Varmint Relocation Program: How to Trap, Humanely

| September/October 2007

So, a little weasel is getting your chickens. The raccoons are eating more of your sweet corn than you are. Or maybe a skunk is stealing eggs. Like most folks, you enjoy having wildlife nearby, but you have your limits. Live traps can be a diplomatic solution.

You can buy a metal cage trap pretty inexpensively ? especially when you consider the cost of your losses and the durability of a metal trap. You also can build a wooden trap from scrap lumber and some hardware cloth (wire mesh). It's a relatively simply process and you could make several different sizes of traps in an afternoon, even without using power tools ( instructions are online).

Bait the trap with corn, fish, cat food (lots of animals love cat food) or whatever works in your situation. The critter enters the trap and hits the release, the doors snap shut, and you have a trapped wild animal on your hands. Now what?

Trapping a varmint is easy. What you do with it afterward is the hard part ? especially if it's a skunk. You have several choices:

  1. Put the critter (trap and all) in the back of a truck, drive to the next county and open the trap. (A friend of mine refers to this as the 'witness relocation program.') Just remember, turnabout is fair play. People in the next county might be relocating varmints to your county, too.

  2. Have a reasonable conversation with the critter. Explain your investment of time and financial resources in your garden or poultry flock. Offer to set out additional dog food if he'll leave your garden and chickens alone.

  3. Build a large, natural habitat with observation areas and call it a zoo.

But seriously, if you have indeed trapped a live animal, be cautious when moving the trap and releasing the animal. The expression 'fighting like a trapped animal' should come to mind at this point. The animal is frightened and feels threatened, and will do whatever it can to protect its life ? including, but not limited to, clawing and biting. (Remember, some varmints could conceivably be rabid.)

Be careful not to get any part of your body so close to the cage that the animal could injure you. One possibility is to push dowel rods or thin pipes through the wire mesh to make carrying poles. Moving the cage using this method would require two people.

torre ciani
11/18/2007 12:00:00 AM

I'm sure my comments were misunderstood, I only trap them to give my self a chance to fix what allows them to get under my house. Then release them locally.

r yarnell
10/26/2007 12:00:00 AM

The game is on and for both of you, the stakes are high.1) Change the position of the trap and firmly staple it to the ground (bend heavy wire into large "U's".2) For a couple of nights, bait the trap, but don't open it. 3) Wire or otherwise tie the bait in the middle of the trap (still behind the treadle), so that even if the animal succeeds in moving the trap, the bait will remain out of reach. Use small pieces of bait.4) Open the trap.It's your wits against his!

s ssanf
10/26/2007 12:00:00 AM

Thanks! I will try those suggestions. This ground hog is driving me nuts. No spring or fall peas for me this year! He hardly even left me any seed to try again.

doug clifton
10/25/2007 12:00:00 AM

I am continually amazed! I do not consider myself a tree hugger in fact I am one who believes people have dominion over animals, but I do not believe in indiscriminate killing of animals, especially in areas where humans have moved in on the animals' territory. My wife and I go out of our way to save snakes, birds, animals, or whatever because we feel they were here first and we enjoy their company. If you have a problem with any wildlife, contact your extension agent, wildlife agency or whatever before you decide to take life in your own hands.I agree there are some pests that just need to be removed (I live in TX, look up armadillos), but I will try to work with the local animal control agency before I decide that something needs to be killed out right.

s ssanf
10/25/2007 12:00:00 AM

How the heck do you trap a groundhog? Mine is too smart. He comes to the cage, closes the trap door and then shakes the cage back and forth until he can get at and steal the bait through the wires!Please help! We cannot co-exist! The groundhog must go.

barbara deneke_1
10/24/2007 12:00:00 AM

Seems unanimous among your readership to avoid relocating animals. I'll admit that with mixed emotions I've relocated chipmunks to the middle of large wilderness areas far from my home. There are hundreds or thousands in our neighborhood - obvious overpopulation - and they destroy the foundations of homes, cause patios to cave in, and create yard hazzards for children and adults but in more reasonable numbers they do keep down the grub population in gardens. The hawks and cats are not doing their jobs! Another suggestion I've heard is to get a large bucket and fill halfway with water, then drop black sunflower seeds into it (b/c they float and it's not obvious that the bottom of the bucket is full of water), then prop a board up against the side of the bucket and let the chipmunks go diving. If my problem re-occurs I will be trying this method.

don vande polder
10/3/2007 12:00:00 AM

Animal relocation without a good understanding of the area and its inhabitants is just plain irresponsible.In many cases, every area is already supporting its maximum number of critters. Introducing more pits them against each other and can encourage disease and starvation from overcrowding and food competition.Varmint relocation might make you feel good about yourself, but don't make the mistake of thinking your doing something kind to animals or for the good of the environment.

