Detecting Possums

A newbie question

I am trying to develop an application to detect possums (somewhat smaller than a cat).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possum

These animals whilst very cute tend to urinate on my back decking at night, here in Brisbane Australia.

I had the idea of an Arduino application where I'd rig up proximity sensors, and arm them only at night. When the possum climbs onto the decking the proximity sensor triggers and I rapidly flash 3 or 4 Cree LEDs. The possum being nocturnal would probably freak out at the luminous display and flee. My intention is not to hurt possums (they're protected) but scare them off.

Are there any proximity sensors capable of detecting small animals? Is detecting something this small a practical application?

Thanks

Tommie

How about setting up an electric fence with a timer. Only energize them at night.

Hi, Motion sensors like this are common for Arduino: http://arduino-direct.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=173

There's some wiring examples and example code here: http://arduino-info.wikispaces.com/Brick-Pushbuttons&OtherSwitches (look for "Simple" Switch - Motion Detector:)

DISCLAIMER: Mentioned stuff from my own shop...

TommieTippee: I am trying to develop an application to detect possums (somewhat smaller than a cat).

Man, not the ones around here. We have a 22 pound dog. There's a male possum that comes by once in a while that is significantly bigger than our dog.

These animals whilst very cute tend to urinate on my back decking at night, here in Brisbane Australia.

They are messy critters. Our dog can't stand when they've been by.

The possum being nocturnal would probably freak out at the luminous display and flee. My intention is not to hurt possums (they're protected) but scare them off.

I have no doubt that it would be an interesting project but I doubt it would be effective. Possums first freeze in bright lights. Once their eyes adjust and they decide there is no danger they just go about their business.

In my experience there are two lines of defense against possums: 1. No food. Make absolutely certain there is nothing for them to eat. 2. Good dog. Our Australian Terrier does a wonderful job of keeping the possums out of the yard. And no critters have been harmed in the process.

We have bunnies (another creature like the cane toad that Australians love to hate) and squirrels that are also quite destructive once the traditional food supplies dry up. Going forward, I am putting an electric fence around our bed of tulips to at least allow the flowers to break the surface before being eaten.

You could go the ultra-sonic route, there are integrated motion detector / ultrasonic blare horn combinations for sale over here. Though I am not sure that possum ears are sensitive in the ultrasonic frequency range - they do work for non-deaf dogs, cats, squirrels, etc. The best part is, put the thing on a timer and you won't accidentally blast yourself either (for whatever reason, I can hear the things faintly but they give me a nice headache).

Along similar lines, we have 'scarecrow' systems here that use motion detectors to turn on sprayers to dissuade naughty deer and like animals from entering yards. If the possum is simply seeking shelter on your porch, this will be a good reason to leave. Naturally, it might also be a nice surprise for any other visitors or homeowners stepping into the covered zone at the 'right time'.

But the electric fence could work also, depending on how the possum is getting onto your porch. For example, if the primary means of getting in are the steps, uou could try using strips of Cu or Stainless backed with a thick double-sided tape (to insulate and hold in place) to make getting up the steps more interesting - if one tape is on the tread edge, the other below, no human will ever likely make the contact. Similarly, you could run parallel strips on the eaves and other roof sections that the possum might be using.

They key thing here is to figure out how they get onto your porch and why they have taken an interest in it. As others have mentioned, removing food sources is a big plus. Once you know the preferred path, make it less appealing.