If a trail cam is taken from public property, is it considered theft?

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rob86jeep

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Firsthand experience with this. Depends on the type of public land. Federal vs state can have different regs. Federal vs Federal can have different regs (wildlife refuge vs BLM for example). If a trail cam is left on National Forest lands longer than 16 days it can technically be considered abandoned property. Let’s say it’s left longer than 16 days and someone else takes it. The owner finds out who and files a report of theft, he/she will have to answer for how long it was out for to federal law enforcement (FS leo in this instance since it is federal jurisdiction). The owner was told he could prosecute for theft, but if he did he would be cited for violating abandoned property code. Although it ultimately comes down to what the county prosecutor would decide to pursue. In this instance, the prosecutor said he wouldn’t pursue recourse against the guy who took it, nor would he against the guy who left it. The prosecutor for the county 3 miles to the east of where this happened would pursue recourse against the guy who took it, even though the federal regulations clearly define what is abandoned property. Clear as mud?! Bottom line, if you follow the regs for how long you can keep the camera out, you’ll be in the right. If you don’t and it gets taken, you had it coming.

Edit note: for forest service lands, same thing goes for tree stands, tents, and all the other crap I find out in the woods all the time. And, gear caches are a no-go for any amount of time. They will be confiscated on the spot.
Thanks for the informative answer. Makes sense there would be time limits.
 
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rob86jeep

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If you have to ask what stealing is, your parents didn't do a very good job on the basics.

If it isn't yours, it isn't yours.
What if it's been there for 2 weeks, or 2 months, or 2 years? My question was when/if it will ever be considered abandoned. Just because it's a something that somebody originally placed in the woods for a purpose, doesn't mean is should remain there forever.

Several people made similar comments but I am just responding to yours not to make duplicate posts. I'm not trying to single you out though.
 

87TT

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Firsthand experience with this. Depends on the type of public land. Federal vs state can have different regs. Federal vs Federal can have different regs (wildlife refuge vs BLM for example). If a trail cam is left on National Forest lands longer than 16 days it can technically be considered abandoned property. Let’s say it’s left longer than 16 days and someone else takes it. The owner finds out who and files a report of theft, he/she will have to answer for how long it was out for to federal law enforcement (FS leo in this instance since it is federal jurisdiction). The owner was told he could prosecute for theft, but if he did he would be cited for violating abandoned property code. Although it ultimately comes down to what the county prosecutor would decide to pursue. In this instance, the prosecutor said he wouldn’t pursue recourse against the guy who took it, nor would he against the guy who left it. The prosecutor for the county 3 miles to the east of where this happened would pursue recourse against the guy who took it, even though the federal regulations clearly define what is abandoned property. Clear as mud?! Bottom line, if you follow the regs for how long you can keep the camera out, you’ll be in the right. If you don’t and it gets taken, you had it coming.

Edit note: for forest service lands, same thing goes for tree stands, tents, and all the other crap I find out in the woods all the time. And, gear caches are a no-go for any amount of time. They will be confiscated on the spot.
Sorry to pop your bubble but STATE laws are enforceable on Forest land and by local LE. Case in point, Game laws. Federal LE enforce Federal laws on federal land. Theft is theft period.
 

Wrench

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What if it's been there for 2 weeks, or 2 months, or 2 years? My question was when/if it will ever be considered abandoned. Just because it's a something that somebody originally placed in the woods for a purpose, doesn't mean is should remain there forever.

Several people made similar comments but I am just responding to yours not to make duplicate posts. I'm not trying to single you out though.
The border patrol has cams on the roads in NE Washington that have been in the same place for years.

There's lots of guys that soak cams for months at a time. I'll stick to my previous answer, you can't get in trouble, have someone smear you on social media....etc if you just go buy your own stuff.
 
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rob86jeep

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The border patrol has cams on the roads in NE Washington that have been in the same place for years.

There's lots of guys that soak cams for months at a time. I'll stick to my previous answer, you can't get in trouble, have someone smear you on social media....etc if you just go buy your own stuff.
I'm not trying to insinuate that I want to steal someones camera, I was just asking a hypothetical (ethical/legal) question. You would have to agree that at some point the moral thing to do would be pick up the trash (aka, camera) that was left in the wilderness though. I'm just curious if there was a legal timeframe (or personal moral timeframe) when a camera left in the woods stopped being a personal trail cam and started becoming trash in our wilderness. Please quite assuming that I'm trying to steal someones trail camera.
 

87TT

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There isn't a time frame. If it is not yours leave it alone. I have left cameras out all year in the forest. Report it if you want but leave it alone if it doesn't belong to you. I am quite sure that the Forest service doesn't care. Anyone who messes with someone else's stuff is a douche at best and a criminal at the worst.
 

