Trail cameras are great for wildlife spotting or even home security. But an obvious trail camera is sadly prone to theft or vandalism. Here’s how to hide a trail camera from humans.
Hiding a trail camera from humans is essential to allow the cameras to serve their purpose of watching wildlife or securing your home or land. Two factors to remember: you must make the camera hard to spot and even harder to steal. While this may seem obvious, it is easier said than done.
Nonetheless, there are several ways to manage both of those objectives. Keep reading for installation inspiration for your trail cameras.
1. Elevate Your Trail Camera
People do not tend to look up as they walk. This is especially true when hiking through the woods, where uneven ground or low debris could trip you up or make walking more effort.
Simply putting the trail camera at least ten feet off the ground will make it unlikely that a person will spot it.
2. Camouflage Your Camera
To make your camera harder to spot, use the natural foliage around it. Use branches and leaves that match the trees around the spot where you install your camera.
You may want to consider buying matching fake foliage from a local craft store, as real foliage will die and turn brown or yellow. A mismatched spot of undergrowth may draw attention, so use fake leaves and hot-glue them in place.
You can also use a camera or mounting box that comes with a camouflage pattern painted onto the box itself. For example, the Campark Trail Cam has a camouflage pattern right out of the box. This can help the camera blend in with the bark of the tree on which you are mounting it.
However you decide to camouflage your camera, remember to keep leaves and other camouflage elements away from the lens of the camera.
Even a small twig in the field of vision can obscure a huge amount of viewable space. A leaf that rustles with the wind could set off the motion detection and result in many empty shots.
Here’s an example of a trail camera that will be spotted by everyone who walks by.
Looking for a trail camera? Here are the 13 best trail cameras for wildlife photography.
3. Disguise Your Camera
Mounting your camera inside something else is a great way to disguise the camera. For instance, if you are mounting a camera on your property for home security use, you could put it inside a birdfeeder. This could be especially effective if you use an existing feeder that looks like it has been there a while.
Another option is to hide the camera inside a fake rock or place it inside a tree stump. Use the natural surroundings as a disguise. Remember that you need to place the camera where it will have a clear, unobstructed view of the area you want to monitor.
An excellent human-made disguise is a nesting box. Naturalists and scientists sometimes install these boxes in wild areas to monitor local wildlife, so a nesting box could be the perfect place to install and disguise your trail camera.
4. Use No-Glow Cameras
In the middle of the day, a camera will not need a flash to take good photos. If trespassers were polite enough to only invade during the daytime, this would be enough. For night images, many cameras use an LED flash or other light to get better pictures.
Sadly, that flash is a dead giveaway that a camera is present. Even if the camera is hard to find at night, a dedicated trespasser may be inspired to take the time to find it and remove the SD card or destroy the camera entirely.
Fortunately, there are many cameras available that take pictures in the infrared range at night, and thus do not produce a glow detectable even by animals. These cameras are more expensive, but as a bonus, are unlikely to reveal their presence at night. The GuardePro A3 is just one example of an infrared camera that does not glow.
5. Place Them in Low-Traffic Areas
If you are installing your camera to monitor human movements, you want it to point at areas where people are likely to go. However, this does not mean the camera itself has to be in that high-traffic area. It just has to point at that area.
Find a place off the trail that would be difficult for people to reach. Humans are naturally inclined to take the easiest trail available, so finding a patch of bramble or cactus that is particularly difficult to access will make it very unlikely that anyone will discover your camera.
Making your camera difficult to access may even deter thieves or vandals who spot it. After all, if stealing your camera involves climbing a tree through thorny branches, they may decide to leave it alone even if they do spot it.
6. Install Decoy Cameras
If you are concerned with people stealing or destroying your camera, you can consider using a decoy. Place an inexpensive camera (possibly even one that does not work at all) in a more obvious spot.
Then, mount the real camera, point it so that it can see the decoy, and hide it well. If thieves or vandals spot the decoy camera and destroy or steal it, they will be caught by the actual camera.
A decoy camera can be an expensive alternative, so if you decide to use a decoy, it is a good idea to find one that doesn’t cost much. The WoSports mini trail camera is an affordable option that could serve well as a decoy when paired with a higher-quality camera hidden nearby.
Of course, if you have been using trail cameras for a while, an excellent option is to use an old camera that no longer works.
Hang onto those old cameras even after they quit recording images. A thief will not know the camera is not working, and you can catch the person on film with the working camera pointed at the decoy.
7. Choose Sturdy Mounting Hardware
While the ultimate goal of hiding a trail camera is to make the camera difficult to spot, an enterprising or lucky person could still find it. For additional security, consider making the camera difficult to damage or remove even if it is found.
Several manufacturers make mounting boxes for trail cameras that are very difficult to damage or remove. This hardened case around the camera does not just protect it from hail and stray branches.
It means a thief would have to bring special tools to remove the camera. The odds are good that your trespasser will not come equipped with the kind of tools needed to dismantle a strong defense.
The mounting bracket itself should also be very secure. After all, if the thief can quickly take down the camera and dismantle at leisure, it does not matter how secure the camera itself may be. Use locking brackets or other mounting hardware that is difficult to disassemble or damage.
You’ll want a decent trail camera or a GoPro on a long selfie stick if you were going to shoot a den full of rattlesnakes.
Python Cable Lock for Trail Cameras
Even if you do your best to conceal your trail cam, it might still be spotted. To keep thieves from walking away with your camera and footage, you might consider a Python cable lock for your trail cameras.
They come in multi packs – from 2 to 24 units. Each lock is keyed the same in the whole set. So one key will unlock them all.
The lock head has a camouflaged finish to help it blend in even more.
Of course, there is no cable strong enough to resist the most determined thief. But this cable will be a deterrent to most opportunistic criminals.
A well hidden trail camera will be difficult to spot.
Curious how to program your trail camera? Here are 12 factors to consider when programming and setting it up.
More reading: How I made a deer camera with my GoPro
How Will You Hide Your Trail Cam?
And that’s how to hide a trail camera from humans. If you are serious about hiding your trail camera from other humans, it is worth using multiple suggestions from the list above.
Hide the camera with fake foliage, place it ten feet above the ground inside a hardened lockbox, and point it at a decoy camera. Combining your methods for making the camera hard to spot and hard to steal will help you keep your camera secure and working for a long time.
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Bryan Haines is co-founder and blogger on ClickLikeThis. We cover action cameras and outdoor photography with a focus on GoPro cameras. He is a travel blogger at Storyteller.Travel and co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.