Note: A lot of these tips work for any live catch trap, but some of them are specific to the double-ended traps we sell at PFF. If you would like to buy a double-ended trap, please go to our shop.
Why a live catch trap?
They are very versatile -they can be used to target a wide variety of pest species, including ship rats, Norway rats, possums, feral cats, weasels, stoats, ferrets, hedgehogs and rabbits. They are more effective – they catch up to ten times as many pests as any other trap, possibly because the pest feels happier entering the trap because of the good visibility through the cage structure. You’re free to use a wide variety of baits, depending on what species you’re targeting and the time of year. However, there are some rules to follow when using a live catch trap (see the legal obligations section below).
How to put the trap together
This is much easier to show than to describe in words, so here’s a video on how to do it.
After assembly, if the trigger is too sensitive, check that the trigger bar is straight (sometimes they can bend in transit). If it’s still too sensitive, follow the tips below for reducing sensitivity.
Tips for reducing sensitivity
The “two-bar” trigger mechanism is very sensitive by design to ensure pests are caught at the slightest touch. If you find that your trap is too sensitive (i.e. it goes off if you drive a tractor past it) there are many things you can do to make it less trigger-happy.
– Slightly bend the outer trigger bar so it is in contact with the inner one for its full length.
– Wrap a small amount of tape around one or both of the trigger bars
– Push a small piece of tubing over one or both of the bars to increase the force on the contact area. A short piece cut off from a car oil line or other small rubber tube works perfectly.
How to set the trap
When setting, either use gloves or handle the trap as little as possible to reduce the amount of human scent on it.
1) Place the trap on flat and level ground. Peg it to the ground in one or more corners to prevent animals from tipping it over when caught and possibly opening the trap doors.
2) First completely take out one of the doors. (otherwise you’ll need 3 hands!). Raise up the other door so the hold bolt is resting on the trip arm and set the trap. Then replace the door you removed so its hold bolt is resting on the trip arm. When setting the trap the pressure plate should be horizontal (not tilted to either side, and have good trap floor clearance on both sides. This can be adjusted by moving the upper “T” shaped trigger bar slightly left or right.
3) Hang the bait in the trap. Make sure the bait doesn’t prevent the pressure plate from working.
4) Test-close the trap a couple of times using a stick through the side on the pressure plate to check that the bait, vegetation, sticks, stones or other things do not get caught in the mechanism and prevent it from closing. In particular, make sure there are no bumps, stones or twigs under the pressure plate.
5) Walk away!
Picking the trap location
Along a wall, or by the side of a road where a road narrows to go over water, or along a path in tall vegetation are all good places. Putting the trap under cover (such as under a bush) allows pests to feel more secure.
Don’t put a trap where stock can reach it. The trap mechanism is very sensitive, so an inquisitive sheep or cow will easily set it off by licking or nuzzling, and then it won’t catch anything.
What species, what bait?
If you are trapping any and all pests that are in the area, a good general-purpose bait is any egg-based mayonnaise, it is cheap, doesn’t go rotten, and doesn’t attract birds. Run a line down the middle of the trap, with a teaspoon full on the trigger plate.
Rabbits: Apples, carrots, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, bread or sweetcorn. Rabbits are highly repelled by the smell of blood or old meat, so if you are targeting rabbits, make sure you don’t use a trap that has had meat baits in it. You should also remove the rabbit from the trap alive and kill it elsewhere to avoid getting blood in or near the trap.
Rats: Cheese, milk chocolate, Nutella and walnuts are all better than peanut butter, but crunchy peanut butter works well, too. Black rats, (also called ‘ship rats’) like carbohydrates such as grains and seeds. Norway rats (the biggest species of rat, also known as brown or water rats) like meat.
Possums: The classic bait is apple dusted with cinnamon, but dried apricots or almonds are also attractive. Possums are also attracted to any kind of meat bait, especially in winter.
Stoats and weasels: Fresh rabbit with fur on, rabbit entrails, salted rabbit, dehydrated rabbit, raw chicken meat, necks, heads or entrails, fresh whole eggs, specialist stoat lures.
Ferrets: Fresh rabbit with fur on or other raw meat, or meaty bones. Cheap fishy cat food or tinned tuna also works well.
All mustelids are attracted by the smell of another mustelid, so when you catch a stoat, weasel or ferret, particularly if it is male, drag its body genital-side to the ground all around the trap and down the trail in either direction to attract others. If you have multiple traps, use the same body on all of them. Gross, but it works!