torre ciani
10/2/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have had much experience with skunks and humane traps as they tended to get under my mobile home often. The first try was a learning experience. I trapped him, but...couldn't get near the trap because at every attempt, he'd turn around and threaten to spray.I finally snuk up on him with a large piece of plastic and dropped it over him. Then made the mistake of leaving it that way overnight.Over night he had grabbed it and pulled it in all around him to keep warm. Well, at least he was so wrapped up he couldn't spray. ;)The next time it happened, I made a three sided cardboard sheath that covered the top and sides with a hole in the top for the hand to come through. If they don't see you, they don't get all upset and try to spray you.Release was no problem...they just wandered into the woods. I'd almost rather deal with a skunk than a raccoon. I don't think they're as smart.

anita smith_2
10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not relocate your problems "to the country". If you have a problem, deal with it. Don't pass it along. We are past the days of "open range". People, just like you, actually live "in the country". We don't want your unwanted cats, dogs, snakes, racoons or other pests. We have our own problems to take care of without inheriting yours. In return, I promise not to bring my unwanted animals, domesticated or not, to your house in the city.

ramona boyer
9/30/2007 12:00:00 AM

I just read the article and links on skunks. My dog got sprayed the other night, and I used the baking soda-peroxide mixture on the dog. Problem is,as soon as he ran in the pet door, he jumped up on my leather sofa. I tried saddle soap, but it still smells. Any hints from readers on this one? Help!

doug clifton
9/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

In Harris County, TX it is illegal for unlicensed people to relocate nuisance animals such as raccoons and skunks. It may be illegal for the whole state. You can trap a nuisance animal, but you have to call animal control or a professional to handle the removal. In addition, you must be aware of the rabies issues. It is not a good idea for untrained people to handle the wildlife issues themselves.People need to pay attention to sick birds especially in areas where West Nile has been identified. If you find a sick or dead bird call animal control first.The best advice was to learn to live with the wildlife in your area and make your living areas unattractive to the nuisance anmimals.

laurie carlson
9/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

You overlook the important point of trapping--getting rid of the predator. To do so quickly, quietly, and I think humanely, keep a large livestock water trough full of water, then if the trapped animal is indeed one you must get rid of (and not your own hen or a neighbor's cat), drop the trap into the water. It will drown quickly, then you can bury it decently, so nothing can dig it up.

michael ellis_1
9/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

the article "Varmint Relocation Program: How to Trap, Humanelyby Troy Griepentrogis anecdotal misinformation at best and is not effective to any degree. It does not take into consideration the success of such trapping and relocation either for the homeowner or the animal being trapped. If any of these humane trapping suggestions were successful measures we wouldn't be discussing them in the 21st century. We would have trapped them all by now and our troubles would be over.I have been a wildlife rescuer and rehabilitator for 20 years and have been educating the public about solutions for nuisance wildlife during that entire period. If you care about wildlife, you will not relocate them. You will learn to peacefully coexist.Live trapping and relocating wildlife does nothing to solve the problem. In fact it will exasserbate the problem. What happens when you trap and relocate an animal is this....The entire population will recognize the gap created in the carrying capacity of the habitat and competatively overbreed to fill that gap. This is a fact of nature.Also relocation for most species means that their chances for survival are dramatically reduced because they will have to fight for the territory that you introduce them to and they do not know their new surroundings so it is difficult for them to find food and shelter. The most optimistic estimates for survival of a relocated animal is 10 to 15%.There is certainly a great deal more to discuss on this issue but suffice it to say...The only long term solution is to peacefully coexist. Never provide an unnatural food source (dog or cat food) for wildlife and have the patience and humanity to allow the creatures who's homes we have stollen and destroyed to at the very least, adapt to the concrete jungle and clear cuts we have left for them.

r yarnell
9/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

Having had far too many animals, domestic and wild, trapped and "relocated" to our rural neighborhood, I say, please don't do it. If it's a pest for you, it's a pest for those of us who try to make a modest living on a farm where you drop that animal.Consider too that a domesticated animal will not fare well in the wild, is likely to introduce domesticated diseases into the wild. If it's a wild animal living in an urban or suburban neighborhood, it's probably not going to compete well in a truly wild setting. On top of that, you may introduce diseases into a rural or wild setting that were not previously established there and for which the local population of critters is not prepared to cope.I know, they're cute, or you think they are - a raccoon with its teeth barred is anything but cute.So if it's an animal that can go to the humane society (domesticated) take it their and hope someone else has a yen for it. If it's a wild animal, call your county or municipal service. They know how to deal with the animal and are experienced enough to know whether disease is an issue. If it's a bird, injured or sick, the local Audubon society will be able to give you advice.But please, don't bring your problem to us or anybody else.

walter jeffries
9/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

The article "What's the stink about skunks" is bad advise. It is irresponsible to live-trap and release animals. If you have a problem animal, catch it and kill it. Do not release it elsewhere. When you catch & release you risk spreading disease as well as dumping your problems in someone else's backyard. Shame on you!You say you found a good place to release the animal that was miles from any house but there may well be houses over the ridge that you are unaware of. Additionally you're dumping the animal in the territory of other animals. That is piss-poor wildlife management.On top of that, in many states it is illegal to catch and release. Don't do it. If you can't deal with the problem yourself, find someone who can.WalterVermont

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