The units in town homes/condos are not completely sealed off. Specifically in the attic, there can be holes between units. Usually this doesn't matter, the holes are not easy to find or see but if one of the units is not properly sealed from the outside, it allows critters to get in which then becomes every unit's problem in the building.

 

This problem became my building's problem recently with the friendly addition of roof rats. Fortunately for me, my attic only had a few trails that led from one unit to another, but the fact of the matter was they were still a problem, and more than that, they were annoying because I could hear scratching every now and then when I was working in my office.

 

To fix the issue, I called a few pest control companies and ended up finding out that there are two things that needed to be done. Seal the exterior and then start trapping. Something interesting during getting quotes was that over the years there has really been very little rodent catching technology. Maybe the only difference is that now there are plastic re-usable traps with jaws nicknamed "T-Rex traps" instead of the traditional wood snap traps. Of it all, the thing that I found most interesting was most companies just checked the traps weekly until there was no activity. There was really no technology or smarts in determining if the trap was snapped outside of manual intervention with the exception of one company, which wanted to put up a Ring camera so they did not have to physically come out or come out sooner if needed. There was nothing more to it really.

 

From a DIY perspective there were a few different things I could try instead of snap traps, all with pretty poor reviews results or not practical for my situation. The one that I liked the most was the rolling log mouse trap, but this was not a valid solution for me because I was not going to lug a 5 gallon tub of water (with/without rats) up and down my attic and did not have space to do it properly with ramps either. There were also other things like ultrasonic sensors, but they had poor reviews and questionable success rates and the electronic zapper which shocks the rodent dead, but the cost to value was not quite there for me because ideally I would set a few of these.

 

 

I ended up deciding I would use a pest control service for the exterior and treatment of the inside of the insulation and cleanup but I would do the snapping myself because honestly, I could check the traps more often and I was using better traps. This is where I started thinking, there has to be a better way.  A part of me went wanted to buy a bunch of the plastic traps and put a limit switch on them or jerry-rig an Amazon button to trigger but that was too much effort. I decided the old fashioned way was good enough and set some T-rex traps and 

 

When most was said and done, I caught a few of them on the plastic jaws of life and the scratching stopped and entered the final stage -- the waiting stage. You can never be 100% certain everything is gone just by looking but the general consensus is that after two to three weeks of no activity detected you should be good. The method I used was to rake the attic to make I could tell if any trails formed in the insulation and also kept some traps up just in case. This is when I caught an article from twitter. 

 

During CES one of my favorite Internet of Things (IoT) podcasters Stacey Higginbotham was doing extra articles on new and upcoming tech. Reading one of them, this image caught my eye:

 

 

This inspired me to do some digging. I found that there was a company that designs a trap similar to what I was looking for the whole time. It is called the Xignal Rattrap that connects to a LoRa gateway and uses an app to tell you if the trap is armed, un-armed or un-armed with catch. This was what I wanted. This is what I needed. ….. Until I tried to get one. First they are difficult to find via an official retailer from the Xignal website, but when I found a place that sells them they were going for $79.99 for the mouse version and $89.99 for the rat versions not including shipping or tax, per unit. Even then, this pricing does not account for cost of the actual LoRa gateway hardware required which would just add to the costs.

 

I thought about it for a few moments and realized this would be worth it if I owned a rodent business, had a chronic issue, or I was helping neighbors/family with rodent control, but even then, for the amount spend on one Xignal trap and stuff to make it work, I could get at least 24 T-Rex traps and place them in even more places, and the not even have to worry about re-using them. I could throw them away if they got any catches (I did this) and still be ahead.

 

 

In the end, IoT has some pretty valuable use cases. I did not like going into my attic to check these traps because it is a chore and would much prefer some automated way to let me know to go or not. Maybe I was just trying to automate too much though. Was the sales guy who puts the Ring camera in the attic on to something?  It may not be an app notification saying "Pavan 1, Rat 0" but a Ring Stick Up or an Arlo Pro along with my T-Rex traps may be the way to go if I ever run into this issue again. And as an added bonus, I can use the camera for other things after.