Trail camera use to be allowed on Wisconsin's state lands
Madison — Sportsmen will be able to begin placing trail cameras on most areas of a state wildlife area or state forest as soon as a new DNR policy is published in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal.
The publishing of new trail camera policy should occur in June, meaning that cameras should be able to be placed by July, according to Scott Loomans, DNR wildlife policy specialist.
The Natural Resources Board (NRB) approved a policy May 23 that allows the public to put trail cameras on lands managed by the DNR.
The idea came from requests from hunters who wanted to scout and use trail cameras on areas they hunt.
In the past this activity had been prohibited in the same way that citizens may not leave boats or canoes on state-owned lakeshore. There has always been a general DNR policy that citizens may not leave or store personal property on state land, and that included trail cameras.
The new policy, which will be in force as soon as it is published in the Wisconsin State Journal, allows trail cameras to be placed out overnight on DNR lands providing that:
- Hunting is allowed on the land and it is not a designated as a special use zone.
- Cameras bear either the name and address or DNR customer identification number of the owner. This must be clearly visible without having to move or inspect the camera.
- Cameras may not cause damage to natural vegetation.
- The placement is done at the risk of the camera owner. If someone steals or damages a camera, the DNR will not be liable. If DNR employees conduct habitat work (such as timber stand improvement, burning, etc.) and the camera is damaged the DNR will not be liable.
- Camera use is only on DNR land, and does not include land leased for public access from private landowners. This also includes Managed Forest Law lands that are privately owned, but open to public access. In both cases, the landowner must give permission.
Loomans clarified that the specially designated areas where the cameras are not allowed include parts of properties such as hiking trails, campgrounds, beaches, and toilet facilities.
The cameras can be used on areas such as state wildlife areas owned by DNR, state parks, state forests, and natural areas where hunting is allowed.
In addition, since the cameras may not cause damage to natural vegetation, cameras can not be attached with a screw into a tree.
“After discussion at the December Natural Resources Board meeting, there were questions about how many cameras a person could have and how long they could be in place, but this is a DNR policy and not a detailed Administrative Rule so we felt it is better to just be general,” Loomans said.
However, the DNR legal department has suggested that the agency follow up with an administrative rule, which will come after the DNR has experience with this new policy for one hunting season.
The Conservation Congress included a question about trail cameras at its 2012 spring meetings and the proposal allowing cameras on DNR land was approved by a vote of 2,190 in favor and 1,605 against. The vote was approved in 56 counties and rejected in 14.
Loomans said that 10 Midwestern states that he contacted have no rules prohibiting people from placing trail cameras on state lands.
Contacts with county forest administrators found that the 19 counties that responded all allow trail cameras on county forests. Most county foresters said that there had been no issues or complaints with trail camera use on county land.
Allowing trail cameras may actually be a method of outdoor recreation in which camera owners find out what wildlife is in the area. So, it is possible that people other than just hunters will want to put trail cameras out on
DNR properties to monitor wildlife activity.
Original concerns over the placement of trail cameras was that it may tend to “privatize” public land, and people could have the impression that they have staked-out the area to hunt for themselves Also people who are violating regulations, such as by illegally baiting, could use cameras to know that conservation wardens are monitoring their illegal sites.
NRB member Christine Thomas, of Stevens Point, wanted to be assured that understaffed DNR conservation wardens would not have to spend any time investigating stolen cameras. Loomans assured her that people will be putting up cameras at their own risk and if there are any problems with stolen cameras, owners will have to call their local law enforcement agency.
The board approved the policy unanimously.