Viewing wildlife with a Pi Zero photo trap

Garden Safari

© Lead Image © Diana Rich,

© Lead Image © Diana Rich,

Article from Issue 270/2023

Armed with no more than a Raspberry Pi photo trap, you can discover who pays a visit to your garden at night.

You might have a sneaking suspicion that wild animals are partying in your garden at night. If you want to know who's come to visit, I can show you how to set up a wildlife monitoring system that is based on a Raspberry Pi and can be completely tailored to your individual needs.

Photo traps are nothing new; you will find professional systems and small boxes for hobbyists online. I wanted one that was just as compact (Figure 1), but with more innovative inner workings. The Raspberry Pi control center shoots the photos with a connected camera. However, it only starts its work when a passive infrared (PIR) sensor, which registers the thermal radiation of living beings, detects motion. Afterward, the electronics revert to power-saving mode, so the photo trap can remain in the field for weeks.

A Raspberry Pi Zero W delivers enough power and takes up so little space that everything fits into a compact case. To get the Zero W up and running, you need to download a new Pi OS image and transfer it to a microSD card. With a monitor and keyboard attached, you can get started by configuring the boot options and network settings.


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