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How To Trap Wild Animals

Updated on October 7, 2014
Country-Sunshine profile image

Country Sunshine lives on a small farm in rural Texas, and enjoys sharing tips and stories about her experiences in the country.

Opossum in a live trap
Opossum in a live trap | Source

The Best Ways To Catch Wild Animals In Traps

Living in the country, there are all types of animals that invade your land. Some of these animals, like skunks and 'possums, don't do much damage. However, snakes can harm people & pets; coyotes can kill livestock, and raccoons are known to eat poultry.

There is no "animal control" in the country, but there are several ways to get rid of these wild animals. While a gun is the swiftest way, there are other options, including live traps, snares and snake catchers. I use all of these, and will show you how to use them as well!

All photos on this site were taken by the author, Country Sunshine, who retains the copyright.

Warning! If you are disturbed by this topic, please do not continue reading! You might find some of the text or photos offensive!

Trapping Regulations

Before you begin trapping, you should check with your state's Parks & Wildlife department to make certain you know the regulations in your state. In Texas, where I live, you must either have a trappers license or a hunting license if you intend to sell the skins or furs. If you are a landowner and you are trapping "nuisance animals", then you don't have to have a license. It's best to know what you are up against before starting out.

Raccoon in a live trap
Raccoon in a live trap | Source

How To Set A Live Trap

Opossums, Bobcats, Skunks and Raccoons

The most humane way to catch an animal is in a live trap. These are simple cage-like boxes that the animals enter, and the door closes behind them. They come in a variety of sizes, and have a couple of different features. The smallest are for animals like rats and squirrels. In the largest, you can catch wild hogs. In between sizes are for possums, skunks, raccoons and bobcats.

Some traps have a separate compartment in the back for your bait. Others are one, long compartment. All have doors on the end furthest from the bait area.

To set your trap, you need to bait it. I usually use canned cat food or canned salmon. If neither of these are available, tuna or sardines work pretty well. Just open the can and set it as far away from the opening as possible. For the traps with the separate compartment, some people put in live roosters. I'm pretty attached to my roosters, and just can't bring myself to do that!

After you bait the trap, you will need to secure the door so that it stays open. There is a usually a hook on the top of the trap. Simply push the door open, then put the hook through the wire facing of the door. You might want to trip it a couple of times to make certain it is working.

Most of the traps have a pressure plate at the back. When the animal enters the trap to eat the bait, it will step on the plate, which shuts the front door.

Now that you have your trap set, put it along a fence or close to a chicken coop door. Make certain you check the trap regularly, as you don't want your animal to die!

Live Traps

Live traps can be purchased at a number of places, including feed stores and farm supply. If neither of these are in your vicinity, you can always purchase from Amazon.

Havahart 1089 Collapsible One-Door Live Animal Cage Trap for Raccoon, Stray Cat, Groundhog, Opossum, and Armadillos
Havahart 1089 Collapsible One-Door Live Animal Cage Trap for Raccoon, Stray Cat, Groundhog, Opossum, and Armadillos
This is the size of live trap you'll need for catching most wild animals. It is easy to bait & set, and will not harm the animal you are trapping.
Raccoon in a live trap
Raccoon in a live trap | Source

How To Remove An Animal From A Live Trap

So, you put out your trap, and now you've caught something! What do you do next? First things, first. What do you plan to do with the animal you caught?

If it is a non-threatening animal, and you don't mind having it around your house, just let it go. Or, if you live in the city, you can call Animal Control. Otherwise, you might need to haul it off somewhere else, or dispose of it in some other way.

Also, it depends on what animal you caught!

1) Rats, Squirrels and House Cats: Just open the front door, and let them go. They'll usually move to the back of the cage until you get the door open.

2) Raccoons and Bobcats: Although 'coons and bobcats have sweet faces, they can be really mean. The one you caught is probably pretty angry with you, and will growl and attack the sides of the cage. The best thing to do is get a pole with a hook on the end. Stand at the back of the cage, then hook the front door with your pole. It takes a bit of practice to get the door open without getting bitten. You might want to try this out before you catch anything! The 'coon or bobcat will run out immediately.

3) Skunks: This can be pretty tricky, because you certainly don't want to get sprayed by a skunk! The best thing to do is sneak up on it, and throw an old blanket on top of the cage. Haul the cage off somewhere really far away, then use your pole to get the door open. If it doesn't run out immediately, pull off the blanket, and get back quite a distance. It will eventually leave.

4) Wild Hogs. Most of you will never catch a wild hog, unless you live in the country. If you do happen to catch one or a dozen, it's best to call one of the local hog buyers. These people will come out to your trap and load the hogs into a trailer. If you don't have a hog buyer, you will probably have to shoot them. Wild hogs are very dangerous, and will lunge at the sides of the trap.

Coyotes Hung On Fence Posts
Coyotes Hung On Fence Posts | Source

Catching Wild Animals With A Snare

A snare is simply a piece of wire made into a noose. Catching an animal in a snare will most likely kill them. Only do this is you are having a real problem with animals such as bobcats and coyotes. If you have pets or livestock that roam freely, make certain they do not have access to the area where the snare is located. There is nothing worse than finding your dog stuck in a snare!

My husband was a trapper, and he caught many a coyote and bobcat in snares. He taught me how to make them, and I now follow in his footsteps. My latest claim to fame is catching a wild hog in a snare. Practically unheard of!

To set a snare, you first need to decide where to put it. The best way to do this is to look for animal trails. Walk along a fence line, and look for holes dug under the fence. This is where your animal is going through the fence.

Once you decide where to put the snare, secure the loose end to a post or the barbed wire fence. Suspend the loop, or "noose", in the area right in the middle of the trail. You might need to hold it still with a small stick, but do not secure too tightly! When the animal runs through the loop, he will be stopped short because the snare is secured to the post.

It takes a bit of practice to learn how to hang the snare, and keep it in the middle of the trail. Make certain you check your snare at least once a day, and re-set as needed.

Where To Buy Snares

Although I make my own snares, it's best to buy them if you are unfamiliar with them. There are companies that make complete snares, as well as sell the materials to make them.

Chicken Snake Caught With Snake Tongs
Chicken Snake Caught With Snake Tongs | Source

Snake Catchers and Tongs

I happen to be a big fan of snakes, and really love catching them! My dad used to participate in the rattlesnake roundups, so I must take after him. One of the evening "sports" around here is to go road hunting for snakes. Just drive around in the early evening, looking for snakes on the road. But I digress...

Out here in the country, there seem to be snakes everywhere! Copperheads in the wood piles; rattlesnakes in the yard, and chicken snakes in the coops. Coach whips zipping across the roads, and water moccasins in the stock tanks. I have several hoes standing in strategic locations, because I never know when a snake might appear!

The best way to catch a snake, other than shooting it, is to get it with a snake catcher or snake "tongs". These are long poles with a claw, or "jaw" on the end. Just reach down with your pole, clamp the claw right behind the snake's head, and you've got it!

When I catch a nice rattlesnake or copperhead, I throw it into a pillowcase, then into the deep freeze. That way, I can have a snake skinning party at a later date! It is up to you to decide what you want to do with yours. Either let it go somewhere far away, or find another way to dispose of it.

Rattlesnake - From the Deep Freeze To the Wall

Rattlesnake - From the Deep Freeze To the Wall
Rattlesnake - From the Deep Freeze To the Wall | Source

Where to Purchase Snake Catchers & Tongs

It's difficult to find snake catchers and/or tongs at your local store. Some feed stores may carry them, in addition to farm suppliers. I've bought all of mine online.

52 Inch Standard Snake Tong
52 Inch Standard Snake Tong
I purchase my snake catchers/tongs from Midwest Tongs. They seem to be very well made, and I've never had to replace any parts. While they come in a variety of lengths, I've found that 52 inches or more to be the best. It allows me to grab the snake from a distance, and not worry about it trying to strike.

Other Types of Traps

There are a number of other traps in which you can catch wild animals. These traps will injure or kill the animals, and I do not use nor recommend them unless absolutely necessary. These include conibears, coil spring traps, and coon cuffs. Conibears are extremely dangerous, and shouldn't be used by a novice. If you were to catch an arm or leg in one, you'd probably die before you were rescued. For more information on these, check out the links below:

What NOT To Do With A Conibear Trap!

What NOT To Do With A Conibear Trap!
What NOT To Do With A Conibear Trap! | Source

A sensitive subject to some, but a necessary topic for us in the country. Would you trap a wild animal if it was causing harm to your pets or livestock? Please let me know your thoughts!

© 2012 Country Sunshine

How Do You Feel About Trapping Wild Animals?

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    • profile image

      awonderingdawn lm 

      7 years ago

      What do you think about foot-hold traps? We avidly use them for fur-harvesting purposes here in Alaska. In the cold weather snares tend to snap easily- and often times other animals will eat a dead one out of a snare.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      good to have a mouse trap too.

    • Country-Sunshine profile imageAUTHOR

      Country Sunshine 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @anonymous: When I catch a 'possum, I take it about a mile away to a railroad trestle that has a creek nearby. Hopefully there will be enough food for it to survive, and far away enough that it won't return.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      It's a good thing to use live traps for wild animals and then transport them far away.

