every night, regardless of whether or not motion is sensed?

 Unfortunately, trail cameras are limited to 60 second video clips. They are designed for animals and animals tend to move on rather quickly. For scheduled video recording a security camera would be recommended instead.  Please reach out to use directly at [email protected] or via Live Chat until 8PM ET this evening to speak with one of our agents in the Surveillance Department. 

I unfortunately have an ex partner who has begun harassing me by messing with my tires at night. I need to get 2 cameras I can put in the front and back of my car to record at night. I don't need a high frame rate, but I do need a resolution that would allow me to identify a human at night. I would like to be able to optimize battery life. Is there an option to have the recording streamed to a computer or phone via data? My worry would be that if he saw the cameras, he would break into my car to destroy them, and I would still have no evidence. 

Hi Emily - 

It sounds like you may need a custom-installed camera or set of cameras that can be hidden or mounted covertly.  Please contact a local security service for guidance.  
Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions: [email protected]

It sounds like she needs something that would not only be concealed so that the stalker/harasser would be caught in action but also the fact that you need this to go to either a home computer or hard drive system or even better yet end up being transmitted to a cloud based system. 

I have been getting video of river otters that live on a nearby stream and find that many low glow cameras spook them.  Can you recommend a good no glow camera that also also captures high quality video? 

I don’t mind paying more for high quality.

Based on your needs, we would recommend the Browning Dark Ops Pro XD, BH # BRBTC6PXD as a suitable option. 

https://bhpho.to/2OBnXAD

Hello, I am looking for a camera that can capture photos and videos of wildlife walking through the backyard at night without scaring them off. I read the very helpful and illuminating article on this page (thanks!), and several of the comments below.  Being able to adjust settings and see images on one's phone would be a huge bonus.  Would you still recommend the Browning Defender 850 Trail Camera or the Browning Dark Ops?  Any guidance between those two, or anything else I should look at?  Thank you.  

Hi Cathy - 
 

Yes. These are both great options:

Browning Defender 850 Trail Camera  B&H # BRBTC9D: 

Browning Dark Ops HD Pro X Trail Camera B&H # BRBTC6HDPX

I'm looking for a trail camera to catch mail thieves at night.  It will be positioned in a tree next to a highway, and needs to read license plates at night.  Bluetooth is a must since there's no cell reception down there.  I want to position it so it doesn't pickup all the hi-way traffic, just what stops at the mailboxes.  It has to be waterproof, long battery life preferred since it'll be high in a tree, and easy to lock with maybe a cable/lockbox combo.  My searches keep landing on Campark T85 or Browning Defender 940 but not sure if either will read license plates clearly.  Any ideas?  

Hi Jerri -

Trail cameras will not be able to read license plates reliably Jerri. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will offer a vey limited range and are for convenient downloading of the recorded images only. Here is the best suggestion I can make, excluding cellular type cameras.  NOTE:  Even on Power Save mode, battery life may not extend much past three months.

Browning Defender 850 Trail Camera B&H # BRBTC9D:  https://bhpho.to/3eOd3z1

Key Features

  • 20MP Resolution
  • PIR Motion Sensor: 80' Detection Range
  • 0.4-Second Motion Trigger Speed
  • View & Download via Bluetooth/Wi-Fi
  • Invisible Infrared Flash with 120' Range
  • Time-Lapse Plus, Multi-Shot Modes
  • Full HD 1920 x 1080p Video with Sound
  • Built-In Adjustable Mounting Bracket
  • 16GB Micro SDXC Memory Card
  • 4 x CR123A Batteries

Do you have one which can be used on a roof? Trying to figure out what is getting into our soffit and our gutters at night. 

Basically, any trail camera can be attached to a roof since they used a 1/4-20” thread for a tripod or clamp. It’s just a matter of which surface the camera will be attached to on the roof. One such camera to consider is the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Low-Glow Trail Camera, B&H # BU119719CW.

https://bhpho.to/2BeyPON

Hi, I am researching an environmental science project in which wildlife cameras would be set up at different elevations within a green way running along a creek. The idea is to capture the animals using urban landscapes as habitats. Please advise.

I am looking for an outdoor camera that can be mounted on a dock and stream live images of birds in a river and marsh, probably out to 200 feet. Day time only is one option, although day and night would be cooler. Suggestions? Thanks!

