Trail camera observations spark interest in biodiversity

Upon further reading on a topic that diverged into a discussion on the allowance of trail camera/game camera/camera trap/security camera/camera doorbell pictures, I realized that maybe a previous suggestion of using said cameras is more controversial than I thought. (I am new here in the forum after all!)

To summarize the linked discussion above, some feel that a camera trap “records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location…¹[3] making it a submit-able “obervation”, while others think that it doesn’t comply with iNaturalist’s goal: “Our primary goal in operating iNaturalist is to connect people to nature…²[3].

My unsolicited opinion, is that while trail camera observations are not a personal encounter with nature in the moment that they happen, they have opened up my eyes (and those of nearby observers) to the great biodiversity around me and my home leaving me more curious, interested, and engaged in my local biosphere. That, I would argue, is a success for iNaturalist, is it not?

I’ve learned about lots of creatures that are common but hard to see myself! Now that I’ve seen my own proof that they live nearby, I want to engage more. If you’ve seen any animals that are surprisingly rare @mnharris posed a great discussion.

Now that you know my biased opinion, what’s the prevailing wisdom here for using or not using automatic cameras for iNaturalist observations?


I am all for trail cams. I run one non stop and upload the pics on inat every morning.

Fact is, at least in Canada. Most if not all mammals are becoming nocturnal to avoid humans. Therefore the only way to observe them is by skulking around in the night or simply just not being there but leaving a camera there to be our eyes, so to speak. Fact is. I probably wouldn’t get any mammal shots at all if it wasn’t for the trail cam. Now I get hundreds of pics of coyotes every night.

Mammals want nothing to do with people because people always kill them and rip there skins off to make luxury coats and such. So it’s natural that they would evolve to avoid us. If I can’t see them in person, i’m thankful to at least have pictures to look at.

I also think it’s good observation data to be on inat and shared with everyone.


Trail camera observations are fine, as long as you’re vetting the images, e.g. not just uploading 1500 photos that triggered the camera, whether or not an organism is in frame. :) Happy iNatting!


No objections here for trail cameras; my use of these for seeing wildlife predates iNaturalist. While I’m not going to post every deer picture that is taken, I will upload photos of animals where the opportunity for “personal encounter” is less likely for most people, and probably not safe (bears, mountain lions, wolves). Some animals, while not rare, are in decline and noting movements through particular regions are important observations (elk and caribou in BC). Moose observations are useful for noting conditions of health during winter tick season.

And if the objections relate to the lack of a personal encounter, are there similar objections to scat and footprint photos? Just wondering.

I really admire the folks who can capture great wildlife photos in person, but it isn’t something most observers are able or equipped to do, and I would not wish to see a cone of exclusivity established on any type of observations posted to iNaturalist. That would be a slippery slope indeed.


I’d add that trail cams also allow for a different type of interaction or connection with nature. You can see behaviours only expressed at night, or rarely, or only when undisturbed by human presence.

You can see the pair of birds that arrive to the burrow together each night
The bird that loves to be an ‘interior decorator’ and move things around
The one that arrives at the burrow not from the close and accessible beach, but from the opposite direction each night

Don’t have to be in person at that very moment to build a connection through observation


When I scout out a place to put my camera, I am looking for evidence that animals are in the area. I don’t want 500 pictures of waving grass. I am looking for tracks or scat. Sometimes I will put my camera in a place where I have seen animals, but was not close enough to get a photo. I feel like that meets the criteria of interacting with nature.


Same for me. I set up my trail cam where I find animal trails, scat, foot prints, and previous brief encounters where I couldn’t get a photo.


Thanks all for your thoughts! I will keep posting trail cam pictures. I wonder, is there a label/tag that can be used to identify it as such? It would be an interesting category to look through!


This project has quite a lot of trail cam observations:

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.