Module 8     Trapping

Learning Objectives

  1. Know sets used to capture animals on land.
  2. Know sets used to capture animals in and around water.
  3. Understand the principles and techniques used to increase selectivity of sets.
  4. Be aware of various ways to anchor traps and understand the importance of anchors.
  5. Identify parts of cable-restraint and foothold traps, and the primary ways they are used.

Terms to Know

Foothold trap   A type of trap that restrains an animal by holding the foot. It may be used for live capture or as part of a lethal trap set.
Snare   A trap consisting of a woven-wire cable that when tightened around the neck of an animal causes death.
Species-specific trap   A trap designed to reduce capture of non-target animals.
Trapping   Capturing wildlife with traps, deadfalls, and other devices commonly used to take wildlife.


Trapping is one of the most common and effective methods that NWCOs use for managing wildlife damage. Module 5 (Wildlife Control Methods) has a section on trapping that includes information useful for dealing with problem wildlife. The information in this module is designed for fur harvesters, but the principles also apply to NWCOs. The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies graciously provided the information. The entire Online Trapper Education Program with a print-on-demand manual is available. For additional information, visit

Setting a trap doesn’t make you a trapper

Fur trappers and NWCOs use some of the same equipment but important distinctions exist between these groups. Most NWCOs work in urban or suburban areas and often set traps inside a building or on the roof. Fur trappers usually trap in rural areas and more natural habitats.
In addition, both are forms of regulated trapping but different laws apply. The work of NWCOs isn’t restricted by trapping seasons, but the fur of the trapped problem animals cannot be sold or used unless that species is in season and the NWCO has a trapping license.

Selective Trapping Techniques

Trapping is a challenging activity. Each time you set a trap, make the set to catch a specific animal. This is known as selective trapping. Take steps to prevent catching pets or other non-target animals.
Trapping is a tool for NWCOs, not “the” tool. Just look in the truck! Yes, there are traps, but you also find catchpoles, hardware cloth, check-valves, expanding foam sealant, and chimney caps. That’s because NWCOs are there to solve a problem. To do this, they’ll probably trap animals, but not always; they might repel or exclude the animals.
Cage traps are used by NWCOs much of the time, while fur trappers most often use foothold or body-gripping traps. What NWCOs plan to capture differs, too. They usually target problem individuals and fur trappers don’t deal with birds or snakes at all. Only a few species are handled by both groups, such as raccoons, skunks, beavers, and muskrats.

Principles of Trapping

Trap location is the first consideration of selective trapping. Every species lives in a certain kind of habitat, eats certain kinds of foods, and has certain habits. Use this knowledge to find the best places to set your traps.
Sticks and rocks can help you make selective sets. Examples include:

  1. If you make a muskrat set at the edge of a stream, avoid ducks and other water birds by sticking branches out of the stream bank above the trap. Muskrats can pass below the branches.
  2. A rock cubby for raccoons will keep most dogs from approaching the trap (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Rock cubby for raccoons. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. Use a few small stones as foot guides at land sets to help make the animal put its foot on the trap.
  2. Avoid placing traps by trails used by people and domestic animals.