Unfortunately the trail and wildlife cameras we sell all use a wide angle lens. They would not be able to pick up much detail from a marsh 200 feet away. In this case, we invite you to visit us via Live Chat or e-mail us to [email protected] so we can go over some options. 

Any of these cameras work with Mac?

Virtually any trail/wildlife camera can work on a Mac, being that the footage gets saved to a memory card.  It's just a matter of having a card reader or connecting the camera via USB to your computer. 

Hi, I have a screech owl nest box that I would like to monitor. I’m able to put the camera relatively close to the box opening, can you recommend a camera that would work?  I really like the Bluetooth/mobile app options but just not the price tag.

We recommend using the Bresser Bird Feeder Camera, B&H # BR4040001, which has a lens that can focus as close as 2 inches, therefore allowing you to place it very close to the owl’s home. We also have the Moultrie Wingscapes TimelapseCam Pro Digital Camera, B&H# MOWCT00126 , which can focus as close as 6 inches.

https://bhpho.to/2oDBSJn

https://bhpho.to/2nJHJ01

We live in a wildlife prone area (bears, mountain lions, deer) and would like to install an outdoor critter cam just to see what goes walking by at night. We recently took down an old security light so I have easy access to 120V power wires but no outlet. I haven't seen any cameras that have the ability to be hard-wired to AC power. Since the camera would be up high on a house eave, getting to it would require a tall ladder so I'd like WiFi access. Thoughts? Thanks!

For this inquiry, please e-mail us directly to [email protected] so we can research it further. Thank you. 

Looking for a camera with infrared flash, wide angle, live viewing via WiFi and/or cellular, possible solar charge to find night critters eating in garden. Also can you connect more than one camera to the same WiFi feed? Thanks!

Hi Jill - 

Capture photos and movies of wildlife in the field and view or download them remotely via Bluetooth connectivity with the Browning Defender 850 Trail Camera (B&H # BRBTC9D). The camera features a passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor with an 80' detection range and a fast 0.4-second trigger speed for capturing 20MP stills and HD 1920x1080p video (with sound) in response to subject movement.

Install the Browning Trail Cameras mobile app on your smartphone or tablet to take advantage of the Defender 850's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. You can view and download photos and images, change camera settings, and preview its field of view from 60 yards away, without having to physically touch the camera. You can also use SDXC memory cards up to 128GB as the medium for the camera's images and video. A 16GB SDXC card is included with the camera.

The camera's infrared LED flash offers Power Save, Long Range, and Fast Motion settings with a maximum range of 120'. Time-Lapse Plus shooting mode captures images at pre-set intervals over a designated period while still taking PIR-triggered shots, and Browning's BuckWatch Time-Lapse Viewer Software enables you to see patterns and change over that period. The camera is also capable of capturing up to eight images in Multi-Shot or Rapid Fire modes, ensuring that you don't miss the action. Photos and videos are recorded to optional SDXC memory cards up to 128GB. The Defender 850 runs on four included CR123A batteries.

Browning has so many options... I am the usual night-time-backyard-critter-curious person. I want to see the raccoons that continue to find spots in my yard for their latrine and the skunks who dig caters. Would like to spend less than $200. Is the 850 the best? I’ve seen you recommend it to several folks. Thank you.

Hi Shelley,

Yes, the 850 is the best in my opinion. It has the largest range for the invisible IR flash (120 foot) so it can illuminate animals that are quite far from the camera. It also has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for accessing the images through your smartphone. It would be best to download the Browning Trail Cameras mobile app on your smartphone or tablet to take advantage of the Defender 850's Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. You can view and download images, change camera settings, and preview its field of view from 60 yards away, without having to physically touch the camera.

Please help me. We have a small coop with chicken and pigeons in our country house. The house does NOT have any WiFi. Sometimes the pigeons get killed or the chickens mysteriously disappear but we want to identify who? What's the best camera? I guess one feature that would be interesting if the camera can over-write when full because we only need footage when something bad happens.

