MOTHER’S readers send in their best tips.
I was recently faced with removing a family of squirrels
who had set up winter housekeeping in my attic. Attempts to
drive them off using the “ol’ mothball trick” failed
miserably. Mothballs allegedly possess some kind of
squirrel-repellent properties. Possibly if fired at them
from a shotgun–otherwise I can’t agree.
The squirrels had to go. Commercial live-catch traps proved
prohibitive, costwise, and I wasn’t about to call in a pro.
Snares and leg-hold traps are messy, and I really saw no
reason to kill our little guests. So I was left with
designing and constructing the following live-catch trap on
The trap consists of an open-ended box, one end covered
with wire screen or mesh and the other having a flap-type
door supported by a simple prop for the trigger. The door
is the key to the entire project: it opens inward and is
beveled on its bottom edge, so that when our furry friend
knocks or brushes the prop aside, the door (possibly made
from heavier material than the trap sides or even weighted
for a quick ‘n clean drop) closes and, try as he might, the
animal can’t pull the door inward to escape.
My trap is slightly bulkier and cruder than it needs to be,
but it has undergone several modifications from its
original, prototype form. With my first attempt, I made the
trap too short and so the door would actually drop on the
animal, allowing him to simply back out.
So far, I’ve only caught squirrels with my trap (and three
wayward blue jays going for the sunflower seed bait), but I
would presume that a raccoon may have the manual dexterity
and cunning needed to work and worry the door open. I would
suggest pretty close tolerances between door and trap
The hinge is just some all-purpose, lightweight steel
strapping (used for securing household pipes, etc.., and
found in plumbing supply sections at most home stores) and
an old wooden dowel.
My trap has a “skylight” in the top (I ran out of scrap ply
during the aforementioned mentioned trap-lengthening, but
had plenty of mesh left). This may have been an inadvertent
masterstroke. as it brightens up the interior of the box
and may, to a critter, look like an alternate escape route.
I’ve also drilled a small hole through the bottom edge of
the door and run a knotted piece of twine through this and
through the skylight mesh, allowing me to stand back a bit
and open the door with the twine, preventing a face full o’
furious fur (or feathers … a real godsend when releasing
The prop or trigger is any old thing light enough for the
critter to knock aside and heavy enough to support the
door. You can taper the end(s) and/or gouge a small indent
in the floor of the trap and experiment a bit to get it
just right. My original trigger was a T-bar design, its
horizontal strip measuring almost the full width of the
trap interior. But I found I’d attached this crosspiece a
bit too high, allowing the squirrels to scoot underneath
it. Stapling another piece of mesh to this soon rectified
My handle is from an old five-gallon metal pail. And the
whole shebang is spray-painted with some old flat black I
had lying around, mainly just to take the shine off the
nail and screw heads, etc., though I dare say a few days
outside will do the same job.
My working prototype is made largely out of 3/4″ plywood
and measures 31″x13″x13″. It’s on the large side for
squirrels, but I’m anticipating the future relocation of a
raccoon or two.
These dimensions can be adapted to suit materials at hand
and the intended quarry. The accompanying illustrations
(opposite page) should allow anyone with a scrap pile and a
couple of hours to kill to construct a humane trap of their
own. Happy catching!