The use of bait, lure, and urine is a key for selective trapping. Animals respond to certain smells. Foods typically are attractive. Never use pet food for bait if pets are in the vicinity. Avoid other baits that might attract pets, such as fish that might attract cats. Glandular lures appeal to the mating urges of a specific species.
Best Management Practices (BMPs) for trapping in the US were developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2006, and has been updated. They are intended to inform people about traps and trapping systems considered to be state-of-the-art in animal welfare and efficiency. The BMPs are available on-line for about 20 species at
The size of the jaw spread and strength of the spring are important considerations. Pan tension also is important. Try 1 pound of pan tension for gray fox, 2 pounds for red fox or bobcats, and 4 pounds for coyotes. Use recommended traps and fine-tune them for the species you want to catch. Traps that meet BMP standards have been tested extensively for selectivity and efficiency.
Although target animals may use trails shared by people, pets, and livestock, look for more remote places to make sets. Avoid trapping on a property when you know that people will be using the area (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Trap on trails that are seldom used by people or domestic animals. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Responsible NWCOs make an effort to learn all they can about property on which they trap and who might be using the property for other activities. Find out who has permission to be on the property and when they will be there to help avoid problems. Avoid trapping in any area where people regularly exercise pets.
Public areas provide millions of acres of land and water where wildlife control may be necessary. During times of heavy public use, it is a good idea to focus on water trapping to avoid injuring pets, children, or other non-targets. Most animals are nocturnal, making it convenient to make sets in the evening and pull or trip them the next morning. Check with local managers, rangers, or wildlife officers to determine the most heavily used public areas and avoid them during times of heavy use.
Place traps so that they likely will catch a target animal (Figure 3). For example, at a dirt-hole set, try placing the trap 7 inches from the hole for fox, and 12 inches for larger coyotes. Consult the Wildlife Species Information section found later in this manual for details on trapping individual species.
Figure 3. Trap placement is an important consideration in selectivity. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Bend the triggers on body-gripping traps as needed to make them selective. Triggers can be shaped to allow otters to swim through large body-gripping traps and still catch beavers, which have larger bodies. Trappers often set body-gripping traps with triggers on the bottom to reduce damage to the upper part of the pelt. Figures 4a to 4f show some common trigger shapes used by trappers to increase selectivity.
Figure 4a. Small body-gripping trap for muskrats and mink. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 4b. Medium body-gripping trap for raccoons, opossums, and fishers. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 4c. Large body-gripping trap for beavers and otters. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 4d. Large body-gripping trap for beavers, NOT otters. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 4e. Large body-gripping for beavers, NOT otters. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 4f. Large body-gripping trap for beavers, NOT otters. Note that the triggers are cut short.
Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Water Sets

Beginner trappers should focus on water sets for muskrats, which are an excellent way to catch animals with minimal equipment, while gaining knowledge and experience.
Water trapping saves on startup expenses and avoids most non-target animals. It also avoids the need to dispatch animals held in footholds or other live-restraining devices. When a NWCO becomes skilled at trapping muskrats, additional equipment can be purchased to use for larger, more challenging animals such as foxes, coyotes, raccoons, beavers, and otters. Generally, equipment used for these animals is more expensive than the small traps used for muskrats.
Small body-gripping traps are good choices for trapping muskrats in shallow water. Set body-gripping traps at the entrance to a muskrat den, in a muskrat channel, or at the entrance to a pocket you create in a bank. Guarded foothold traps sometimes are used for muskrats where kill-type traps are not useable and the water is too shallow for a submersion set. The guard is designed to prevent muskrats from escaping.
Trappers, biologists, veterinarians, NWCOs, and researchers have evaluated many traps. Traps that meet BMP standards have been tested for:

  1. animal welfare,
  2. efficient ability to capture and hold animals,
  3. selectivity for animals,
  4. practical use in the field, and
  5. trapper safety concerns.

Water Set Procedures

Use body-gripping traps or foothold traps in submersion sets whenever possible for water trapping. The use of body-gripping traps and properly made submersion sets results in animal death, thus it is unlikely the animal will escape or have to be dispatched.
Submersion sets (Figure 5) frequently are called “drowning sets,” but semi-aquatic animals (muskrats, mink, river otters, and beavers.) cannot take water into the lungs, so they actually asphyxiate. Use submersion sets whenever possible for semi-aquatic animals such as muskrats, mink, beavers, and river otters. The sliding-wire technique (Figures 6a to 6g) often is used in submersion sets.

Figure 5. Submersion set.
Image courtesy of Silvertip Productions.

  1. Attach a sliding lock to the end of the trap chain (Figures 6a and 6b).

Figure 6a. The sliding lock points toward the deeper water. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 6b. The lock will prevent the animal from swimming back. Photo by Ohio DOW.

