Building a better mouse trap, with video surveillance
My mom has been using this style of drowning mouse trap at the cottages the last few years. The advantage of this trap is that it can catch many mice in one trap.
The trap consists of a coat hanger wire across the bucket, with an aluminium can on the wire. The can has peanut butter smeared onto it. As the mouse tries to get at the bait, the can spins, and the mouse falls into the bucket.
I started using this style of trap in my workshop in the country. But I was curious to see how the mice actually used it. When I tried monitoring it last spring there weren't any mice in the shop. The mouse problem peaks in the fall when the mice look for an escape from the cold, so this fall (2015) I tried again.
In the mean time I had sealed my workshop against mice a bit better, so I set up my experiment in a shed, running an extension cord to power my setup.
The monitoring setup consists of a Raspberry Pi model B+, mounted on my Raspberry pi and camera module holder. The camera is aimed at the trap. The pi is running some software that I wrote for surveillance. It takes three pictures per second, and if it sees any changes from one to the next, it saves it.
I also have a lamp aimed at the setup with my. Mice do come out even when it's light so long as it's quiet.
I didn't put any water in the bucket this time. I didn't want to show mice getting killed on YouTube. The mice can just barely jump out of the bucket. I figure that way, the mouse gets a second chance, and I get more observations.
Checking the setup with my imgcomp software. As soon as my hand enters the field of view, my software detects motion and records it.
But I had another idea: a tipping ramp. As the mouse gets nearer the front, the ramp tips down, dumping the mouse into the bucket.
I tried making a ramp out of some 30 mm wide metal strapping, bending the strapping over several times to form a counterweight on the back. But this ramp was heavy. With all it inertia, it would tip slowly, giving the mouse time to scurry back to safety.
I wanted a ramp that would dump spontaneously without warning.
It's a very light wooden ramp, with a screw in the back for a counterweight. The top of the ramp has some plastic on it from some packaging so that it's too smooth for the mouse to claw into.
The counterweight is only heavy enough to bring the ramp back to horizontal. The ramp is mostly held up by a very small magnet in the back, which pulls down on a piece of paper clip wire on the back of the ramp.
The magnet is stuck to a washer by it's own magnetism. That way, I can tweak its position.
The idea is that the magnet holds the ramp well enough for the mouse to get onto the ramp, but once its force is exceeded and it starts to tip, the holding power of the magnet drops rapidly with distance. So basically, the ramp appears stable until it gets too much load, and then it dumps spontaneously.
Also interesting to watch the mouse get out of the bucket. Unfortunately, at 3 frames per second, it was hard to see how the jumping happened. The mouse is able to jump to nearly the edge of the bucket.
These two frames are very revealing about how the mouse got out. In the left frame, you can see a mouse paw on the slight ledge of the bucket, and in the next frame, the mouse is on the bucket's edge, further to the left.
So the mouse jumped in a more or less helical path. This meant the mouse had some momentum towards the wall, which allowed it to get a slight boost with one of its paws off the narrow beveled ledge in the bucket, and that was enough to make it up to the rim. Clever mouse!
A possible improvement would be to make the ramp edges curve down with a larger radius so the mouse couldn't grab onto them. Though, realistically, this is only a problem once the mouse gets practice with the trap. If there was water in the trap, the mouse would be long dead before it had a chance to figure it out.
But the ramp-based trap is very tricky to make and tweak just right, so I wouldn't recommend you build one like that. The un-weighted can on a coat hanger wire works (caught quite a few mice with it in the past). And weighting the can makes it semi-stable, which makes the mouse more likely to get on it and fall off.
Imgcomp -- The software I used for this video.
Rat trapI later tried the same design of trap, but scaled up about 1.6x to try to catch a rat, but with much less success. Video below.
Mouse experiment setup vlog (video only)
High tech mousetrap monitor fail (video only)
Anti-deer tree cage
Up-high garage shelves (mouse proof)
The steadycam you
(but didn't know)
My imgcomp program (motion triggered time-lapses)
Burning branches and crap (video only)
To my Woodworking website.