By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: All of us have used the old English proverb “necessity is the mother of invention.” Rancher Michael Gross’s impossible situation with a metal thief prompted his inventiveness and all it took was a game camera.

A Farm Bureau member from Mohave County, Gross used a small game camera to catch the thief and now hopes the footage will lead to a successful prosecution of the individual.

“I’ve used several game cameras for just about everything,” says Gross. “I set them around wherever I think they are needed including by water tanks and at ranch headquarters. I got inspired because the Sheriff Department uses them all the time.”

More comfortable out on the ranch catching a thief, Arizona Rancher Mike Gross, seen here with wife Becky serving as delegates from Mohave County during one of Arizona Farm Bureau's Annual Meetings, suggests you connect with local authorities to partner in the effort.

Such recorders can cost anywhere from $60 to $130. Ones that send real-time photos to your phone are $400 to $500.

Indeed, game or trail cameras have come a long way in recent years. Farmers and ranchers who don’t actually live on their property or manage such an expansive property, depend on using game cameras for security purposes. While the traditional reason of obtaining pictures of wildlife remains the most popular reasons for using these cameras, monitoring your property is becoming as critical of a use for the investment.

More and more farmers and ranchers are using the simple, but straight-forward, game camera to catch thieves. Here, a game camera is capturing an image showing a thief in the act of stealing copper metal.

And these days, it seems like video is what it takes to prove anything anymore. But you might want the following tips for using game cameras to catch a thief.

  1. First, Connect with Local Authorities: Coordinate with your local sheriff’s office to not only alert them to your intent but to keep them in the loop of any pattern of behavior and/or rash of robberies taking place on your farm or ranch. By partnering with local authorities, you gain an advocate and also can gather more advice about how to set the process in motion.
  2. Consider your Investment: You don’t have to go big or expensive with these cameras. You may only need to invest in one very economical game camera. But if your property and capital investments in your business are extensive and your risks are greater, you might want to consider cameras with more extensive features including those with real-time monitoring and alerts to your smart phone.
  3. Hide the camera. Trail camera placement means hiding it out of the thief’s view, unless you are placing a broken trail camera in plain view for a thief to intentionally see, forcing him to think twice about stealing something. Hiding the trail camera in vegetation that conceals the camera is a great way to catch quality pictures of trespassers. Regularly check the camera to make sure the selected area is still the premium place to put it.
  4. Move the camera around: Gross moves his cameras often and just about anywhere he wants to monitor his ranch.
  5. Avoid white flash trail cameras. For reasons above this one is obvious.
  6. Work toward picture proof perfection. Try your best to get a quality picture of a license plate if you are going after trespassers in a vehicle. Just a picture of a white Dodge truck doesn’t stack up in court. Also, frontal views of the thief are much more effective in the courtroom.
  7. Make sure your camera will last. Most of today’s game cameras are well made, but make sure that battery life on the camera is good and that you regularly check the cameras.
  8. Ask about Time Lapse or Field Scan Mode.  Often times, a trail camera in Field Scan Mode or Time Lapse Mode will document a violation in better depth. Consider setting up your trail camera 20 to 40 yards off the path or point of concern, and set the camera for every 5 minutes. This may or may not be a good option for you.
  9. Place the camera to view access points: Place your game camera so you can see access points to and from your property in the background.

While Gross must still await prosecution of the thief that came onto his ranch and stole metal, he’s not alone in dealing with trespassers and thieves. Recently in Fairfield, Vermont a farmer caught two thieves stealing his trailer and tractor using a game camera. The camera had been set up to catch suspected thieves, snapping a photo of two young men using an ATV to haul off the trailer. Both men now face theft charges. 

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