  1. Use a heavy object such as a rock for an anchor, or use a stake you can push into the stream bed in deep water (Figure 6c).
Figure 6c. Use a heavy object or a stake to anchor the sliding wire in deep water. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. Put the anchor or the stake in water deep enough to fully submerge the animal you are trying to catch
    (Figure 6d).
Figure 6d. Anchor in deep water. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. Bring the wire to the shoreline. Put the sliding lock on in the correct direction, so that it will slide down the wire toward deep water but not back the other way.
  2. Attach a wire to the anchor or stake, drive the stake in, and place the trap in position (Figure 6e).
Figure 6e. Attach wire to stake. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. Attach the free end of the wire to a stake. Drive the stake in the bank near the set (Figure 6f). The slide wire should be tight.
Figure 6f. Drive the stake in all the way.
Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. Make the set (Figure 6g). When the animal is trapped, it will swim to deep water and be pulled under in a short time.

Figure 6g. Place the trap in position.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

The tangle-wire technique also is used in submersion sets, using the following steps:

  1. Tie a length of wire to a long stake.
  2. Attach the trap chain to the wire.
  3. Stake the trap securely in deep water. Put another stake on the deep side of the first.
  4. When the animal swims, the wire will force it to swim in a circle, wrapping the wire around the 2 stakes. The weight of the trap soon will pull the animal under.


Runway Sets

When muskrats travel in shallow water, they create a runway in the mud. Body-gripping traps often are used in runways.

Pocket Set

A pocket set is one of the most effective water sets for muskrats. To make a pocket set, find a bank that is straight up and down. At the waterline, start digging a pocket into the bank at a level where the bottom will be about 2 inches below the water (Figures 7a and 7b).

Figure 7a. Dig a pocket at the water line. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 7b. Shave the bank on both sides. Photo by Ohio DOW.

The pocket should be about 6 inches in diameter for muskrats, and extend 1 to 2 feet into the bank and angle up. Put the bait or lure above water level at the back of the pocket (Figure 7c). Set a body-gripping or foothold trap of the correct size for the animal you plan to catch in front of the pocket (Figure 7d).
Figure 7c. Put bait in the pocket. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 7d. Place trap at the pocket mouth. Photo by Ohio DOW.

If you use a foothold trap, make it a submersion set with a sliding wire or tangle stake. The trap can be placed at the mouth of the hole in case the animal does not go all the way inside. If you are in an area where pets may be a concern, do not use meat, fish bait, or gland lures. To avoid pets, place the trap well inside the pocket, or make the set under cover such as low-hanging branches or exposed tree roots.

Trail Set (Blind or Natural Set)

Animals use the same trails at water’s edge on a regular basis. Find a narrow spot on the trail to make a set (Figure 8a). If you do not find a natural place for a trail set, use logs or rocks to narrow the path. Dig a shallow depression in the bank at the narrow spot (Figure 8b). Set a foothold trap in the depression (Figure 8c), bedding it firmly into the mud (Figure 8d). Use the sliding-wire or tangle-stake technique to make it a submersion set. Lures or baits are not needed on a trail set. Use a stick to guide animals into the trap (Figure 8e). Trail sets are effective for muskrats, raccoons, and beavers.

Figure 8a. Narrow area for a trail set.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 8b. Dig a flat depression in the water at the shoreline edge or place a log on the bank to guide animals into the water. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 8c. Place the trap in the depression. use a slide-wire or tangle-stake technique. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 8d. Bed trap so it does not wobble.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 8e. Place small sticks in the water to guide an animal into the trap. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Cubby and Guide Sets

Cubby sets are used for muskrats, mink and raccoons where the bank slopes too gradually to make a pocket set. If you find tracks on a sloping bank, make a cubby out of rocks, logs, or old boards (Figures 9a and 9b). Place bait or lure at the back of the cubby. Use your foot or a trowel to make a depression for your foothold trap at the entrance to the cubby (Figure 9c). Use a submersion trapping technique with a slide wire or a tangle stake.

