Traps to Catch Nuisance Wildlife

Box Traps

Wire mesh Lightning Traps allow you to safely and easily release trapped animals elsewhere. Trap sizes range from those suitable for small rodents (16 inches by 5 inches by 5.5 inches) to those suitable for large dogs (72 inches by 20 inches by 26 inches). Most reputable retailers describe which wildlife species are most likely to be caught in each of the trap sizes they offer.

The size of a trap is a more important consideration than its brand. Medium-sized traps are appropriate for many of the mid-sized mammals that regularly cause problems in residential settings such as opossums (Didelphis virginiana), raccoons (Procyon lotor), skunks (Mephitis spp.), feral cats, armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus), or rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus).

Several variations of these traps are available. Many retailers sell wire cage traps in both a collapsible form (which is helpful if your storage space is limited) or rigid form (which is more durable, and therefore recommended if you expect to need to use traps regularly).

Traps are also available with one door or two. Traps with two doors tend to be heavier and more expensive, but make releasing animals much easier, because animals do not have to back out the same door through which they entered the trap. Two-door traps also increase the chances of an animal finding the opening of the trap since there are two openings rather than just one. However, traps with only one door may have higher capture success because animals are forced to move all the way to the back of the trap to get the bait, ensuring that the door will close completely when triggered, which may not be the case with two-door traps where bait is placed in the middle.

Always place the bait for a wire cage trap on or behind the trigger mechanism so that animals are encouraged to step all the way inside the cage. When using traps with one door, consider screening the back portion of the trap where the bait is placed to prevent animals from reaching through the side of the trap to pull out the bait. Also, some species may be further encouraged to enter traps if soil or leaves are placed on the floor of the trap to cover the metal mesh. Always place traps as level as possible to reduce the chances of a captured animal later rolling the trap over when trying to escape.

Steel Leg-Hold Traps

Steel leg-hold traps can be used only by permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission In Florida (check regulations in other states before using elsewhere). The Commission only issues the permit to landowners experiencing problems with coyotes, bobcats, foxes, beavers, and otters. These traps must be checked at least every 24 hours by law.

Conibear Traps

Conibear traps are useful for capturing beaver (Castor canadensis). The trap consists of a heavy steel square with two springs in the shape of a “V.” When set, the tops of the “V” are pressed together. There is a safety latch on each “V” so that each can be latched in place once they are compressed. After both “V”‘s are compressed, a key is inserted into the groove of the trigger and the trap placed in position. When ready, the safety latches are released. A great deal of strength is required to compress the “V” springs, so it is strongly recommended that you purchase “setters” to compress the springs with a lot of leverage.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allows these traps to be used only underwater (non-target species could be killed if they were set on land). Use of these traps in Florida is illegal without a permit. These traps are lethal.

Baiting Traps

As indicated above, some traps are meant to be left unbaited, whereas others will never successfully capture an animal without bait. Many household food items like peanut butter, nuts and seeds, cat food and sardines are attractive to a variety of wildlife species. Baiting traps with these items that many different species like could prove problematic if you are in an area with a variety of wildlife species and you only want to catch a single species. Baits and lures sold commercially provide a safer alternative. These are often more species-specific, which can help prevent capture of non-target species. Finally, non-meat baits tend to spoil less quickly in hot weather and may be less attractive to pets.
Placing Traps
Selecting the proper location is a key element to effective trapping. Traps should be placed in areas nuisance wildlife are known to be using. Good examples include near burrows or travel paths. Traps should be faced into burrow openings to catch animals as they emerge. Traps with two doors work well when set along a wall, fence, or other barrier that encourages movement in a straight line, so that animals can be captured while traveling either direction.
Timing should also be considered carefully. Set the trap only during the time of day the target species is most active to limit your chances of catching non-target species. Check each trap at least once a day if not more often so that animals do not suffer unnecessarily. When possible, set traps beneath vegetation so that captured animals have protection from the sun and rain.