Conflict Escalates Between Brilliant Rat and 555 Timer

After [Casey Connor] captured and relocated a number of unwanted rodents in his home using commercially available live traps, he was presented with a problem: a rat had learned to avoid them.

In an epic, and adorable, conflict caught on video (and embedded below),  he documents the  designs used and how the rat escaped them by either recognizing the trap, or sheer agility. We can only tip our hat to the determination of both parties.

All the trap mechanisms are based on a 555 monostable solenoid triggering circuit that ensures that a pulse of sufficient duration is sent to the solenoid to trigger the trap correctly. This way even intermittent contacts will trigger the trap rather than just causing the solenoid to twitch without fully actuating. This is the same technique used to debounce a switch using a 555 timer.

A Raspberry Pi Zero detects motion using an IR camera to film the interesting parts. This is also a good indicator for when you’ve trapped your quarry – if you’re trying be humane then leaving it in a trap for days is counterproductive.

With the time and effort we spend building better and more complex rodent traps, we sometimes wonder who has cleverly trapped whom.

64 thoughts on “Conflict Escalates Between Brilliant Rat and 555 Timer

    1. If he doesn’t die from some infectious disease by being around vermin.

      Now that the rodents have associated his smell with food, they may visit him while he sleeps.

  1. You can also hack their biology by making them infertile, oestrogen in food baits should do the trick, then there will be no stress or suffering but you do have to be prepared to take the long view on population control.

    1. Almost? Was that 5 or 6 tries? I forget.

      Score:
      Human 1
      Rat 5 + bonus points for getting away with the bait too!

      Yah.. we’re almost as smart as rats.

      Folks… we’re still losing!

      If you want one as a pet, get a male. The females can’t sit still, just search for food constantly and get into literally everything. Males however, are quite lazy and perfectly happy to lounge on the couch in front of the tv with you for hours and split a beer with you. They litter box train just fine. Great with kids.

      1. Did you just compare 1 human to all rats? cuz I know that human right there has 1000X the avarage of his species. So, are rats smarter than people? some of them.

        1. It started with just one. Twice we’ve kept a colony. They litterbox train perfectly so it is possible to let them free-range the house but you have to put a litterbox in every room (at rat scale that’s like a bathroom every block. You try holding it for a block!). My son is somewhat autistic and as a single parent was suggested I use promise of a rat to modify behavior and pick up grades and behavior… Big chart on the wall monitoring grades, he struggled to improve and succeeded, so I obtained a docile white lab rat from the university and it worked out so well we progressed to a colony of various breeds, you could do nothing but fall in love with them. They are “venerable souls”. Lay in a good supply of canned corn. There will be a million things that make you laugh…

          With even mild autism the parent works hard and will do anything. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, tribes of friends staying over weekend after weekend, rats, camping, you name it. Socialize, socialize, socialize.

          Son is grown, moved out, holds one of the positions I used to years ago! He has two rats. I will again too when I get tired of cycling around the country sightseeing.

  2. I always had pretty good luck spot welding a barbed pallet nail to the clapper on a simple spring rat trap. Most of the time you find the rodent with the nail stick through it’s neck or skull. Even if you just get part of it, the nail impales it and keeps it from crawling into some impossible or very difficult to get at place and dying there, leaving it’s decaying smell for you to enjoy. Perhaps a bit messy but it beats having rats.

    No electronics required.

      1. Not every time. I have had them get out of proper traps and curl up and die in hard to get at places. The nail keeps em right where they get caught. Proper traps don’t do the nail thing because your average consumer can not handle the blood.

    1. Rat trap guy here: yeah, I’m sure it could smell me. But it did seem like the overriding factor was changes in the environment: any time something was moved the rat would be extremely cautious around it for a while. And there were many eerie times that it just somehow seemed to know that something was up even if there were no obvious clues. I felt a lot of empathy for it on that last trap: you can so clearly see it fighting its own better judgment. It must have been pretty mad with itself. :-)

      1. I’ve been there myself. Something tells you that you shouldn’t make a certain choice but you do it anyway. Apparently not limited to humans.

        I appreciate the efforts you went through trying to relocate your intruder without harming him. The bad news is he’ll raise a bunch of smart rats that will be harder to catch. That is unless he marries a trophy rat wife in which case they will be normal.

