In this article, I want to highlight a couple stories about camera trapping in Belgium. I’m using my Bushnell trail cameras to investigate which animals are there or what they are doing. Belgium has a quite high human density, so most of this stories are related to Urban Wildlife.
Wondering what a camera trap is: check out my other blog post about the basics of camera traps.
Pine Marten (Martes martes) on a camera trap
My first story is a bit less about Urban wildlife, but about the more secretive mustelid species, the Pine marten. It was early 2012, I just order my Bushnell Trophy Cam 2013 and was eager to put it out and record some mammals. I decided to go to Kalmthout (Belgium) with a friend of mine. De Zoom – Kalmthoutse Heide is a cross-border park on the Belgian-Dutch border. Our aim was to find some Pine marten. Although we knew it was going to be hard, we were young and dedicated. We found a nice piece of forest that was a connection between 2 larger patches, so we thought that would be ideal… We also added some fish oil and we put an egg in front of the camera. After some deer and rabbits, we got lucky. We got a marten on the camera. We had a feeling it was a pine marten, as in Belgium we also have the closely related, and more common, Beech marten (Martes fiona). To be sure we sent our video to some experts and they confirmed our thoughts, it was a pine marten! It turned out to be the 7th observation of pine marten in that area, so we were quite proud of ourselves. Now, 5 years later (2017), pine martens have been regularly photographed and even seen in that area. People even recorded a nesting tree…
Footage is taken with a Bushnell Trophy Cam (2013 edition)
Camera trapping Oelegem
During the autumn of 2016, I got contacted by a friend who might have seen something special for Belgium. He told me it was a very brief sighting in the dark, so it could have been a lot. But one of his thoughts was it could have been a jackal (Canis aureus). We both knew chances of it being a jackal are very slim, and for the individual to be still there even slimmer. But it was worth a try. We went out there and placed a couple of trail cameras and left them out for a week.
Our findings were interesting. We didn’t catch anything special on the camera, but there were a lot of different species using this small patch of nature in-between industrial area, highway, canal, and urban areas. In de video compilation, you can see footage of fox, beech marten, brown rat, domestic cat, hedgehog, and mallard.
Six species are definitely not bad. All these species are very adapted to the life in close proximity with humans.
Catching a rat
Something was eating the walnuts in our basement. So, it was time to figure out what was there and how to keep it out. I placed 2 camera traps in the basement and soon a brown rat was showing on the footage. After a couple of days, I changed the location of the camera to the potential entrance. It turned out I found the entrance of the rat, so when it was clear from the footage he was outside, we closed it. We could also see it was a male rat, so no risk of making a barrier between mother and potential young. We tried to trap the rat, so we could release it outside of our city. This turned out to be a challenge and my video makes it clear why rats are doing so well in cities. They are very cautious creatures paying attention to a lot of things, and so minimizing the chance of being trapped. Although this trap is a lifetrap, most traps for rats are fatal and it makes sense for the rat to try and avoid them as much as possible. In the end, we were able to trap the rat and release it again in a forest patch further away from us.
So far a couple of my camera trap stories. Hopefully, I will be able to write a couple more in the future.
If you are interested in a bit more theory behind camera traps and such, I started a blog series about it: