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Robotic Raccoon Cam — Parallax Forums

Robotic Raccoon Cam

I have a raccoon living in my crawlspace. It originally got there through a vent that was covered with hardware cloth. To keep it out, I replaced the hardware cloth with expanded metal:

That was no challenge for the raccoon: it pulled the new grate back, breaking the frame, and dug under it to re-enter its newfound haven. So I put a brick in the hole, pressing the grate against the foundation. The raccoon had no trouble with that, lifting the brick out of the hole and deftly setting it aside. Putting a large rock on top of the brick fared no better:

So I put a fifty-pound bucket of lead on top of the brick. That just pissed it off, and it proceeded to eat through my access door and frame:

Consequently, I've contracted with a local machinist to make grates from 3/16" steel, and I'll have to rebuild the access door.

But the question is this: is the raccoon living alone, or are there kits inside that are not old enough to leave? If the latter, which I suspect, I'm better off just leaving the access door open until they leave. If not, I can block further access now.

How do I find out? The robotic raccoon cam!

It's built on a platform that Ken sent me many years ago and that I employed as a demo for the robotics class I taught at the local high school. Installed on the front is a pan/tilt wireless IP cam that I can control and monitor from my MacBook. There's also an RC receiver connected to a remuxer that I designed, which takes the individual outputs from the RC receiver and remultiplexes them back onto one pin for the Propeller to deal with. That way I can control the movement of the robot with my RC transmitter while watching the real-time video on my MacBook.

The idea was to drive the robot into the crawlspace, looking for the raccoon -- and possible family -- in order to decide what to do from there.

Unfortunately, it didn't work. The crawlspace is lined with Visqueen, and the robot's tires could gain no traction, spinning its wheels.

I'm not giving up, though. Laser-cut "tire chains" are my next project. I hope, soon, to have video of the robot in action and a photo or two of the raccoon.

Stay tuned!

-Phil

Comments

  • I have a long-running battle just like this. I tried everything. The Nuclear Option for me was “Raccoon Eviction Fluid”. Google it. Its amazing. Sprinkle a bit around the opening and wait. They smell it, panic, grab the kits, and leave within 24 hours. I believe it is a synthetic analog of male coon urine. Harmless to animals and humans. But boy howdy does it work.

  • Thanks for the Nuclear Option tip!

    Meanwhile, I've attached laser-cut 36-grit sandpaper to the wheels with zip ties:

    Hoping for better traction on the Visqueen!

    -Phil

  • The sandpaper worked -- sort of. It got a perfect grip on a level surface, but the ridges and valleys in my crawlspace were too much for it. I think I really need tank treads.

    -Phil

  • ercoerco Posts: 19,958

    That's a great challenge. My crawlspace is also lumpy and that 2-wheel drive chassis would never make it. 4 big driven wheels would likely do it.

    Of course JRoark's low-tech Nuclear Option is likely your best bet.

    Unrelated, I'm on a total nuclear phase now since watching HBO's Chernobyl series and the 35-year anniversary on April 26. Robots failed there too, radiation destroyed the circuitry. Much like your angry raccoon destroyed your door & frame. A radioactive racoon would be formidable.

    I must see Chernobyl sometime soon. That's been the most popular tourist attraction in Ukraine ever since the HBO series. Zdrastvuytye, tovarischs!

  • There's always the Rover 5 platform.

    I share my love/hate experiences with the Rover 5 in this thread.

  • Of course JRoark's low-tech Nuclear Option is likely your best bet.

    Yup. 'Just have to figure out how to deliver the payload into the far reaches of the crawlspace where the raccoon hangs out. Maybe a slingshot?

    A small quadcopter could get back there for a look-see, but it would require ace flying skills, which are waaaay beyond my hand-eye-challenged capabilities.

    -Phil

  • I’m of two minds for having suggested the Nuclear Option. On one hand it works amazingly well on the local coons (YMMV), but on the other hand its going to be a lot more fun (and educational) watching Phil build a subterreanean, coon-conquering battle-bot. :)

    By strange coincidence I have just laid-in a sizable stash of popcorn, so I’m hoping for some big mischief here!

