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Preventing Cave Vandalism

In a quest to learn more about cave vandalism ways to prevent vandalism and deter vandals in the first places is obviously at the top of the list.  In my opinion education is key, but the article will focus more on short term options. I think gates should only be used in very few circumstance and will not be included here. However, I may write an additional article regarding cave gates at a later time. We have a Discussion on Preventing Cave Vandalism so you can make suggestions to be posted and/or linked to from this page.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is who the Average Cave Vandals seems to be. They are mostly local males about 18 years old in groups of about three. The most common form of vandalism is graffiti but frequently formations are broken and/or stolen.


Motion Sensor Cameras:

There are a large variety of cameras on the market that can be chained to a tree or that are disguised as rocks that can be strategically placed near cave entrances or on trails leading to or from cave entrances.
Not only can the pictures taken by these cameras be used identify the vandals themselves or possible witnesses, what better way could there possibly be to determine who and how many people are actually visiting the cave?

Most of the cameras include a date and time stamp so they could make great evidence in prosecuting the vandals or trespassers. One of the best parts about using motion activated cameras is there are models available with prices starting at less than $100 for simple models up to $700 dollars for the top of the line digital models. Once purchased you can have them up and taking pictures within minutes.

Here are some Trail Cam Manufacturers.

Tips for placing the cameras:
In my opinion it is probably better to place the camera on the trail leading to the cave with the flash turned off. The I think the trail is better than the entrance is that many cavers often relax at the entrance to caves before and/or after caving. So you could waste a lot of film on one group of cavers.
Vandals often do there dirty work at the entrances to caves so placing it at the entrance may catch them in action. However, while they are hanging around reeking havoc they may spot the camera.


Yes I am aware signs are often removed or vandalized but I am also aware that many young cavers or vandals just don't realize that the property is privately owned (if it is). After all all there buddies go there and they have been for years.  

Besides the standard no trespassing signs how about a "Your on cave watch camera" sign? Or "Your picture has been already been taken by a trail cam" sign? or "Audio and Video recordings in use to to prosecute vandals"  particularly on public land. A friend of mine who owns a hunting lodge has one of these and has yet to be robbed or vandalized even though the area is pretty bad for these types of trespassers and thieves. He placed the signs about 12 foot up a poplar tree so they can not be easily reached.

Voice Operated Recording Device:

A good option for inside a cave where lack of light makes taking photos without a flash impossible is a voice activated tape recorder. Hide one of these in areas most likely to be vandalized (entrance rooms) and record the vandals talking to each other. I will guarantee they call each other by name and you have a recording of any smashing and trashing going on. Use this in conjunction with a trail cam and vandals beware!
I made one for less than $100 dollars with items I purchased at Radio Shack it took less than an hour to modify the box and assemble the few pieces and it has worked well for recording wildlife sounds.

Items I used:

  1. 3" x 5" x 7" plastic box. The lid is held on with 4 screws.
  2. Microphone - Radio Shack #33-1013
  3. Radio Shack Tape Recorder #
Neighbor and Caver Awareness:
While the above are good options nothing beats good ol' community awareness. Owners of caves need to take a more proactive approach to letting their wishes be known in regards to the cave and it's access. Let your 'rules' be known to neighbors, cavers, hunters or anyone else using the property with the cave or neighboring property. Neighboring property particularly near areas where people are most likely to park to access the cave.

If the cave is near a neighbors house good neighbors cave often take note of license #'s as well as dates and times they are there. This can be instrumental actually catching the vandals or at least to narrow down the times and dates the incidents occur. 
Gate Sensors:
For caves that already have gates there is the option of installing a gate alarm that can send out a radio signal when the gate is opened or in some cases disturbed. Of course this doesn't do any good if the vandals cut or bypass the gate in a place that it is not detected by the alarm. 

At this time I don't have any additional information on gate alarms but will add more as that information becomes available. to contribute to this information please join our Discussion on Preventing Cave Vandalism.
Related Links & Sources
Cave Vandals
Black Mountain Vandalism
Cumberland Trail Map
Black Mountain Article
Birds & Butterflies along the Cumberland Trail
Obed River section trip report
Black Mountain: Rags to Riches
Cumberland County Tennessee

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Lost Creek Cave
Hubbard's Cave
Cave Vandals
TN. Cave Law
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