Chad Love: Do Trail Cams Make the Woods Less Wild?

This recent story in Slate magazine thinks so:
"According to one study, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of scientific papers involving data from camera traps every year for the past decade; at any given time, there may be about 10,000 deployed in research projects. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Exact figures are hard to come by, but industry sources say that as many as 300,000 are sold every year, mostly to hunters."

I don't use trail cams, for those of us who hunt on public land know that what you hang up today will invariably be stolen and pawned or stolen and hung up somewhere else tomorrow, but I find it hard to swallow the argument trail cams are a major distraction for wildlife.

"That the traps have some kind of impact on the animals is obvious from the images themselves, which often show animals startled by, fleeing from, investigating, or even attacking the traps...WWF has posted footage of a rare Javan rhino attacking a video camera trap."

Wildlife adapts to minor intrusions. You could take a full-size mannequin, dress it up like Ronald McDonald, set it up in your favorite patch of woods and it would have a far greater chance of being leg-humped by a roaming dog than actually disturbing any wildlife. Habitat loss is a major distraction for wildlife. Being the pic of the day on Bubba Joe's MySpace page isn't.

What's far more disturbing to me is the effect of trail cams on our own sense of wildness and solitude. Who cares if the Javan rhino develops a complex, I'm just scared that if I stop behind a bush to take a leak, by the time I get back home I could be the laughingstock of the Internet.