Root Simple’s New CritterCam

Say hello to Root Simple’s new CritterCam and to some of Los Angeles’ many enterprising rats!

For my recent birthday Kelly got me a Moultrie M-990i game camera, a device used by hunters and wildlife researchers. It’s a digital still and video camera with a infrared flash and a motion detector. If something moves in front of the camera a picture or video is taken. It also stamps the time and records temperature and moon phase. [See update at the end of this post--this is probably the wrong camera for the application I intend. Thanks Max!]

My plan is to use it for some urban, backyard citizen science. Specifically I want to figure out a few things:

  • What mammals are visiting the backyard?
  • What paths do they take through the yard?
  • What kinds of birds are visiting the bird bath?
  • Have my skunk proofing efforts worked?
  • What’s the most active time in the night for mammalian activity?
  • How many cats are visiting and what time do they come through?
  • What’s the best way to critter proof fruit trees and vegetable gardens?
  • What mammal is chewing on our fruit?
  • How often do coyotes visit and at what time? (We’ve seen them two times in the backyard).
  • Are rats visiting our chicken feeder?
  • When does a broody hen get up to eat?
  • What critters are hanging around the chicken coop at night?
  • Use the camera’s time lapse function to look at shade patterns in the yard.

I’ll share the results on the blog over the next year.

The first night I used the camera I pointed it at the grape arbor where I know rats visit. The resulting images, that I strung together into the video above, show at least two rats who set off the camera around 30 times throughout the night between 8:30 PM and 5:30 AM.

This is the first year that we’ve got a significant crop off of either of our two grapevines. I think I could have prevented most of the rat problem by picking all the grapes just slightly before they were fully ripe.

What critters visit your backyard?

Update: I may have the wrong camera for, at least, capturing rats. The images I got may be just because I set the camera up close to where the rats were feeding. Root Simple reader Max sent in the following letter from Moultrie:

The PIR, of our game cameras, is set to pick up larger movement and eliminate false triggering of the smaller game that you have listed. This is because the people that rely on our cameras for game management do not want numerous pictures of squirrels, and such, when focused on larger game. Our sister company – Wingscapes – is better suited for the things that you are interested in. We suggest looking at the BirdCam Pro and the Wildlife Cam offered at http://www.wingscapes.com/products/cameras.

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8 Comments

  1. It’s interesting that you were able to catch images of rats ravaging your grapes. According to Moultrie, the M-990i is not designed to capture images of small game. Maybe this would not be the best choice for urban farmers with rodent problems?

    Earlene,

    The PIR, of our game cameras, is set to pick up larger movement and eliminate false triggering of the smaller game that you have listed. This is because the people that rely on our cameras for game management do not want numerous pictures of squirrels, and such, when focused on larger game. Our sister company – Wingscapes – is better suited for the things that you are interested in. We suggest looking at the BirdCam Pro and the Wildlife Cam offered at http://www.wingscapes.com/products/cameras.

    Our US-Based call center is available to contact Monday-Friday 8AM – 5PM CST
    1-800-653-3334

    Thank you,
    Moultrie Product Team

    • Thanks Max! It may have worked because I had the camera close to the rat situation. But it does seem like I have the wrong camera. I’ll see how it works on larger critters.

  2. Interesting to hear that you are dealing with rats in the garden, too. I have trouble growing plant with soft green leaves in my densely populated urban neighborhood and am concerned that my rats are growing as strong as Popeye by eating my vegetables. As soon as lettuce, parsley, basil, etc. seedlings get 2-3 inches tall the rats nibble on them. Yesterday I put out a small basil plant and Mr. Rat dug it up last night. I set traps with salami which get sprung regularly but only rarely capture a rat.

    sigh.

  3. We moved into a rental and discovered it was overrun with rats. Normally I wouldn’t want to kill if it was only a couple, but it was out of control. We finally had to get a “Rat zapper”. It worked for 8 large rats, then no more. But we seem to have gotten them. It runs on 4 D batteries and when they walk into the chamber, they get electrocuted. Sounds horrible which I’m sure it is, but they say it’s also “humane.” Sorry if I’ve offended anyone but if you have a problem, it does work. We got it from Amazon.

  4. This sounds really interesting – we are in a very rural area, and I would like to see who is in our barn loft. I know we have at least one feral cat living up there, for whom we provide food and water (heated water bucket in winter), but I am concerned that we also have raccoons taking advantage of the crunchy cat food buffet. And I think ground hogs have dug a den in the lower portion of the bar. So, which camera should I get, for cats, raccoons, and ground hogs?

    And as far as rats go – wow!! that would be so very terrifying. MB – I do not blame you for getting a zapper. I am not afraid of much, snakes have found their way into my house a few times, but rats are a deal breaker. Plus there’s that whole ‘they carried fleas which carried the plague’ thing. We seemed to have several mice in our house recently and I did use live traps as well as making sure I removed access to all food. But these are mice, not rats.

  5. One night I was up late and heard a noise. When I went to area where our trash containers were there was a raccoon who was probably 4′ long and had a body almost as big as our lab. It was able to get up to open one of the large LA hinged containers and when I made some noise to frighten him away he just looked back at me with contempt.

    I live in a fairly suburban area of the valley but it is, nevertheless, fully paved and occupied and I was as stunned at seeing the species as I was at his fearlessness.

    When I called animal control they were amused at how naive I was. They said they’re everywhere in the city and are just smart enough to effectively avoid us. They said that chickens and fruit trees are major attractions for them. I suppose your chickens and their eggs are secure from them but, supposedly, if we don’t keep fruit off the ground and off low hanging branches we’re operating cafeterias for them.

    We also have the occasional skunk, a significant population of rats — I suppose they’ll always be where a compost pile is — and, curse them!, gophers.

    • we currently live in the city and I’ve lived in the city pretty much all my life…we have possums, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels, moles, mice, toads, coyote, etcetcetc.
      a good docu on urban raccoons is PBS Raccoon Nation.

    • I enjoyed raccoon nation too. It was especially interesting to see where they liked to live and the fact that they moved around a lot.

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