Safe and responsible use of cage traps
This page contains resources on strategies to use cage traps safely and responsibly to prevent injury to humans, animals, and wildlife.
Definitions–many people mistakenly call a cage or box trap a “live trap”. The ICWDM.org does not use this terminology because the term “live trap” is misleading and vague. It is vague and misleading because people assume that if a trap doesn’t look like a box then it must be a “kill trap.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, most trap are “live traps” including, footholds, Collarum traps, snares, Belisle footsnare, Egg Trap, Duffer trap, and a wide variety of other limb restraint traps.
Box traps come in two main varieties, solid wall and wire wall.
Dangers of Cage Trapping
1. Getting scratched or bitten–as animal reaches through the cage.
2. Getting sprayed–when you are unprepared for the possibility of catching a skunk (to learn how to prepare for and/or handle trapped skunks see Releasing Skunks from Cage/Box Traps)
3. Contracting infection–cages have sharp edges, which can break the skin and expose it to the urine and fecal contamination on the wire.
4. Parasite exposure–fleas, ticks, lice, worms, and other organisms can move from the animal to the trapper.
Strategies to Reduce Risks when Cage Trapping
1. Wear Personal Protection
- Sturdy leather gloves
- Long-sleeved shirt
- Long pants
- Shoes that fully cover the feet. No flip flops.
- Insect repellent, DEET is recommended.
2. Select the right trap. Like automobiles, some traps offer more safety features than others.
- Box traps, with their solid walls, significantly reduce the risk of getting scratched or bitten. However, they will hold urine and feces on the floor of the trap, requiring cleaning.
- Cage traps with tight mesh walls, 1/2-inch by 1-inch weave, significantly reduces an animal’s ability to reach through the wire when compared to a 1-inch by 1-inch weave. However, traps with the the smaller mesh size are more expensive due to the increased amount of material.
- Traps with large handle guards (over 4 inches wide by 6-inches long).
- Traps with large handles (over three inches tall) that allow for greater distance between the trap and one’s hand.
- Gravity door traps (those traps that open automatically when rolled over) should have their doors wired shut prior to your moving the trapped animal.
3. Proper Behavior
- Always cover at 50% of the trap with a cloth (box traps don’t need to be covered). See image.
- BUT, box traps hold heat better than cage traps and therefore should be used with greater caution in the warmer months to avoid “cooking” the animal.
- Understand how to use your equipment BEFORE you begin trapping.
- Check traps every single day they are set!!! This means, weekends, holidays, etc.
- Always follow all government regulations for handling wildlife. Consult your government laws at Wildlife Laws.
- Have a plan for how you will handle your catch (BEFORE) you begin trapping!!!
- Make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date.
- If you become ill within 6 weeks of your trapping efforts, tell your doctor that you were working with wildlife!!!
- Don’t be afraid to hire a professional. See Hiring a Professional to learn how to find a real one.
4. Additional Training
- Backyard Wildlife–The Fundamentals of Cage Trapping (Video).
- Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage
- National Wildlife Control Training Program