discussion / Emerging Tech  / 29 November 2023

Autonomizing Small Mammal Traps

If there was a product on the market that was capable of trapping, ‘tagging,’ and releasing an individual without human intervention, would you or your peers invest? Live mammal traps require lots of human labor. Thus, I have been developing a hypothesis to autonomous this. 

Basic overview:

This battery-powered device can recognize when a subject has entered and will secure them inside for a set period of time, recording weight, imagery, and a noninvasive permanent identifiable mark before releasing the subject.



  • Battery operated
  • Potential marking failure
  • Potential trap avoidance/ recapture
  • More expensive
  • Heavier



  • Less labor cost
  • Ideal for remote locations
  • Increased number of trap nights
  • No tagging-related change in fitness 
  • Live updates/ notifications
  • Wireless transmitted data


Are the current methods sufficient, or would the community benefit from this product? What are your concerns, and can they be addressed?

Hi @Pldepond I think this would be an amazing tool! We had something similar in mind with an RFID camera tunnel we built years ago (made another comment about it in this thread: 

but never managed to get a good way to safely mark animals uniquely. Our idea was to deposit an RFID tag externally on the fur of animals and secure it in place with some sort of glue. We pictured something like an orchid depositing pollen on insects...But I was always worried the glue might get in an animal's eyes or mouth etc. Nowadays, with AI, it might be much more reasonable to do something like this safely (e.g. know when an animal's eyes are out of the way). Another idea was to use non-toxic dye that a camera could detect so that you could work out the ratio of new and previous captures, but again, never really pursued it. You could possibly also collect DNA non-invasively, although this adds a step for ID. Anyway, I think it could be a really useful tool, especially if it removes the process of manual handling altogether. More than happy to chat about it and best of luck with the development if you decide to go ahead (and this could help! 


One thing to keep in mind is that researchers often want or at least would like to get certain metadata on the tagged animals like sex, size, weight, apperent fitness etc. Without these the questions you can ask can get rather limited. Also, it will also often be highly desired to take samples like blood, hair, other tissue e.g.

In addition, there can be cases where it may be better not to tag the animal if it is not the right age group, is too small to carry the tag, seems like it is not in a good shape etc.

I think it will take quite an effort to get automated systems (capture robots) to make these decisions to a degree you can trust.