Using a Catchpole

Using a Catchpole, or “snare pole” (similar to snake tongs, cat grasper). This is one of the most versatile tools used to capture and restrain animals. Basically, a catchpole is a long stick with a noose (cabled loop) on one end. For most species, place the loop over the animal’s head and then tighten the cable to hold the animal. Bobcats and housecats can accidentally suffocate if the loop is only placed around their necks—it’s better to place the loop over the cat’s head and over one front leg. Minimize the amount of time an animal spends in this restraint.

Some catchpoles swivel, allowing the animal to twist without being suffocated. Commercial catchpoles often lock once you’ve pulled the cable tight, and also have a quick-release. (If you prefer to make your own, run a loop of plastic-coated cable through a piece of rigid aluminum pipe or conduit that’s 3–4 feet long. You may still want to add a quick-release mechanism.)

Related hand-operated devices may substitute a vice-grip closure for the noose on the end of the catchpole. Imagine the kind of pincer that some people use to grab cans off a high cabinet. This can be useful if you’re trying to capture a small animal, such as a squirrel, or if you can only reach a part of the animal and would not be able to get a loop around it. Poles with this vise-grip closure usually don’t have the restraining power of catchpoles.

Modified catchpoles are available for restraining snakes. They’re often called snake “sticks,” “tongs,” or “hooks.” These devices pin the snake’s head to the ground. Use them carefully, because it’s hard to tell how much pressure you’re exerting so you could accidentally injure the snake’s spine or even dislocate its head. Once the snake’s head is restrained, grasp the snake just behind its jaws with your thumb and forefingers. This will give you control of its head. Support the snake’s body (with your arm, a stick, or a pole) when you carry it. This will minimize its stress and prevent it from thrashing about.

What if you’re confronted with a large nonvenomous snake, such as a boa constrictor, that’s tightly wrapped around a person? If you can’t work it loose with your hands, remember that snakes don’t like cold temperatures. So have the person step into a cool shower. The snake will probably let go once the water hits it, and try to slither away.

Obviously, inexperienced people should not handle venomous snakes! Trappers with the proper snake-handling training should still take a few precautions when working with venomous snakes.

Don’t work alone. If you must, at least tell someone what you’re doing. Call the local hospital before you go out on the job, to see if they have the proper antivenin—and have them check that it’s still good (they probably don’t use it often, so it could be outdated). Bring along a garbage can with a lid, or a cage that you can put the snake in once you’ve captured it.

A “catchpole combo.” Many are talented tinkerers. In this case, one person combined simple tools for a unique direct capture technique used to remove a raccoon from a fireplace chimney in one visit. This method requires a catchpole, a chimney brush attached to flexible fiberglass chimney rods, a ladder, and gloves.

Make sure the damper is securely closed. Climb onto the roof. Run the chimney brush (attached to flexible fiberglass chimney rods) down the chimney. When the brush enters the smoke chamber and drops to the damper, it opens up an escape route for the raccoon. As the coon climbs up into the flue, pull the brush up behind it to encourage the coon to move up the chimney. (The faster the brush is pulled up, the less likely the animal will try to force its way down past the brush.)

When the raccoon is four or five feet from the top of the chimney, use the catchpole to capture it and transfer it to a holding cage (usually a cage trap). Then, if there are young in the chimney, go inside the house. Open the damper and remove them with your gloved hands.

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