A cougar saunters by a trail camera at 8:30 a.m. April 29, 2015, west of the Bogachiel River near Dead Dog Flats. (Dan Anderson)

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Smile, you’re on candid game camera

EVERY NOW AND then, while walking in the wilderness of the West End forests, I will see something that reminds me of the Orwellian warning, “Big Brother is watching you.”

It’s because I have just realized there is a trail camera that probably just took my picture.

Good grief, did I even comb my hair that morning or get the sleep out of my eyes?

Worse yet, what if I had stopped to pee?

If people spend any time wandering game trails and roads very much less traveled, chances are they will come across a camera or two.

At the very least, somebody has seen them when that somebody retrieves those trail camera photos.

Trail cameras are hidden in public and private property all over the West End.

Some are used as security cameras, placed either inside or outside.

Others are used to get an idea of the critters that inhabit a given location.

The Olympic Project uses trail cameras to capture digital proof of the elusive Bigfoot.

Sometimes called game cameras, these little devices are colored to blend in with the outdoors.

They are frequently affixed to a tree with straps, and some have lock boxes around the cameras to prevent thievery or bear damage.

Trail cams usually run on batteries and they operate silence.

Some models even have a small modem so pictures can be retrieved remotely on a cellphone or computer.

When these cameras are hung in the forests, they are usually placed in a strategic spot for photographing the local animal population.

They might be beside a game trail or marking tree where animals identify their territories.

Owners of game cameras get a bit territorial themselves, believing areas where their cameras are hung are now claimed.

For example, last year, way up in the Sol Duc Valley on U.S. Forest Service land, a well-used elk wallow was discovered and a camera promptly placed to record activity.

Along came another camera enthusiast who placed his camera on a tree right next to the already placed camera.

This chap probably thought nothing of sharing a good spot.

But when the first camera user discovered the second camera, he felt a breach of his territory had occurred, and he removed the second camera.

I am not in place to decide who is right and who is wrong in such situations.

But the second camera was returned, and a wary peace was reportedly made.

Hopefully, both gentlemen learned from the experience.

Bear season begins Aug. 1, so cameras are peacefully being hung all over West End forests.

Dan Anderson, owner of West End Motors Inc. in Forks, also sells Moultrie trail cameras.

He began selling them at his automotive business about five years ago because he enjoyed using them.

When he started, about 75 percent of sales were for home security, but now about half are for forest use and cost between $75 and $250.

An avid photography nut, Anderson owns 400 cameras.

The walls of his office are covered in framed stills, some old, some new — and the most prominent, from his trail cameras.

“The game cameras show what’s out in the woods that you never see, and there is a whole lot more than you think is there,” Anderson said.

Bears are notorious for chewing and otherwise destroying trail cams.

Anderson recalls a bear that successfully removed a camera protected by a metal box.

“I have pictures of the sky as he was carrying it, pictures of him as he laid down by it and pictures of him walking all around it,” he said.

Anderson found the camera about 75 feet from where he’d hung it.

_________

Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina barker81@gmail.com, or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be Aug. 8.

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