Figure 9a. Make the sides of the cubby first. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 9b. Make the top of the cubby.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 9c. Place a trap at the entrance. Use bait or lure and submersion techniques with cubby sets. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Muskrat Den Set (Bank Hole Set)

Muskrats make dens in the banks of streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds just under the surface of the water (Figure 10a). Chewed pieces of vegetation floating on the water are an indication of a den nearby. Muskrats make lodges out of cattails or reeds in shallow water marshes. You will find openings around the bases of dens and lodges to make den sets.

Figure 10a. Den of a muskrat. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Body-gripping traps are the best choice for den sets (Figure 10b). Place sticks in the upper jaws of the trap to hold the trap in an upright position (Figure 10c).
Figure 10b. Muskrat den set with a body-gripping trap. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 10c. Den set with sticks holding the trap. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Climb Out Set (Feedbed or Slide Set)

Muskrats, beavers and otters leave distinct trails, called “slides,” at the spot where they exit and enter the water to feed or while travelling (Figure 11a). Place a foothold trap just under the surface where the slide enters the water. Use a tangle-stake or sliding-wire submersion rig (Figure 11b). No bait or lure is needed.

Figure 11a. Muskrat climb out set. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 11b. Set foothold in water with a submersion rig. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Float Set

Muskrats often climb onto floating logs. Take advantage of this habit by setting traps on logs or homemade platforms. Make float sets in water more than 1 foot deep. Use muskrat-sized foothold traps on a chain or wire. When the muskrat is trapped, it will enter the water and the weight of the trap will pull it under. Place branches or sticks over the top of the trap to keep birds from stepping on it.

Spring Run Set

The place where a spring run or small stream enters a larger body of water is a good place to trap muskrats or otters. Use a foothold trap and submersion techniques.

Obstruction Set

An obstruction set is a variation of a trail set. Look for a tangle of tree roots, log piles, or similar obstructions on the bank. Mink will enter the water at these points. You can bed a foothold trap in shallow water using a tangle-stake or sliding-wire submersion rig. No bait or lure is needed.

Scent Mound Set

Beavers make mounds of mud (Figure 12a) and mark them with castor, a yellowish, scented substance they secrete from glands.

Figure 12a. Beaver scent mound. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Set beaver-sized foothold traps submerged in 3 to 4 inches of water with a securely staked, sliding-wire submersion rig (Figure 12b). If beavers are in the area and you cannot find a scent mound, you can make one and apply castor-based lure. Scent mounds are most effective in spring but will work year-round.
Figure 12b. Beaver trap at scent mound.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Baited Beaver Set

A baited beaver set is made like a scent mound set, except that it is baited with fresh poplar or other food instead of castor lure.

Otter Latrine

Otters regularly visit certain spots, called latrines, to defecate near the water. The piles of otter scat contain fish scales and bones. Set a foothold trap in 3 to 4 inches of water at the spot where the otter travels in and out. Use a sliding-wire submersion technique.

Channel Set

Muskrats, mink, otters, and beavers follow paths under the water called channels, which are good places to set submerged body-gripping traps. The animals regularly enter confined spaces so they usually do not shy away from a body-gripping trap in their path. Place the trap at the bottom of the channel (Figure 13). If the channel is too wide, arrange sticks or brush to narrow the path and guide the animal into the trap. Use a dive stick across the top of the trap to make the animal dive below it (Figure 14). Use stakes and sticks to anchor the body-gripping trap and position it correctly in the channel.

Figure 13. Channel set for beaver.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 14. A dive stick is set above a channel set for beaver. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Under Ice Baited Beaver Set

Catch beaver under ice using foothold or body-gripping traps. Make sure the ice is safe. Making a set under the ice for beaver is not for beginners. Find someone experienced to help you. Always trap with a friend or family member, especially when you are using large body-gripping traps and working on ice.
Chop a hole in the ice near a beaver lodge/ den. New York has a minimum distance the trap must be set away from the lodge/den, so check the state regulations. Attach the trap and bait to a long pole and push it deep down into the mud under the water. The pole should extend well above the ice. Set body-gripping traps so that the trigger is on the bottom. A beaver that is trapped should not be able to reach the hole in the ice where it can breathe. Many trappers use stabilizers for body-gripping traps (Figure 15). Stabilizers save time, and avoid the need to cut poles and tie them together.

