Do Animals Avoid Trail Cameras?

As @jnstuart suggested, scent lures can help attract and keep an animal in front of the camera for a while. Commercial trapping lures are often used but can be on the expensive side. For an alternative, coyotes do seem to enjoy Thai fish sauce - Coyote (Canis latrans) from Lassen County, CA, USA on September 19, 2021 at 09:58 AM by Tom Rickman. Rolling on the scent lure · iNaturalist

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I’ve heard even some musky colognes will do the same. But I’ve only used trapping lures such as Gusto which really makes everything from carnivores to ungulates stop and sniff.

Gusto and chicken seems to be the go-to lure and bait combo. After a morning of re-baiting cameras it’s nice to have a stream or pond nearby to wash hands in before eating lunch, but my dogs always seem extra excited to see me when i get home.

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I once ordered a bottle of Gusto and had it delivered by mail. Despite being in a sealed bottle inside a sealed box, I knew it had arrived as soon as I stepped out my front door to walk to the mailbox. Felt sorry for the mailman who delivered it. It’s some potent smelly stuff.

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It really is. I’ve often wondered about how and where it’s manufactured, and things like nearest neighbor distance to that facility.

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I even had a bear bite one of my trailcams!

I would like to add that smart careful animals know to avoid new symmetrical strange objects that could be associated with man. Trail cams recently have shown wolves acknowledge trail cams from afar and choose to disappear back into the woods. Black bears approached closer, and still chose to shy away.
Cameras that are disguised in a tree trunk or as a tree trunk are virtually unrecognized.

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My experience over several years in sub-tropical eastern Australia with access to 16 cameras is that many species will react to cameras, and in different ways. First, let me say that on the basis of that experience I totally agree with Meek et. al 2014.
Some animals will notice a camera from a distance at which they are unlikely to have heard any camera noise though they may have picked up a scent, and then warily approach. Others see it and leave the area. In general this is appears to be a reaction to perceiving something “out of place” in their environment. This kind of reaction seems to be much more prevalent with cameras placed at or below the eye level of the species involved.

Others will react to the flash - even supposedly black flashes are not black to some species (as I recall it, Meek et al. raise this issue). Reactions vary between taking fright, stopping and staring at the camera for a while, and then either carrying on or leaving the area, or coming closer to examine the source of the flash (some macropods fall into this category).

Others will react to camera sounds (if audio recording is turned on some camera sounds are recorded and so the coincidence of sound and reaction is obvious) and their general reaction is to leave the area. Long-nosed bandicoots tend to tolerate the flash, but sometimes will give a startled jump and rush out of the area when the camera fires during the day, something that could be attributable to camera noise.

I suspect that some animals react to scents on the cameras, but of course there is no way to be sure of this - except in the case of possums that will climb onto the camera and spend a lot of time trying to find a way into the case (obvious from the loud scratching heard on the audio). Good rule for those who use baited cameras, never handle the camera if there is a chance that they are contaminated with bait odours.

White flash is anathema to many species, though there are still some that will approach out of curiosity - close up photos of wallabies squinting through dazzled eyes at the camera are an uncomfortable reminder of this.

In general, placing the cameras above the head height of the target species, using low-glow or black flash and, if the camera allows, setting the percentage of flash to the lowest that is needed will reduce avoidance.

Hope this is useful.

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So many hunters and others aim trail cams at their feeders, the deer (axis and white-tailed) in my area (Texas, US) equate all trail cams with food and search all around the camera for the snacks. They as well as raccoons and squirrels are attracted to the cameras. Coyotes are attracted too - presumably to grab a squirrel dinner. We do have one coyote that is spooked and runs off when the camera triggers, but most just casually look at it and keep going. The bobcats seem to ignore the cams.

Is it a camera fault or a human scent? Wolves try their best to avoid humans, so maybe it would make sense that a camera holds more of it than nearby objects?

they absolutely will. as others have mentioned, it varies by species and individual.

I’ve observed a pretty huge range of reactions to my own camera traps. I’ve used both full flash as well as IR flash models, and full flash ones definitely startle animals more. And while IR flash models startle animals less, they are still noticed pretty often. At minimum from the clicking when the camera is triggered (it doesn’t take much effort for me to notice the sounds, so certainly the animals will notice it). Some the IR flash.

There’s a lot of inconsistency with IR flashes. Some that are labeled no-glow are actually low-glow. And has been mentioned already, there’s some variability among species for wavelength detection.

I’ve used quite a few lures and in addition to putting the animal in a position to get a decent photo, they also seem to somewhat distract the animal so they’re less likely to notice or react to your camera.

@marina_gorbunova i’m not sure, but that was the only time that i had an indication that a wolf moved off a road to specifically avoid a camera, and that was the only camera (out of numerous cameras) that did not have a lense over the IR transmitter. Most of the cameras i’ve had out for wolves have been unbaited/unlured cameras alongside forest roads, and it can be difficult to place a camera where it can detect a wolf traveling by on the road but not be seen by people using that same road. So i typically place the cameras on the ground near the edge of the road and hidden in a roadside shrub, or between rocks, etc. Gray wolves have frequently stared straight into the camera from close range, and not seemed put off by them - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&subview=map&taxon_id=42048&user_id=trickman&verifiable=any

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Mine was bitten by a Black Bear. Teeth went right through the case, but it still worked! So, bears may not avoid trailcams…

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Fwiw … we’ve had doorbell cameras in two different homes that became wildlife cameras. Now, we also have some “affordable” security cameras Velcro’d to trees. Both homes were in on the edge of a major city; suburban areas in proximity to one or more creeks and rills. We’ve seen coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, and deer (and neighbor’s cats). Currently, we see mostly coyotes and deer on the cameras, with an occasional bobcat or raccoon. We figure our current yard gets so much wildlife as it is one of the few that isn’t fenced.

The cameras are not camouflaged at all and the deer and coyotes seem to consider the house as a blind. I often see them within a couple feet of the house.

We are thrilled, to say the least. Eagerly awaiting a mountain lion (it could happen!).

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The first question a bear seems to ask itself when it encounters something new in the woods is if it can be eaten. When re-baiting or re-luring cameras we tend to have one person do the bait and the lure and the other person do the cameras to minimize any bait or lure scent left on the cameras, and we try not to handle cameras after eating lunch just to keep food scents off the cameras.

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