      Great page to come back to, I enjoy it. :)

    • Country-Sunshine profile imageAUTHOR

      Country Sunshine 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @tonybonura: I've never tried catching a rabbit. I see one fairly often in my duck yard. It sounds like a fun activity, and I'll have to try it!

      As for snakes... I don't really like killing them, especially if they are the "good" kind... meaning, they aren't harmful to me or the livestock. But rattlesnakes, copperheads and chicken snakes have a very short lifespan around my place! The others get to go free.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      8 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      This was a very interesting lens. Since I live in the country too and have chickens, we get visitors from time to time, always at night. Staying up with a shotgun or rifle doesn't get you anything but sleepy during the daytime. The traps work just fine. I even use it to catch rabbits using vegetables in it. Thanks for the tips about snakes. The only ones I see around here are king snakes, and I don't want to kill them. I just don't want them around me either. I do not like snakes.


    • Country-Sunshine profile imageAUTHOR

      Country Sunshine 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @tfsherman lm: Just set a live trap with some canned cat food or tuna, and you should catch whatever it is! Good luck!

    • profile image

      tfsherman lm 

      8 years ago

      I have a possum or raccoon nesting in the head directly above the head of my bed. Believe you me, I would trap it tomorrow if I could. Your havaheart traps sound like they might fit the bill. Thanks for the info.

    • Country-Sunshine profile imageAUTHOR

      Country Sunshine 

      8 years ago from Texas

      @limited279: I don't know that a squirrel would be the best pet, unless you caught it when it was a baby! I had one come inside once, and ended up chasing it around the house with a broom. I opened all the doors to the house, and it just wouldn't go out! I ended up trapping it between the window pane & screen, shutting the window, then removing the screen. Neither the squirrel or I were very happy by then. I think you're wife has a great point about not wanting one of those.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have always thought it would be fun to catch a wild squirrel and domesticate it. My wife would kick us both out if I did though! Great lens.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      I learned to set my chipmunk trap only during the daytime after accidentally getting a young skunk in it overnight. It is important to check the traps regularly, as my sister's cat got into hers and suffered from heat stroke.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      We live in a semi-rural area and the biggest problem we have is rats and mice and the cat who keeps eying up our rabbits. The rabbits are secure, but I just make a noise at the door and then let the (big) dogs out. I really think the cat must be pretty stupid because it keeps coming back...

      The rats were disposed of using poisoned bait under the house - I wont do that again, because they died under the house. At least I think they did, because the smell was awful. But once our German Shepherd started killing young rats, we noticed they started to avoid the garden.

      The mice used to get caught in a humane trap and then released in the fields about a mile away, so they would not find their way back, but we don't bother about the mice in the shed, although I was not happy when some of my seeds in the greenhouse got eaten. The last time they got into the house we used an electronic deterrent that was plugged into a socket and that did the trick.

      To be honest I don't like killing anything but who knows if I was confronted with a poisonous snake. I would rather avoid doing it any harm but if I was left with no choice then I guess I could do it.

      Glad to say we only have one poisonous snake in the UK and providing you get treatment fairly quickly if you are bitten you should be OK - I don't know if I could cope with some of the snakes you have in the US :(

    • profile image

      bihar lm 

      9 years ago

      I don't think I will ever be able to trap a snake.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We have few wild animals around here now that I'm living almost in town. Usually it's rodents like skunks and raccoons and the endless squirrels and chipmunks. I have no problem with the idea of catching and getting rid of them. There are plenty of them and they are awful pests. But, something like a snake is rare to see. I'd live and let live in that case. We don't really have dangerous snakes here. Far more likely to see a garter snake (harmless) than a rattlesnake or water moccasin. It's been at least 20 years since I've seen a snake at all here in Ontario. At one place we were living we had a garter snake under the front door steps. That door was hardly used so it was likely a nice sunny spot for her. She had babies in the Spring/ Summer. My parents kept everyone away - not because the snakes were dangerous but because we didn't want to scare them away.

    • FantasticVoyages profile image

      Fantastic Voyages 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Yes, I'd do it. Or, call Animal Control and have them take care of it for me! Skunks can really be a nuisance, and possibly rabid. Stray cats are the worse in my area. Better to trap & carry off than kill.

    • Country-Sunshine profile imageAUTHOR

      Country Sunshine 

      9 years ago from Texas

      @ottnepal: That's a whole other article! Perhaps you should write one! Thanks for stopping by & commenting!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Is It right to trap wild animals.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Live animal traps are the way to go, catch and release far away.

      Informative lens, I enjoyed reading the articles.


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