Baiting Box/Cage Traps with the Y Stick
Box and Cage Trapping Not as Easy as You Think
Box and cage traps are completely different to animals than traditional trapping tools. Here we have this unnatural metal or plastic contraption that we are trying to lure the animal into. He will sense its foreignness. The metal will feel harsh under his feet and his body may feel cramped by the small opening. All these factors add to the animal’s reluctance to enter the trap. So if we are going to get the animal into the trap we must make sure it has a good reason to enter.
Choosing the right bait or lure is of course very important to enticing an animal into the trap. However, if the bait isn’t situated properly in the trap, the animal won’t be able to sense it and know its there.
Animals hunt primarily using three senses, hearing, smell and sight. Typically WCOs do not utilize hearing in their trapping so we won’t discuss techniques for this sense, but I should note that this is changing.
The “Y” Stick Baiting Technique
Usually trappers exploit the animal’s sense of smell to capture the animal. The key is to bait the trap so that the food or lure molecules have the opportunity to disperse into the air. The method I like to use most often was taught to me by Rob Erickson. He advises trappers to get a ‘Y” stick and with the stem of the “Y” scoop out some of your bait. Then insert the stem into the bait area of the trap so that the bifurcated stems grab into the trap mesh thereby allowing the stem to dangle. With this method the bait has a very high exposure to the air around it. Other advantages lie in the techniques ability to reduce the loss of bait to hungry ants. By keeping the bait off the ground it is more difficult for the ants to find it. Finally, this technique allows the bait to remain active even if it rains. The small surface area makes it difficult for rain to wash it away and when it does then the bait can fall to ground where it may still be effective.
Downside of the Y Stick Baiting Technique
The downside to this method is that it works only with paste baits. If your bait or lure is especially liquid this baiting technique would not be recommended because it won’t cling to the stick properly. In addition, since the y portion extends above the trap, it may be affected by the trap cover. So if you use this method, be sure to check that the stick is still hanging properly after you cover the trap. Failure to consider this may allow the animal to grab the bait without having to get close enough to depress the treadle. Remember, animals are just as lazy as we are. If they can grab something by reaching for it rather than moving towards it they will. So be sure you hang the bait stick/wire towards the back half of the bait area.
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator and is available for consultation, speaking, and writing on wildlife damage management related topics.
5 Tips for Effective Box or Cage Trapping
Many people, including some professional pest/wildlife controllers, think that live trapping wildlife is easy. Cage and box trapping (mistakenly referred to as live trapping when footholds and cable restraints are also live trapping) consists of using wire-based enclosures (cage traps) or solid wall enclosures (box traps) to capture wildlife. While it is true that the use of these devices is simpler than using footholds, the use of box/cage traps still requires attention to detail.
Here are five tips to make your use of cage/box traps more effective in resolving wildlife complaints for your clients.
Tip #1. Select the smallest size trap for the target animal.
Cage traps come in a variety of sizes and styles. It is best to choose the smallest size trap necessary for the animal you are planning to catch. For single door traps, choose 10x12x32; skunk 7x7x24 inches and squirrel 5x5x18 inches. These dimensions can be modified for different manufacturers but they provide a good guide. Small traps are less expensive and more of them will fit in your truck but the most important advantage is that they reduce non-target captures. Why set a skunk-sized trap when trapping for squirrels? Using a larger trap, increases the risk of catching a skunk or opossum or something else that isn’t the target animal your client has hired you to control.
Tip #2. Use the right bait
Failure to use enough traps means that you are not taking advantage of the time-benefits provided by traps. Traps work even when you are not around. I recommend setting at least 3 per job, more if you can. This allows you 3 trap nights for every 24 hour period where placing only one trap gives you only 1 trap night per 24 hour period. Think of it as more hooks in the water.
Tip #4 Choose the right location(s)
As they say in real estate, property is all about location, location, location. The same concept applies to trapping. Don’t make the animal move to your trap, move the trap to the path of the animal. Never make the bait do what moving the trap will do for you. Now of course, there are situations where the best location isn’t prudent, perhaps because children, pets, or the nosy public will interfere with your work. In those situations, you should still look for where the animal is likely to travel and find a more secluded spot. If that isn’t possible, then use a trailing lure available at professional trapping suppliers.
Tip #5 Follow the right setting procedure
Avoid sloppy setting procedures. Even though cage/box traps are more forgiving than footholds, you still need to stabilize them to keep them from wobbling when the animal enters. Wobbly traps can spook animals and sometimes cause the trap to spring prematurely allowing the animal to back out.
In addition, you must ensure the cage/box trap is humanely set. Contrary to popular mythology, cage/box traps can be quite cruel. Trapped animals can bake in the summer sun, or freeze in a driving ice-storm. So think about where you put your traps. Will they be shielded from the sun/rain. Chances are no. But simply covering 50% of the trap’s length with a sturdy cloth cover provides the animal with shelter from wind, rain, and sun. It also protects the bait from prying claws, forcing the animal to enter through the entrance to get the bait.
There is much more to effective box/cage trapping but these 5 tips will help remove a number of key mistakes made by wildlife control professionals.
Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP
Stephen provides consulting services to the public, wildlife control professionals, and others on issues related to wildlife damage management. He is available for conferences, workshops, and private training.