Figure 15. A 330 Conibear-style trap on a stabilizer.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

When setting body gripping style traps use the safety latches and a safety clip when positioning. Be sure to release latches and remove the clip before leaving the set.
Use sticks or poles to stabilize body-gripping traps in channels or in front of dens (Figure 16). Use a dry limb for the mounting pole, otherwise the beaver may eat it. Use fresh poplar for bait, if available. The cross-pole is lashed to the mounting pole above the ice to prevent loss of the trap. Always place sticks inside springs so they will not interfere with closing of the jaws. Place sticks beside traps to narrow a channel and guide the animal to the trap. Always center a body-gripping trap in a channel or in front of a lodge/den. Beavers swim to the middle.
Figure 16. Baited body-gripping trap for beaver.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Beavers also can be captured under the ice with a foothold trap (Figure 17). Attach a small platform to a large limb and wire a trap to the board. Attach the trap chain to the bottom of the limb to prevent the beaver from reaching the surface.
Figure 17. Baited beaver set using a foothold trap. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Land Sets

New NWCOs should have considerable experience trapping in water and help from an experienced mentor before trapping on land. You must know how to make selective sets, be prepared to humanely dispatch live animals, and know how to release non-target animals. The dirt-hole set, flat set, post set, and cubby set are commonly used for coyotes, red foxes, grey foxes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and other animals on land.

Land Set Procedures

Avoid setting traps near homes or places that are heavily used by people and their pets. Trappers should choose set locations that:

  1. minimize exposure to domestic animals and human activities,
  2. prevent entanglement with fences or other objects that might result in injury,
  3. are selective in capturing animals, and
  4. avoid trails used by people.

Three good places to make land sets include:

  1. brush rows and fence rows that guide animal movements and provide rodents, birds, and other food (Figure 18a),
  2. brush-filled gullies that provide prey and shelter (Figure 18b), and
  3. areas near farm lanes that intersect changing cover types or pass through brush rows (Figure 18c)

Figure 18a. Brush and fence rows. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 18b. Brush-filled gully. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 18c. Farm lane that intersects changing cover. Photo by Ohio DOW.

A NWCO must know how to anchor traps properly to hold animals and prevent injury.
Use stakes that are long enough to hold the largest animal that may be caught (Figure 19). Under most conditions, stakes should be 18 to 24 inches long.
Figure 19. Steel stakes are the best option for land sets. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Longer stakes are needed in sandy soils. For foxes and coyotes, a more secure method is required to prevent the animal from pulling a stake out of the ground. You may need to use a double-stake anchor (Figure 20) with the cross-staking method (Figure 21) for a better anchor. Cable stakes are another choice, but cable stakes take more time to dig out when you remove a set.
Figure 20. Double-stake anchors. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 21. Cross-stake method. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Shock springs are used on trap chains to help hold animals and prevent injuries. Use high-quality shock springs of sufficient strength for animals you are trapping. Swivels are necessary parts of your anchoring systems. A swivel (Figure 22) on the stake and two or more swivels on the chain will allow an animal to move freely without twisting the chain down to a point where it is easy for the animal to pull out of the trap.
Figure 22. Stake swivel (middle) and fasteners.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

In some terrain (rocky ground or hardpan), you may need to use drags or grapples that provide flex in the anchor system and enable animals to find cover nearby. Traps must be properly bedded for land sets to work. Traps should be set level or slightly below the level of the soil around it. The following steps outline the process for bedding a trap:

  1. dig a shallow hole slightly larger than the trap and deep enough to put the trap just below ground level (Figure 23a),
  2. drive stake(s),
  3. sift loose dirt into the bottom of the hole,
  4. press the set trap into the bottom of the hole with a twisting motion (Figure 23b),
  5. use the 4-point check so it does not wobble, and
  6. pack dirt around the outside of the trap.