  • Phil: I bagged two more of these pesky little blighters for relocation this week. How goes your epic battle with these little thugs?

  • Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi) Posts: 23,023
    edited 2021-05-12 02:29

    I gave up on the robot idea. So I mounted a small bicycle-bar-mounted video cam to a 10' length of PVC pipe and fished it back to where I think the raccoon is hanging out to see if there were any kits back there. I left it there for a bit to get a good recording, but when I retrieved it, the camera was missing! And I'm not crawling back there to retrieve it. I had just bought a new micro SD card for it, too.

    So I thought maybe harassment might work by denying the raccoon entry after it left for the night. To this end, I placed a 40-lb. bucket of water in front of the entry door to keep the critter from opening it. Here's what happened:

    'Wish I could've seen how it tipped the bucket over!

    So today my Nuclear Option kit arrived. I plan to soak a paper towel in it and fish it back there with the PVC pipe. I assume it's going to stink to high heaven, so I want to be able to retrieve it.

    But when to do it? If the raccoon is female with unweaned kits, she may abandon them, leaving them to die -- and stink. So I got the brilliant idea to live-trap it so I could determine its gender. Then, if male, just cart it somewhere far away and release it. But according to the online research I did, sexing a raccoon is impossible with just a cursory glance, since the tell-tale parts are hidden in a layer of fur.

    Meanwhile, my machinist has had computer issues, so the 3/16" steel grates I contracted for to cover the vents are still not done. Consequently, I've just left the crawlspace door open, sprinkling more talcum powder just inside, hoping to detect mama and baby tracks. At least then, I would know.

    Sigh!
    -Phil

  • Well, let me see if I can help here, based on some years of experience.

    If the resident coon is male, he is far more likely to pony-up a six pack when he smells another male coon. In a manner reminiscent of competing fraternity houses, the male coon will want to smoke a peace pipe with the imaginary “invading” male. Then they’ll retire to your man-cave to watch football. No real conflict here, as long as they can share the TV remote. :)

    In the case of a resident female, once she get a whiff of the Eviction Fluid, she’ll grab the kits in a panic and haul a** out of there. Females dont hang around when they suspect family violence is about to materialize.

    So spread that stuff far and wide. Males tend to camp-out in forests where people are few and far between, while the moms are all about nesting in attics.

  • Duane - the second link goes to the Sparkfun listing, not your thread.

  • Persistent, clever. Both you , Phil, and the raccoon! Have you tried ultrasound as a deterrent?

  • Tracy,

    First off, let's just admit, as a premise to discussion, that the raccoon is smarter than me! There. I've said it. I can't escape the obvious truth.

    Now, as to ultrasound, yes, I've read up on it a bit, but I haven't come across much evidence attesting to its effectiveness. So, for the time being, the raccoon is free to come and go as (s)he pleases. At least the rat is gone. Perhaps the raccoon ate it -- a net positive. And raccoons are clean animals, insofar as they don't poop or pee where they live. My crawlspace is still odor-free.

    Maybe, if an otter or opossum also takes up residence, I can start a petting zoo, and charge tourists big bucks. They're starting to get bored with the local deer population, after all, and are clamoring for a new diversion.

    :)
    -Phil

  • I tried the "Nuclear Option" to no avail. But, man, does that stuff stink!

    Today, the little blighter came ambling down from the next block during daylight, and I snapped a photo:

    I wasn't sure that is was "mine," so I came into the house for a bit, then went out to check for fresh tracks in the talcum powder that I blew in this afternoon. Sure enough: fresh tracks entering the crawlspace.

    Now my neighbors are calling it "cute." Maybe I can transfer it to their crawlspace!

    -Phil

  • A few years ago I had raccoon problems... I built a relocation trap, but the raccoon still almost broke jail ...

    "How to catch a Raccoon with a Mouse trap"

    "One caught in the trap" ... notice the bent metal bars .... that is a piece of metal shelving rack I had leftover to build the trap

  • Coons are REALLY strong. Moving a bucket of water is childs play. I had one tear off the lower hinge on a tack room door to get to the horse food. They are tough, too. I’ve seen one shrug off a blast from a 410 loaded with birdshot at maybe 5 yards. (Not me on the trigger, just to be clear). A grown mama coon has no problem weighing upwards of 40 lbs, and most are solid muscle.