        1. Yeah, I don’t know — usually the camera was so far away from it that it’s hard to imagine it cared much about it. The IR panel made me wonder, too — it might have felt the heat off of it in the last trap. There is so much general chaos and noise and so many smells in that laundry room, with things moving around all the time, and people coming in and out constantly, machines turning on and off all the time, and the rat (judging by various signs) scurrying around all over everything… Honestly it seemed pretty cavalier and brave in general, right until there was actually a trap involved, and then it would suddenly get all cautious again. Presumably that’s why it was the last rat. :-)

    2. Yes it’s noting the fresh human scent. So purposely touch everything around rather than JUST the trap. The smell of food will keep them coming.

      Your board could be a 2×2 or 3″ wooden dowel. Motor with belt at far end holding it steady at first. Light beam, the motor turns on, spins dowel…. Nothing to hold onto! All you need for bait is some hamburger grease or fat wiped on the center of the dowel, it’ll smell it, crawl out cautiously, break a light beam… 5 seconds of spinning and trap is automatically reset ready for the next. Do put food and water bottle down below to calm the first victim, they give off a distress scent. Another nearby and apparently not distressed but fed and happy will give the next applicant confidence! They speak at frequencies only a few of us can detect. You could get the whole colony.

    1. Yeah, for a time we just kept them, we’d set spring traps of various designs and just keep putting bait in them, the young stupid rats would get caught, the old wise ones would then feast on the young stupid ones, now we use poison, lots of poison.
      Outside we pour a good sized handfull into any holes and cover with a small paving slab.
      In the roof space we use ferrets to chase them out, then they find their way back into the outside holes and scoff the poison.

  3. Luckily he got the rat with plan D. Else it would have build a trap for him.

    In the context of learning, this rat cannot be caught by anything similar again. Don’t let it get baby ratties or we are all doomed.

  4. sure that rats cannot see infrared? we humans can also see it, just so bad that we just see the faint red “glow” in the IR LEDs. i suspect wild boars being able to notice it aswell, when i set up cameras they stayed away.

    1. There are several times in the video where the rat appears to stare right into the camera. 3:28 and 3:36
      Could be coincidence, could be contemplating its next move, might be staring at the pretty lights.

      1. AFAIK they can’t see IR (more than us, anyway — as you say you can see a very faint glow.) 3:28 and 3:36 are probably coincidental — the illumination panel was a couple feet to the left of the camera. The rat never seemed to notice the light panel turning on, even though the relay in the motion sensor made a little click.

    2. Apparently not, I remember reading about a brain implant making it possible, the point of it was lost on me, but I’m fairly certain they see the LEDs glowing because they’ve been seen to react when the lights come on.

    3. I know at least some of our local rabbits can’t even see red light. A red laser splashed across their face in the dark results in no reaction whatsoever. A green laser results in immediate freak-out and a rapidly moving rabbit.

      I’d expect the rats are hearing the circuit turning on, rather than seeing the IR light.

  5. I too are battling rats. Did a study on them and they are suspicious of new things and they do learn what is bad from watching their fellow rats die in a trap. Then they stay away from those types of traps. One article even said there is a hierarchical of rats and those low are the new thing and if they survive others will try it.

    I have no problems killing the rats with traps, poison they die a slow painful death and die and smell so we stay away from that. Also the rats came in an ate our baby bunnies alive leaving some still alive and deformed from their eating on them. So no mercy for the rats.

    1. One thing that crossed my mind would be to use open CV on the raspberry pi to detect the rat and have it fire a pellet gun at them or switch on high voltage to a grid under the bait.
      Either way no more rat.

  6. This is just hilarious but some poisoned bait would have done the job easier I guess. Just make sure it dies right away – yes this is actually not how you should fight rats because the other rats wont eat the food with a dead rat next to it but if its the last there are no other rats to tell the story.

  7. we hate music videos couldnt you explain what you are doing the video?

    i can understand that you want to mass pirate music or a song via a youtube video but there are sites out there where you can post songs to and if done right there is no c&d notices or loss of internet connections either

    1. and here i was humbly hoping that we might learn the performance source of the very pleasant music.