Figure 23a. To bed a trap, dig a shallow hole slightly larger than the trap. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 23b. The trap should be pressed into the bottom of the hole with some loose dirt. Photo by Ohio DOW.

The 4-point check includes:

  1. press on the loose jaw,
  2. press on the other jaw,
  3. press on a lever or spring, and
  4. press on the other lever or spring.

If the trap is wobbly at any point, pack more dirt under that area (Figures 24 a, b) and repeat the 4-point check.

Figures 24a and b. Pack dirt under and around the trap to fix wobbles. Photos by Ohio DOW.

Most foothold traps set on land must, by law, be covered to hide them from animals. Use dirt, leaves, and grass to cover your traps (Figure 25a). The covering must not interfere with the action of the trap.
Figure 25a. Cover land traps with a few leaves or grass for raccoons or opossums. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Leaves and grass will work when you set a trap for raccoons or opossums, which are not as wary as foxes or coyotes. Make sure nothing gets under the trap pan, or the trap may not work. Likewise, make sure no objects are above the jaws that might keep the trap from closing properly. Crumple a piece of waxed paper and unfold it for a trap cover (Figure 25b).
Figure 25b. Cover the trap pan with crumpled waxed paper. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Use a sifter to cover your trap with fine dirt without getting small sticks or stones in your set (Figure 25c).
Figure 25c. Sift dirt over trap for an effective cover.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Dirt-hole Set

The dirt-hole set works best for foxes and coyotes but it also will take other animals. The following steps outline how to make a dirt-hole set:

  1. select a clump of grass or other natural feature for a backing at the set (Figure 26a),
Figure 26a. A clump of grass makes a fine backing to dig a hole that slants back. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. dig a small hole, about the diameter of a coffee cup, that slants back about 8 inches deep under the backing and put the dirt in your sifter,
  2. dig a bed for the foothold trap in front of the hole so the trap center will be about 7 inches from the hole for foxes or 12 inches for coyotes (Figure 26b),
Figure 26b. A bed for the trap is dug in front of the hole. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. stake the trap down in the middle of the bed (Figure 26c),
Figure 26c. The trap is staked down in the middle of the bed. Photo by Ohio DOW.
  1. set the trap and put it in the bed so that it is slightly below ground level (Figure 26d), and
  2. place a cover on the pan and sift dirt on top.

Figure 26d. The trap is slightly below ground level.

The hole itself will attract foxes and coyotes, but many trappers place bait in the hole (Figure 26e). The bait should be about the size of a golf ball. If you use bait, cover it with some light vegetation (Figure 26f). An animal will smell it, but the grass will prevent birds from seeing it and landing on your set. You can apply lure to the back edge of the hole and put some fox or coyote urine on the backing using a squirt bottle (Figure 26g). Do not get any bait, lure, or urine on the trap bed.
Figure 26e. Placement of bait in the hole may help to attract animals. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 26f. Grass makes a good cover to hide bait. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 26g. Lure applied on the edge of a dirt-hole set. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Flat Set

A flat set is most effective for foxes and coyotes, but it will take other land-dwelling animals too. The flat set is similar to a dirt-hole set, but no bait hole is dug. Instead, an attractor such as an old chunk of wood is used to get the animal’s attention. To make a flat set:

  1. place the attractor where an animal will see it (Figure 27);
  2. dig a bed about 6 inches in front of the attractor;
  3. stake the trap, bed it, and sift dirt over it; and
  4. place some lure or urine on the attractor.
Figure 27. A chunk of wood makes a good attractor for a flat set. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Post Set

A post set is made the same as a flat set, except that a broom-handle-sized stick is used as an attractor. The post should be about 8 inches tall. Use lure or urine on the side of the post nearest the trap.

