Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has been running continuously for 62 years in the London’s West End. In my six years of marriage and fifteen years of living away from home I have never had occasion to use a mousetrap…so I had to be caught eventually. A week after I returned from my ten days in Belgium and Berlin I noticed that the bottle of white wine vinegar and the top tray of the bamboo steamer had been toppled over. The Tupperware box of atta/wholewheat I was going for had been gnawed at. And then the most damning evidence of all, a packet of flour had a hole in the centre. It had to be a mouse.
Why we didn’t run out screaming to the market to find a mousetrap I can only attribute to laziness, complacency perhaps. Two days went by with no signs of intrusion. We assumed he’d taken up residence elsewhere, Monskwell Manor perhaps…
We walked in to the kitchen one morning to find part of the broom had been shredded and a bottom cupboard which never closes properly was ajar with the broom shreds and a rectangular piece of plastic (the plastic bag was next to the broom under the kitchen counter) neatly constructed in to what must have been a nest. When we took out the items of the cupboard we found that the ‘visitor’ had pretty much flaked off all the wood of the cupboard shelves and it was heaped in a mound. This is something I’d expect of a beaver constructing a dam.
Based on this new evidence and speaking to a few neighbours we entertained the possibility that this could be a squirrel and that she was getting ready to make our home, her new home for her and her babies. I was not planning to take them in.
Two nights ago we set up the camera trap. Those of you who read the DH’s blog will know that he recently hacked the Nikon SLR D40 remote control – this means that he built a remote control for the DSLR and added infra red sensors so that it acts like a camera trap when a flash of light or movement activates the shutter to take a picture. You can read about it here. It has different settings to capture lightning or an animal.
So we put the DH’s creation to the test in a real world setting. While my kitchen is not the wild grasslands of the Deccan Plateau, it now seems to be habitat that hosts a rodent…or was it more than one rodent…did we have a mouse and squirrel in an unconventional yet happy union, frolicking in onions and potatoes, canoodling in my kitchen cupboards? That’s just what we were about to find out.
We set the camera up at night in line with the cupboard the rodent seems to like which is across from the broom it seems to like.
Night one: no photographs taken, the camera shutter had not been tripped from any movement. Night two: we GOT HIM!
It’s out of focus because the camera was focussed on the ground near the camera but it’s good enough. He was captured at 00:08 emerging from behind the fridge. He then proceeded in a westerly direction towards a plastic bag. Current location: unknown.
Not only have we identified the uninvited house guest, we have also tested that the DH’s very own, home made camera trap now works. Moreover, if it can capture something as small as a mouse, then a panther, a bison or monkeys should be no problem. The camera traps available on the open market are very expensive and for a small conservation NGO it could be prohibitively so, making research and logging of wildlife very difficult. This is made with minimal cost amounting to less than Rs.1000. So spread the news among any conservationists you know. Next step is to hack small ‘point and shoot’ cameras as these are less expensive than DSLRs (laying many camera traps, aiming at different angles would be ideal).
So now it’s off to Poorna market to buy a mousetrap…
Post Script 23/11/2014: The moustrap worked. We actually got him! Tip: cheese does not work; bread soaked in oil did the trick. He was captured at 19:30hrs and the prisoner released in to the wild on his own recognizance, seeking a dismissal of all charges at 20:00hrs