Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Animal Trapping

by National Gardening Association Editors


If you've tried repelling, excluding, and scaring away a pest animal and it's still causing problems, you can trap and release it, or use a lethal trap. Trapping is an effective way to remove a specific pest animal, but isn't useful against a large local population over the long run. In the latter case, trapping should be done in conjunction with exclusion, fencing, or altering the habitat.

It's best to call your local wildlife officer or professional pest removal company to handle problem animals. However, if you're willing to do the dirty work yourself, here are some tips to follow.

  • Minimize signs of human activity. Handle traps as little as possible and mask your scent by wearing gloves. Make sure the trap is the right size and sturdy enough to handle the animal you're after.
  • Anchor the trap so the animal can't roll it over and escape.
  • Bait the trap a few times before setting to teach the animal that it's a safe to approach it.
  • Make a trail of goodies to the trap, and pile some in the back or on the trap for the critter to find.
  • Disinfect the trap with bleach after using. Rabies is transmitted by saliva, and you don't necessarily have to be bitten to contract the disease.
  • Place plywood under live traps to prevent animal from scratching up the lawn or garden once they're caught.
  • Use caution when releasing large animals (e.g. raccoon, skunk, woodchuck). The safest method is to tie a strong rope to the trap door. Run the rope through an open window into your vehicle, so you can pull open the trap door from a point of safety.
  • Check traps daily, and release or bury animals as soon as possible.

Live Trapping

Live trapping and releasing animals has become popular. It seems no one really wants to hurt those fuzzy, furry, cuddly creatures. But in some cases live trapping can be more cruel than killing the animal. Relocated animals frequently become disoriented and aren't able to fit into their new habitat, often starving to death. If you use live traps, contact the Humane Society or the local or state game officer to determine the best method, time to trap, and way to release a wild or nuisance animal before setting the trap. Some species are protected from trapping by law in various states.

Once you've caught the animal, be careful. Wild animals can carry diseases such as rabies. Frightened skunks will be more likely to spray, and an agitated woodchuck will nip in self-defense. Here are some tips for trapping specific animals.

Chipmunks and Squirrels

Bait the trap with nuts, peanut butter, rolled oats, or seeds. Set traps near a food source (e.g. a bird feeder) or along a runaway such as at the base of a tree. Use metal traps, as rodents have sharp teeth and can chew through wooden traps. Check traps a few times a day.

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