Our previous blogs have highlighted how most predators in well trapped areas just walk past existing traps. This blog shows our first attempt at a device designed to trap hard to trap predators or re-invading predators. At the moment the competition for this sort of application is pretty much manual hunting or very intense trapping and baiting (which often never gets to zero).
The first Cacophony trap
From observing tens of thousands of predators interacting with traps we know the predator has to do as little as possible to interact with the trap. While we think a paintball gun with poison may be the ultimate device we wanted to start with an improved live capture trap on the ground as this seems to have the best catch rate of any devices we have tried. The double ended one worked better than a single ended one as it provided more options to enter.
The trap looks very open from a predator's point of view and the blinds snap up. The predator then goes inside a more robust holding trap. Hard to explain so watch the video below as it shows how it catches rats, possums, hedgehogs and cats (no stoats seen in testing to date).
Note: the video shows a blackbird being caught just to show how it works - it was released unharmed (birds are not caught in the trap we are testing as it is only active at night). Despite having trail cameras on all the tests only the hedgehog one showed the trap going off (trail cameras are not designed for NZ predators). The thermal footage is harder to see what is going on but hopefully you get the idea.
The black “fences” at the side are used for hazing as a way to guide predators into traps. These will be available for purchase shortly as we suspect they can help catch rates for all types of traps.
Initial testing has confirmed the main key things we were hoping for:
- Much higher interaction rate than other traps - depending on the predator but typically 20-50% (compared to less than 1% for many other traps)
- Trap is fast enough to catch all types of predators. We have never seen one faster than the blind-snap mechanism. The trigger is electronic so flexible for all predator types - certainly more sensitive than a mechanical trigger
- All the predators ended up in the secure cage at the back. The flimsy blinds would not hold most predators but they don’t have to - the mechanism just needs to scare them into the rear cage
We will continue to test this with our friends at Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) and make it more robust, lighter, and more manufacturable.
Next on the development list are:
- Automate the trap reset so it can do multiple catches - 3 in one night for an early prototype is possible
- Include an Artificial Intelligence trigger to ensure it only catches target species
- Include an automatic elimination device in the containment cage - this will allow unlimited higher catch rate of all types of predators
- Link to intelligent adaptive lures that change depending on what our equipment sees
This platform will allow us to test a huge range of trapping and luring methods we outlined here.
Too expensive, heavy and impractical!
The goal of this device is not to replace a $40 trap that stays out in the environment forever. Our goal is to create a device that can catch the predators that avoid these cheap “food-whackers”. In some cases it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to catch a re-invading predator and in this case devices that make that faster are a bargain.
We think as an industry we have reached the limit of what we can do with dumb food based traps with mechanical enclosures. If we can design a device that can identify, lure, and eliminate everything in an area within a week then there is no point leaving it there. We suspect that eventually a few of these types of devices could be cheaper and more effective than hundreds of less effective devices. Probably more rewarding than checking mostly empty traps too.
This may look impractical for deepest remote NZ and we would agree. But we can’t get to zero on 70% of mainland that is not remote and we have to be able to show it works there before adapting to remote areas. We suspect the ultimate solution is some form knockdown followed by a much more intelligent device to get the last hard to catch predators.
Thanks to funding from 2050 and Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) as part of the MBIE project for help with the development of this device. Thanks to all our other funders that helped guide us to this as one of solutions worth trying.