Okhotnik

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When I place cams on public property I use common sense and assume there is a good possibility that they will be stolen. Hence I buy them on sale and if stolen not a big deal. I mean you think the local County prosecutors office will prosecute a trail cam theft? They have better more important things to do. Pick your battles
 

Rob5589

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It is theft. If I found one, either dropped, forgotten, or became unattached, then it isn't theft but, I would make an attempt to find the owner. We all work too hard to lose our gear to knuckleheads.
 

5MilesBack

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You've got to figure..........we have a very large part of our population that can't even figure out what "shall not be infringed" means. A lot of those same people seem to think that everyone should be able to partake from the goodies that others have worked their entire lives for. So it's not surprising that there might be questions as to what "If it's not yours, don't touch it.......period" means. In fact, many of those same people might just believe it to be theirs in their own minds because of the warped mentalities that have taken over society in recent years. If they can't even figure out what gender they are, they certainly can't figure out what's theirs and what isn't theirs. Pretty messed up society these days, and it gets worse every day.
 

Pro953

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I guess my only concern with the, it’s not yours, don’t touch it mindset it the. One mans trash is another mans treasure, but in reverse.

I am always amazed at the amount of trash and litter when I am in the backcountry. Some of it could be considered useful or still in use like ropes, shovels, metal stakes.

Do not leave your crap out in the woods. Pack in, pack out and do your best to leave no trace. I struggle with this though as I do use cams on occasion for fun and I do keep them out for a few months, so now I feel a bit hypocritical. I guess the exception to cams is they only work if left in the field. The shovel or rope etc... was just kept out due to laziness.


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WaArcher

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This year I was helping a buddy and we checked a couple cams he had out while we were hunting. We get to one of them and we see that the lens is bashed in. I was thinking....."well, you should have some good pics of that bull before he put a tine through it". He opens it up and the batteries are all jumbled around and he pulls the card to check it. It was wiped clean except for two pictures he took at home. Dirtbags! They check it for themselves and then don't want him seeing what he had on it, as well as ruining the camera. That's when you really want another cam hidden watching the first cam. There weren't many people in that area, it would have been easy to figure out who it was with some pics.
Since there were still a couple pictures on the card that your buddy took, they didn’t “wipe” the card, and the pictures they deleted could still be recovered. I caught a camera thief doing the same thing with one of my cams. Just had to download a file recovery program.
 

Ryan_1129

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I feel like that is a touchy subject. I put the padlocks on mine just to be safe.
 

5MilesBack

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Since there were still a couple pictures on the card that your buddy took, they didn’t “wipe” the card, and the pictures they deleted could still be recovered. I caught a camera thief doing the same thing with one of my cams. Just had to download a file recovery program.
That doesn't do much good while you're up for a hunt, but would be nice to still see what pics were there. How do you download a file recovery program for SD cards?
 

BuzzH

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Lots of agencies use trail cameras, Game and Fish, BLM, FS, etc. for a variety of reasons. Its just an a-hole move to steal cameras no matter who they belong to.
 

WaArcher

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That doesn't do much good while you're up for a hunt, but would be nice to still see what pics were there. How do you download a file recovery program for SD cards?
The program is called Wondershare file recovery and can be downloaded online. Obviously wouldn’t be of much help while you’re still in the woods, but you could recover the photos and ID the guys once back home too.
 

5MilesBack

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The program is called Wondershare file recovery and can be downloaded online. Obviously wouldn’t be of much help while you’re still in the woods, but you could recover the photos and ID the guys once back home too.
Now you're talking my language. Thanks.
 

Medusa7MM

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You've got to figure..........we have a very large part of our population that can't even figure out what "shall not be infringed" means. A lot of those same people seem to think that everyone should be able to partake from the goodies that others have worked their entire lives for. So it's not surprising that there might be questions as to what "If it's not yours, don't touch it.......period" means. In fact, many of those same people might just believe it to be theirs in their own minds because of the warped mentalities that have taken over society in recent years. If they can't even figure out what gender they are, they certainly can't figure out what's theirs and what isn't theirs. Pretty messed up society these days, and it gets worse every day.

Enough said❗👍🏼
 

elkhuntrr75

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Broken Arrow, OK
I am surprised that more trail camera companies haven’t put passwords on their camera rendering them worthless to everyone except the owner. It would be easy to do.


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MattB

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It is amazing that some of you can't grasp that the OP isn't asking what stealing is but rather what are the laws/timeframes around abandonment.
 

87TT

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I'm surprised how many can't grasp what theft is. If it is not yours, don't F*** with it!
 
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