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Friday, November 8, 2019

Live Traps

Whether you live in a rural or urban location, there are times when the local wildlife will become a nuisance. However, if they get into your food storage, they become much more than a nuisance:
  • Skunks and raccoons carry rabies which is a threat to humans and domestic animals. They can also slaughter a coop full of chickens in a night.
  • Possums are generally beneficial critters that eat a lot of insects, but they have a habit of scattering the contents of trash cans.
  • Stray cats can put a dent in the local bird and small mammal population. This may or may not be a problem, depending on what they are preying on; rats and mice are fair game, as are birds that endanger stored grain, but when they start to compete for food with people (by hunting rabbits and squirrels, mostly), they become a nuisance.
  • Stray dogs that have formed a pack are no longer domesticated and are a hazard to people and livestock. In most rural areas, dogs seen chasing deer or livestock are given the “3 S” treatment; Shoot, Shovel, Shut up.
  • Groundhogs serve no good purpose that I'm aware of; they're just a pest.
  • Gophers and moles might make your lawn look bad, but they also eat a lot of earthworms that do a good job of aerating and conditioning the soil.

If you live inside city limits, the locals will not appreciate you using firearms to remove a nuisance animal. The level of their annoyance will vary by the politics of your area, but you're likely to get a ticket at least. Blazing away at a possum in your trash can is a good way to let everyone within earshot know that you have firearms, which is poor operational security (OPSEC) and could set you up for a visit by the local thieves.

Rural living has the advantage of fewer neighbors and fewer laws, but there are times when killing a nuisance animal isn't the answer:
  • Possums can be relocated to the woods, preferably a few miles away so they don't come back.
  • A neighbor with a rodent problem could use a few stray cats around his barn (be sure to ask first).
  • Skunks, foxes, and raccoons are considered fur-bearing animals, and some states have seasons when you can and can't harvest them.

The easiest way to remove a nuisance critter is with a live trap. I've been around standard leg-hold and conibear style traps, and they have the disadvantage of being indiscriminate in what they kill, but live traps let you decide what to do with your catch. Since the bait used for raccoons and possums is attractive to cats and dogs, it's nice to be able to dump Fluffy or Spot out of a live trap unharmed.

We keep a couple of Havahart live traps at the family farm for nuisances. They are a well-made brand that has been around for a long time, and the newer “Easy set” versions aren't as finicky as some of the old styles. You'll have to follow the instructions on how to set the trap, and Havahart has a YouTube channel instead of printed instructions. These traps aren't exactly cheap, but they last for decades and can be loaned out as needed, which means that not everybody needs to own one. They do come in different sizes; I stick with the medium and large because I've had pests that won't fit into the small ones.

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