Hedgehogs. Dog roll, fishy cat food or freshly killed rabbit or chicken are all excellent. There is less need to refresh meat baits with hedgehogs, as they are attracted to even rotten maggot-infested meat. Two eggs (one whole and one with a small hole made in the shell) are also good.
Feral cats The cheapest possible “own-brand” fishy cat food (it has a strong attractive smell). Tinned tuna, raw fish, (fresh or frozen), raw meat. Please see the Auckland Council cat control guidelines.
Andy’s killer bait combo:
1 cup of Best Foods Mayonnaise
2 tbs of Salmon oil*
Run a line down the centre of the cage with a teaspoon in the middle.
*you can buy salmon oil from Connovation or Omega Plus
Suspend the bait from a wire or some string above the middle of the trap, directly above the pressure plate. If you’re using a granular or runny bait (such as seeds, mayonnaise, egg or tuna flakes) you can use a plastic bottle bottom to suspend it in, with small holes cut in the plastic to allow rainwater to drain out. If you are using an automated lure dispenser, make sure it drips in the centre of the plate, not onto one side of it. It helps to put a tiny bit of bait just inside each trap entrance; the pest will find and eat it and be enticed by that reward to look for more.
If you’re using meat, peanut butter or Nutella as bait it will only stay fresh for around a week in summer, so you’ll need to refresh it regularly. For the most effective presentation of long-lasting bait, we recommend the trap is fitted with a ZIP motolure, which automatically dispenses fresh mayonnaise bait daily for up to a year.
Remove and dispose of old bait (of whatever kind) a long way away from the trap, so the pests are not distracted from going into the trap by finding old food outside it. This is particularly important if you are using meat baits to target mustelids and feral cats, as they can be repelled by the smell of very rotten meat.
Enhancing trap effectiveness
Add a plywood base.
This has been scientifically proven to greatly improve the catch rate of a live catch trap. This is because it is a more natural surface for the pest to walk over than mesh. Also over time it traps and holds the scent of the bait and the scent of the pests that come into the trap. Pests are interested in the scent of other pests, and it is quite common to catch a pest of a different species just the day after after you have caught a stinky mustelid. If you add a wood base, make sure it does not touch the pressure plate at all, as shown below.
Add a sensor and wireless signalling.
A sensor that detects when the trap has tripped can be set to send out a wireless signal. This goes to Trap.NZ, which messages you on your phone to tell you which trap has gone off. You can include friends and neighbours in your Trap.NZ setup, so they also receive the message. This is a useful way of running a trap on a boundary, where you and a neighbour can take turns emptying it, or for allowing someone to look after your traps when you’re away.
We can supply sensors and help you set this up. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
How to kill a trapped pest
Do not put the cage in water to drown the animal. Drowning is a very inhumane killing method, and is a prosecutable offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The safest and most humane method is to use an air rifle (slug gun) to shoot the pest in the head. Air rifles do not require a licence to own and use, and an air rifle pellet will not ricochet off any metal part of the cage. Use an air rifle that is 700fps or more. It’s simpler not to use a suppressor as then the barrel fits through the bars. A shot vertically down between the ears, or from slightly behind and between the ears should be used for an instant painless dispatch.
Take your time in aiming to ensure the first shot is fatal. Always be ready to make a second shot as soon as possible just in case the pest moves suddenly to make your first shot off-target.
Hedgehogs may curl up in the trap, in which case it is impossible to accurately aim for the head. Tip the curled hedgehog out of the trap onto the ground and wait for it to uncurl to get an accurate shot.
If targeting rabbits, you can if you wish remove the rabbit from the trap and despatch it with a strong blow to the back of the skull with a hard implement.
You will often see twitching movements immediately after dispatch. This is normal and passes quickly. The animal is not suffering. The involuntary movements signal brain death. After 10-20 seconds the animal’s eyes will open wide and will not move if touched. Test by touching the eye to confirm that death has occurred.
Using any live capture trap has very specific obligations under the NZ Animal Welfare Act 1999, so please follow the rules below.
If your trap is not sensor-monitored you must visit the trap or get another person to visit it, on or before 12 hours after sunrise on every single day the trap is set.
If your trap is sensor-monitored to give immediate notification of a catch, you must visit the trap, or get another person to visit it, within 24 hours of notification of the capture of any animal.
The person who visits the trap must remove any live animal found in the trap and either attend to the care of the animal or, without delay, kill the animal humanely.
Due to the legal requirement to visit a set trap daily, we recommend fitting your traps with a sensor and wireless notification system which will send you and anyone else you nominate a phone notification as soon as a trap goes off. This means you only have to go to the trap when you’ve caught something.
Contact email@example.com to arrange this.