    With regards to the failure of the Nuclear Option, this implies you dont have any kits in there. If there were kits, Mom would grab them and leave. Very rare for mom to leave them behind. If the kits are grown (teenagers and older), then they will simply leave to avoid the alpha male scent. Mom, when not in season, or not raising kits, will see the Nuclear Option odor as another male forcing a territory dispute. She’s as big as he is (likely bigger) and can uncork a big can of whup-a$$ if she wants. So she’ll stand her ground and make some marks.

    My advice is to seal things up and put a trap near the access point on the INSIDE with some dry cat food. Or just plain water works, too. If she is trapped inside the perimeter, you’ll get her in the trap and can relocate her. If she is already out of the house, the trap will remain empty. Give her about a week before removing the empty trap. I’ve seen the locals spend 4 days hiding in a hot Texas attic before they finally sprang the trap. (I use the “Hav-A-Hart” type. Safe and effective, and you dont risk getting bit or clawed when you move them).

    Raccoons are just amazing critters. Hope this helps.

  • Thanks, guys, for the advice -- obviously borne of experience with these rascally varmints.

    First, I plan to redo the Nuclear Option just to make sure. Then, if that fails again, I'll borrow a Hav-a-Hart trap from a neighbor, catch her, and give her a free bus pass out of town.

    Raccoons are just amazing critters.

    No kidding! My respect for them grows daily!

    -Phil

  • I caught my first racoon in the attic using a cardboard box and a "grate" made from the side panels to a desk. He was pretty docile...until the animal control guy put the "noose" around his neck. Then all hell broke loose.

  • They're so cute when they're docile like that. But they can be vicious little (or big) rascals when they feel threatened.

    Anyway, "my" raccoon has left the crawlspace. There has been no raccoon activity on the critter cam nor fresh tracks in the talcum powder for nearly a week. Perhaps the "nuclear option" worked!

    So I'm beefing up security, making a new door:

    and grates for the vents (newly primed):

    The door is 3/4" plywood and has a steel plate across the bottom to guard against critter teeth and claws. I will probably do the same to the outside frame pieces. The grates are machined from 3/16" steel. To hold them against the foundation, I'm planning on drilling 1/4" holes into the concrete around their perimeters and epoxying 1/4" D x 1/2" L super magnets into the holes. If that isn't strong enough, I'll just use construction adhesive.

    But now I've got a new problem that the raccoon seemed to keep at bay:

    Sigh!

    -Phil

  • There is a “nuclear option” for those critters too, but it aint exactly humane. :)

    Amazing how when one species gets controlled, another one arrives!

  • GenetixGenetix Posts: 1,521

    Phil,

    Nothing another Browser can't deal with.

  • Nothing another Browser can't deal with.

    True that! 'Been tempted, for sure.

    -Phil

  • ...Have-a-Heart, for the win!

    This is the second ground squirrel that's been digging around the house foundation, caught and relocated.

  • Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi) Posts: 23,023
    edited 2021-06-30 22:38

    The raccoon is long gone by now. To put a capstone on this project, I've now installed a new raccoon-proof crawlspace door. Here are photos of the old door and the new door:

    The new door has a steel plate along the bottom to repel claws and teeth. For once, there are no gaps or holes between the door and the foundation. Once I get my corrected steel grates from the machinist, I'm going to call this situation solved.

    Thanks, all, for your recommendations!

    -Phil

    P.S. Oh, right. I still have a video cam stuck under there that I have to retrieve.

  • You said “raccoon proof”. Now that is just some funny stuff, right there Phil. :)

    I had a coon burrow under a sidewalk and under a foundation, a distance of about six feet horizontally, in the space of one night. His prize? A moldy bag of cat food that got caught in the bed of my truck during a rainstorm six months ago. The barn cat wouldnt touch the stuff and I just forgot to throw it out. Betcha Herr Coon had one heck of a bellyache after that meal.

  • The door took care of one problem. 'Still awaiting my new grates from the machinist to take care of the other (mugging for the CritterCam):

    -Phil

  • Well… at least the little blighter didnt moon you!

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