Some webcams are really still cameras that take a new picture for upload every few seconds or so. (It’s not uncommon to need to hit the refresh button to find a new picture). More expensive endeavors include a live stream of video from a camera connected directly to the internet, and more expensive yet may include audio as well.
Some wildlife webcams are motion activated, capturing a photo when they sense movement in front of them. Below is a striking photo of a cougar trailing a deer. The photo was captured by a motion-activated trail camera that hunters use to see what kind of wildlife is using a trail in the woods. The camera was strapped to a tree and set to go off when something moved in front of it. They’re a pretty cool piece of technology, and you can buy your own for a relatively low price, or even make your own—check out the bottom link for directions.
As the first poster said, most streaming webcams are actually a series of photographs, taken in small intervals (often ranging from every 10 seconds to every minute or so). In order to ensure that animals are occasional present, these webcams will often be placed in high traffic areas in nature reserves, in a location where the camera is out of site (and reach) but accessible for repairs. However, the more abundant wildlife webcams are those placed in zoo enclosures or museums, as these offer often uninterrupted views of the animals. In the links below, I’ve included a Times article detailing the “20 best” wildlife webcams, as well as a link to the san deigo zoo’s polar bear wildlife webcam.
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