The things that live inside…the cameras

Whenever I rock up to a camera trap, I sort of hold my breath and brace myself for what I’m going to find.  Sometimes I find nothing — elephants have tossed the camera off the tree and into the green grassy oblivion, or hyenas have left dribblings of mangled plastic and tooth-dented batteries — but stories about the never ending crusade to protect the cameras from overenthusiastic large mammals will come another day.  Today is about the wildlife that try to make my cameras home.

I’m always a little surprised at what I find. Geckos love to lay their eggs in the metal cases, though they and the skinks tend to act rather molested when I disturb them.

a skink!

a skink!

Other inhabitants are a bit slower to react, like this caterpillar:

one of the cuter inhabitants...

one of the cuter inhabitants…

And then there are some mysteries…


Some sort of spider eggs, perhaps?


I have no idea. Any suggestions welcome.


Something has made a mysterious home of rolled up leaves.

The only thing that I really can’t bear is the ants.  Don’t get me wrong, ants are cool – and they do *really* cool things – but they also bite. And when they’ve turned a camera into their home (as in the photo below —  those white bits are eggs or larvae), they aren’t particularly welcoming to researchers. I’ll try to get som clearer photos this field season – because I guarantee you, there will be many, many ants to come.




Tags: , , ,

About ali swanson

I'm an ecologist studying how large carnivores coexist. I spend way too much of my time trying to stop hyenas and elephants from munching my camera traps!

7 responses to “The things that live inside…the cameras”

  1. vjb says :

    Could you also give us some pictures of camera set ups (pre-renovation by large mammals, I mean)? I’m curious what the animals are seeing and where you locate them. They often show wide open vistas. Are they on single trees or the edge of stands? Thanks so much.

  2. Angie McMillan says :

    Hi, the mud balls look like wasp egg “containers”. I used to watch hornets and wasps build these mud nests when I lived in South Africa

    • ali swanson says :

      I have a feeling that they would hurt if they found me disrupting their homes! I’m starting to think I should be wearing some sort of full protective gear when I check these cameras!

  3. Daniel Cornwall says :

    Reblogged this on Alaskan Librarian and commented:
    A blog entry from the latest “citizen science” project that I’m giving time to. I love classifying the pictures, but I sure would HATE to maintain the cameras. Every location a new chill down my spine.

  4. a. schaep says :

    Yes the wasp mudballs look clear. Might be a species that makes one mudball for one paralised prey and one egg.

  5. JF Petit says :

    I used to set up camera traps in southern Québec and regularly found mice nesting inside the casing protecting the cameras. Since the cameras were installed about 15 feet up in trees, I never expected to find them there. Must have been tree-dwelling mice I guess!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Faulty Cameras (video-style) | Snapshot Serengeti - March 13, 2013

Leave a Reply to a. schaep Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: