‘Smart life trap’ recognizes and catches first coypu on Dutch border

For the first time a coypu has been recognized and caught by a ‘smart life trap’, rigged with image-recognition on the Dutch-German border near Winterswijk. This animal species is not native to Europe and this new technology will help water authorities to catch them.

A ‘smart life trap’ uses image-recognition to recognize and trap animal species: the cage closes catching muskrats and coypu, while it remains open when entered by, for example, birds or otters. In January a coypu in the Wooldseveen moor near Winterswijk walked into the cage, was recognized and caught. It was the first catch in the field, after a long preliminary phase of testing and refining.

More efficiënt

Pest controller Jari Bremer: “With image-recognition in the cage we avoid unwanted by-catches and we are more efficient, we only catch animals that pose a risk. It’s great that we’re able to catch only the right animals, thanks to a camera and technique that keeps improving.” Bremer received a signal from the cage in Winterswijk on his smartphone and confirmed the catch in the field. He delivered ‘smart life traps’ in German project areas as part of the Life Mica project. This will happen in Belgium as well.

Risk to dikes and nature

Muskrat and coypu are alien species in the Netherlands. They have no natural enemies, they weaken banks and dikes and they interfere with inland species. In the past half century the muskrat population declined from half a million to less than 10%. In 2021, fewer than 45,000 muskrats were caught in the Netherlands. Hundreds of coypu are caught in the Netherlands along the border, but they are hardly found further inland.

Up to the border

The water authorities want to push back the muskrat up to the border alike. “Technical innovations will help”, says Pascal van der Linden, team leader pest management. Such as image-recognition, which now yielded the first catch. “This was preceded by a period in which we created an extensive image bank with all kinds of species, modeling and data analysis. For example, the camera has also been tested in a German otter center.”

50 traps

A total of 50 traps will be rigged with image-recognition based on AI software, supplied by Robor Electronics bv in Bentelo. The ‘smart life trap’ will further develop in the coming years. Muskrattenbeheer Rivierenland works on the Dutch-German border between Haaksbergen and Groesbeek, with a working area that extends over 4 water boards between the border and the sea: Rijn and IJssel, Vallei and Veluwe, Hollandse Delta and Rivierenland.