      Regardless, very impressive rodent catching efforts! it might be worthy to try sensors which trip on proximity to the bait, rather than having mickey-rat pull bait/string/switch. something akin to passive IR, perhaps?

      1. @ejonesss — I would have done some narration (or more text) if I had known people would be interested in my weird little video, but I didn’t feel I had much to say so I just put some music under it. Not sure what you’re getting at re: piracy, but the tunes are my originals. Next time I will consider not using music; i’m not a fan of unnecessary music under videos myself. @Noah — thanks! — music is at caseyconnor.org/?p=disco, from the album Frost Flowers. Re: sensors: yeah, I definitely thought about passive sensors. My electronics knowledge isn’t quite up to the task, but it would have been a good learning experience. Maybe next time. I was actually getting ready for Plan E to involve the Pi camera and some simple AI to detect the rat in a certain place, then trigger the solenoid via the GPIO, but it didn’t come to that. Maybe there will be a part 2 some day. :-) There is still some suspicion that they might be finding their way into the attic.

        1. For what it’s worth – I thought that the music not only complimented the video perfectly (adding even more character to the whole thing)… but was so pleasant that I was planning to Shazam it for some new “working” tunes (until I read your comment sharing it directly – thanks for that!).

          The fact that it’s actually an original on your part is just all the more impressive (which I hope gives @ejonesss pause the next time the “we” sit down to compose an irrelevant and ignorant comment). Very much enjoyed the video, and very much hope that your dignified response is a reflection diplomacy, as opposed to any real prospect of comments like that affecting your future choices. Cheers

  8. It seems foolish to consider a rat ‘smarter’ than any human – even a particularly challenged individual.

    However, rats and other animals definitely show more cunning on a regular basis.

  9. Rats are cool, but their droppings everywhere and urine soaking the plasterboard are not. Good work catching this extra cautious rodent!

    A comment, fit some lights to the attic. I struggled for many years with torches, lamps on cords, lamps on those portable stands, and finally fitted some proper lights. I fit the lights and ran the wire, and got an electrician to connect the wire into the fittings and into a light switch below the access door. What a difference! I can’t believe I struggled for so long! Well worth the time and money.

    1. Thanks, Fred — that last time lapse actually involves me installing an outlet at the peak of the roof so I can plug a light in (and power the camera, etc) without having to run an extension cord. Not quite a switched light, but a big step up, as you say.

  10. Clever rat and clever captor. You should have kept him/her and run a crowd funded campaign for political office. He/she would have been much better than our usual choices. No phony persona there. He/she is very obviously a rat and smarter than most pols.

  11. I enjoyed the video, but it and the comments combined made me think.
    We have a massive rat problem in South Africa (some even claim they grow to the size of cats, who are scared of them,) because lazy humans love to live in squalor and not clean up after themselves. They then poison the crap out of everything which kills some rats, but more owls. The owls die because of the poisoned rats and of course the balance of the owls are killed because superstitious people kill the owls because they bring death. Now we have even more rats and scared cats, which means more (cheap) poison, which finds its way into the hands of criminals who use it to poison dogs. But wait, snakes also can kill rats, but, snakes are from the devil so we need to kill all those too. This rat has way more intelligence and tenacity than some people I know
    anginere is right – they will be around much longer than the human race :)

    1. +1 +1 +1
      Most observant!

      You can beat a couple, but you can never beat “Them”. We keep trying, have small successes, but they’re still here. They come back and devastate us easily with just a few fleas! Dodo is about all we’ve managed to beat in a straight up fight! Go figger!

      They survived the great extinction 60 some million years ago that took out the dinosaurs and most everything else… and we evolved FROM THEM!

      Now we’ve grown intelligent enough to take ourselves out in a flash but it’s known the rats will still survive past that no problem! And if we don’t take ourselves out there is still apophis in 2029 and 2036 and even that will still leave them but not us! And maybe both will happen yet still leave them! Some millions of years farther on they’ll be the ones online discussing a “better cockroach trap”.

      Who’s smarter? You sure? I think we’re just arrogant and short sighted, ignoring history. A flood was sent to nearly wipe us out for our BS once… took us down almost all the way… rats survived that too! And we didn’t even take any aboard! Well.. not to worry about that anymore, was promised there will never be another flood again… It’s a bright flash or Apophis this time.

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