Using Live Traps

When faced with unfamiliar animals, it is always best to keep your distance.  Sometimes, cats or dogs will come to you and comply to being transported to the Humane Society.  But even stray dogs and cats can be dangerous if they feel threatened.  While larger animals can be reported to the Humane Society or Ministry of Natural Resources for advice or assistance with their removal, live traps are the best suggested method of catching smaller animals that are residing in your area.

The problem, of course, is how do you use a live trap?  Often, cases of misuse lead to injury to both the animal and the individual attempting to catch or release that animal.  In order to humanely capture wild and stray animals, the live trap must be set properly and be supervised from the moment it is set.  Keep in mind that if you set a trap, you are responsible for any animal that enters it, whether or not it is the animal you intended to trap.

Before you set up any trap, be sure that there are no local laws permitting the capture of specific animals.  Also keep in mind the time of year and the potential that the animal has babies elsewhere which require care.  Finally, consider the possibility that you may capture something undesirable- such as a skunk.  If you cannot think of a solution to these issues, reconsider setting the trap.

If purchasing a trap, choose one that is either plastic, or metal wire.  Traps can also be rented from various animal supply stores.  Ensure that all of the edges have been filed down to minimize the potential for injury, and also test the trap to ensure it will work properly and do the job.  Do not use traps with solid metal walls, as they will turn into ovens in the summer and fridges in the winter.

Next, attempt to feed timid animals prior to setting the trap.  Scatter food or place disposable cardboard, paper or plastic bowls in areas where you have seen the animal.  Once the animal is comfortable eating the “bait”, he/she will be more comfortable entering the cage to get a meal.

When planning to set the trap, use foods that are targeted towards the animal you wish to capture.  For example, cats are more enticed by wet cat food or fish, while raccoons would prefer marshmellows, corn, or apple cores.

Also consider location.  If you are trying to catch a cat or raccoon, placing the trap on a higher surface such as a picnic table will reduce the risk of catching a skunk.  Attempting to catch a skunk would be more successful if the trap is placed directly on the ground.  Of course, placing the trap near the location where the animal is most often seen is the best idea.  For example, if the animal usually enters your yard from under a shrub in the north east corner, then that is the ideal location.

Finally, only leave the trap set for a minimal period of time.  If you are attempting to capture a cat, only leave the trap set during the day and check on it frequently.  By checking the trap every 2-4 hours, you are reducing the risk that the animal will injure itself in an attempt to escape.  For nocturnal animals, set the trap at night and disarm it in the morning.

Some tips for success:

  1. Place small amounts of food outside of the trap to entice the animal to enter for a full meal.
  2. Place the “meal” under the “bed” or trigger of the trap.  This will force the animal to search for the food and trigger the trap.
  3. Place leaves, dirt, or grass  over the floor of the trap to camoflauge it and to provide insulation.

When removing the trap, cover it with a blanket to reduce stress for the animal.  It is best to bring domestic animals to a local shelter (the North Bay Humane Society) and to bring wild animals to a local wildlife rehabilitation centre.  Wild animals that are on your property are your responsibility, especially once they have been trapped.  If you feel uncertain about using a live trap, you may wish to hire a wildlife expert to trap and remove the animal for you.