A solid option to consider for your needs is the Browning Dark Ops HD Pro Trail Camera B&H # BRBTC6HDP MFR # BTC 6HD P. This camera has the ability to record onto an SDHC/SDXC card up to 512GB and the ability to shoot consecutive images.  https://bhpho.to/2Ic2KsN

 

Hi, I'm looking for a camera that will help me identify who is eating the fish from our goldfish/koi pond.  My husband thinks the owls are getting them but I'm not sure.  Either way, we have to know in order to devise a defense. Unfortunately, our budget is limited probably about $150.00.  The pond is a small one about 800 gal.

Hi Marian - 

With a 20MP resolution and a quick 0.2-second trigger speed, the brown Trophy Cam HD Aggressor Low-Glow Trail Camera from Bushnell (B&H # BU20MPTHDABR) offers the ability to capture high-resolution stills or HD video of wildlife and people on your property or hunting grounds. It comes with a black and white text LCD viewer.

The camera's 36 Low-Glow LED flash array has a range of 100', but won't spook game or alert an intruder. The shutter is ready for another photo after a recovery time of a half second. A removable anti-reflection LED cover helps to ensure the camera remains unnoticed by reducing reflections on the LED array's protective panel, but it can be removed if you want to boost the flash output a bit. The passive infrared motion sensor has a detection range of 100'.

Along with triggered images and videos, the Trophy Cam HD Aggressor includes a reinforced cable lock channel and latch, is weather resistant, and is operable at temperatures from -4 to 140°F.

This camera sounds like it may be the perfect one for my need. I keep finding empty wine bottles and beer cans at the back end of my property and I want to catch the boozers. What is meant by "weather resistant"? Does the camera make the typical clicking sounds of a regular camera or is it silent?  Thanks!

Yes, the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD Aggressor Low-Glow Trail Camera (Brown), B&H # BU20MPTHDABR, would have a silent shutter.  “Weather-Resistant” means that the camera is designed for outdoor use and can withstand changes in weather such as humidity, hot/cold, and precipitation such as rain, sleet, and snow.  It is not waterproof, and should not be submerged, but it should withstand falling or blowing precipitation.

Hello,  I'm looking for a camera that will help me monitor my dog in when she's in the yard.  Due to an injury, I am unable to physically access my whole yard and there are a couple places where my dog isn't visible from the deck due to trees and bushes.  I am looking for a camera that will show me real-time video on my phone or computer of those spots in the yard.  There isn't electrical wiring in the needed areas and the farthest one is about 150 feet from the house.   The camera doesn't need to record and would only be used for a few minutes at a time, a couple times a day.  Thank you for your help!

Hi Chandra - 

Monitor an outdoor area with the Mini Trooper Base Station with 720p Wire-Free Outdoor Camera from ezviz. Video and audio can be saved to the included 8GB microSD or using the ezviz Cloud service (available separately). The Base Station can support up to five additional Mini Trooper cameras (available separately) and connects to your network wirelessly via Wi-Fi, or through an Ethernet connection.

The included Mini Trooper camera can capture 1280 x 720 resolution video at up to 15 fps for smooth recording and playback. It has an IP65-rated enclosure for protection from dust and water, making it suitable for outdoor use. It has a built-in microphone to pick up nearby sound and features motion detection alerts. The camera has a wide-angle, 116° field of view to monitor a large outdoor area during the day and at night, and can be easily mounted to a variety of surfaces using its magnetic base. The camera operates completely wirelessly thanks to a Wi-Fi connection to the Base Station and replaceable batteries for up to 9 months of use.

Note: ezviz Cloud Service is not required for use, but is available separately through ezviz.

Thanks!

I need to see what animals are in my back yard at night. Sensor needs to reach 40 feet and detect small animals such as cats, possums, foxes, raccoons, and turkeys, as well as large ones such as deer. I don't need cinema quality; I just want to know what the animal is. Budget is $150. What do you recommend?

...I don't need wifi, and I don't need video, either. I can retrieve the memory card from the camera daily. Thanks.

Hi Sylvia - 

Featuring a fast 0.4 second maximum trigger speed and 80' invisible IR flash, the Dark Ops Extreme Trail Camera will capture 16MP still photos and 1280 x 720 video of visitors of your property or hunting grounds. The camera features an adjustable 80' detection range and a quick 0.6 second recovery time. The Smart IR option will record daytime video of animals when they're moving, but will stop when they stand still for extended periods.

