Danger: Exploding Trail Cams

When I lived in the city in my wild and reckless youth, I got around on a bicycle for six … Continued

When I lived in the city in my wild and reckless youth, I got around on a bicycle for six months after my car got stolen. I had three bicycles stolen over the next two years. In one case, I watched the thief, who had broken into the group house I was living in, ride away on my new Fuji. The incident enraged me. I wanted to to place a new, unsecured bike out front, sit inside with a shotgun, and splatter the first person who tried to steal it.

I didn’t, of course. That would make me something even worse than a thief—a murderer. And I’m one of those people who believe there is no personal property worth dying or killing for. So it’s with more than a little dismay that I learned that the police and ATF in Harlan County, Ky., have issued a warning to the public to watch out for IEDs in trail cameras. The first explosion took place back in May. One man, Mark Sawaf, was arrested in June after incriminating evidence was discovered in his trash. The police attempted to have Mr. Sawaf lead them to other rigged trail cameras. He attempted to escape and was fatally shot.

Since then, there have apparently been three more IED-rigged trail cams discovered. That prompted an investigation, during which nine more were discovered and dismantled. Some were designed to explode when batteries were inserted into them. Others were built to be set off by trip wires. Authorities have reported hearing of at least one treestand rigged to explode. At first, there was speculation that the explosive cameras might be connected to illegal marijuana fields, but no such fields have been found. It appears, then, that the cameras were placed by a hunter or hunters. Whether they were protecting their trail cams, hunting grounds, or both, is unclear.

On August 22, the ATF issued a public-safety advisory saying that there have been three confirmed instances of cameras exploding and injuring people. It warned against approaching any trail cameras that don’t belong to you and reporting any that look suspicious to authorities.

It’s a sad day when a hunter so zealously defends “his” property or honey hole—the news accounts didn’t specify whether the incidents had taken place on public or private land, but one expects that a landowner would have been contacted and interviewed if this were private acreage—that he’d risk harming or killing others in the process.

Hunting is a way of life in many places, including southeastern Kentucky. Now, apparently, it is also a way of death.