Along with motion-activated photos or video, Browning's Time-Lapse shooting mode captures images at preset intervals over a designated period. The Buck Watch Time-Lapse Viewer Plus software, available for free download, assembles the images into a video so you can see a full day's activity in a few minutes. The camera will capture up to eight images in Multi-Shot or Rapid Fire mode. Photos and videos are recorded to user-supplied SDXC memory cards up to 512GB. The Strike Force Trail Camera runs on six user-supplied AA batteries, or on an optional external power supply connected to its 12V power jack. It's also configured with a TV Out connector for viewing on a monitor and a USB port for image transfer to your computer.

I will be away for the winter and want to see what animals visit my woods. Is there any way for me to view the footage from far away? If that's not possible, what's a good choice for a camera that won't be attended to for several months and that I can view the footage when I return home?

Hi Lynnne - 

With the Spypoint LINK-S-V Solar Cellular Trail Camera (B&H # SPLINKSV), your days of trekking into the field to pull memory cards and replace batteries are over. The LINK-S automatically sends the images it captures to your smartphone or tablet, and its built-in solar panel keeps the internal battery charged.

The LINK-S-V takes 12MP photos and 720p video with sound, and transmits them using a Verizon data plan (monthly charges apply). You can also choose Spypoint's free plan, which transmits up to 100 photos per month at no charge. Either way, the camera comes with 30 days of free unlimited photos. A pre-activated SIM card is included for easy setup.

The camera's passive infrared motion detector has a range of 100 feet, and its trigger speed is 0.7 seconds. The 42-LED, low-glow infrared flash has a 100-foot range, yet won't spook game at night. Multi-shot mode offers three photos per detection, and the Photo-First feature takes a still image at the start of any video recording and sends it to your account. The time lapse mode affords big-picture, long-term observation. Your still images will have a time stamp with useful information including date, time, temperature, and moon phase. Video length can be set between 10 and 90 seconds.

Images and videos are saved on a user-supplied SD/SDHC memory card up to 32GB (only photos are transmitted via the data plan). Because the camera is designed to run on solar power, no user-supplied batteries are necessary, but you can use 8 AA batteries as an optional or backup power source. The camera comes with a tree mounting bracket and strap, and is equipped with a standard 1/4"-20 tripod mount.

Looking for camera to live stream bird feeder action to PC display(s) and/or TV(s). Electrical power avail. at feeder. Prefer high-resolution camera, prefer Wi-Fi (but can run Ethernet cable if necessary). Camera can be located as close to feeder as focusing will allow. Prefer narrow field of view. Zoom a bonus. Advice appreciated!

Hi Steve - 

The Lite Series 2MP Outdoor Wi-Fi PTZ Dome Network Camera from Dahua Technology (B&H # DA22A204TNGN) has a 1/2.7" Exmor progressive scan CMOS sensor to capture 1920 x 1080 resolution video at up to 30 fps. Its 2.7-11mm motorized varifocal lens has a 112.5-39° field of view to monitor both indoor and outdoor areas and can be easily adjusted thanks to the camera's PTZ functionality. Pan from 0 to 355°, tilt from 0 to 90°, and zoom up to 4x to monitor a specific area or subject. Video data is transmitted over Wi-Fi for a simplified setup.

i'm in a new house that has a sizeable backyard and would like to know when deer wander by in the forest behind my yard. it's maybe 30-40 yards from my deck to the woods, so mounting in the woods would be outside wifi range, I think. would a camera mounted on my deck get good enough performance to detect motion and get decent pictures?

actually, wifi reaches to the edge of the woods. so far, all the trail cams i find use wifi to configure the camera and what i would like is for it to alert me when it detects motion over wifi. an alert on an app or an email is fine. any trail cameras do this? i think i can use a nest or ring, but they only take video and I'd like stills also.

A friend of mine has experienced vandalism of her property on other side of road. She once had a trail camera but it was stolen. What would you recommend that can run for a long time day and night without detection. It can't cost a lot 

A trail camera with invisible IR and that is camo colored would be easy to hide.  One such camera is the Browning Dark Ops Extreme Trail Camera B&H # BRBTC6HDX.  https://bhpho.to/2P9ib4s

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