Cubby Set

A cubby set on land is made the same way as a cubby set for water. Cubby sets are used for raccoons, opossums, bobcats, and other less wary animals. Cubby sets generally are not used for foxes or coyotes. The following steps outline how to make a cubby set:

  1. build a cubby (Figure 28a) and make certain the back is secure so the animal will enter from the front,
  2. dig a bed for a foothold trap at the opening,
  3. bed the trap at the cubby entrance and cover it lightly with leaves or grass (Figure 28b), and
  4. place appropriate lure or bait in the back of the cubby.

Figure 28a. Rocks can be used to build cubby sets. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Figure 28b. Bed the trap at the cubby entrance. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Additional Land Set Information

Enclosed Foothold Traps

Several types of enclosed foothold traps are highly selective for raccoons and opossums, which have small feet and long legs. Enclosed footholds have a small hole, with a trigger fairly deep within the enclosure. They are anchored and placed in the ground with baits that are attractive to raccoons, such as marshmallows, jam, honey, or anise. Place the bait in the bottom of the trap, below the trigger. Larger animals cannot get their feet through the opening and smaller animals cannot reach the trigger. When a raccoon attempts to remove the bait from the device, the trap is triggered and a small spring arm captures the foot. Enclosed foothold traps are specific for raccoons and opossums (Figures 29a to 29e).

Figure 29a. Duffer’sTM Trap set in the ground.
Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 29b. Egg™ Trap set in ground.
Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 29c. Duffer’s™ Trap. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 29d. Lil’ Grizz™ Trap. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 29e. Egg™ Trap. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Procedures for setting and using enclosed foothold traps vary. Some require disassembly and special tools. Some do not need to be placed in the ground. Enclosed foothold traps made of metal can be dyed to help conceal them and reduce the chance of theft. Some trappers prefer to leave them shiny as a visual attractant for raccoons.

Body-gripping Traps

The use of body-gripping traps (Figure 30) on land is highly regulated. Even when legal, body-gripping traps should be used with care to prevent capture of pets or non-target wildlife. Check the DEC web site for laws and regulations regarding body gripping traps in NY.

Figure 30. Body-gripping trap. Image courtesy of IAFWA.

Body-gripping traps can be enclosed in boxes to prevent non-target animals from getting caught. The size of the box, size of the opening, and placement of the box make this a selective method of trapping. Note the slots for the trap springs in this box being constructed to hold a body-gripping trap (Figure 31a). The wire hanging from the top of the box will hold a bait. The back is covered with wood or wire mesh to keep the animal from reaching the bait without going into the trap.
Figure 31a. Medium-sized body-gripping trap for a raccoon. Photo courtesy of IAFWA. Not a legal set in New York as pictured (box opening is too large).

Some trappers set box traps on logs (Figure 31b). Raccoons often walk on top of logs. Use sweet baits for raccoons. Do not use this set in a location where pets will find the trap. Body-gripping traps set on the ground or on a log as in Figure 31b must have an opening height and width of 10 inches or less and the trap must be recessed a minimum of 18 inches from the end.
Figure 31b. Box trap on a log. Photo courtesy of IAFWA. Not a legal set in New York as pictured (box opening is too large).

Wooden boxes for body-gripping can be wired to a tree (Figure 31c) or placed low to the ground, face down to prevent access to dogs. Dig a depression under the trap for an added attractant.
Figure 31c. Wooden box for a body-gripping trap wired to a tree. Photo courtesy of Silvertip Productions.

Body-gripping traps suspended off the ground, as in Figure 31c, can have only one entrance that has to face the ground, the box must be set so the entrance is no more than 6 inches from the ground, and the trap must be recessed a minimum of 4 inches.
Trappers have developed several methods for setting body-gripping traps in plastic buckets to prevent capturing non-target animals (Figure 31d). Cut slots in the sides for the trap springs. Suspend sweet baits inside the bucket, above the trap. The small holes allow the scent to spread.
Figure 31d. A 5-gallon bucket cut to contain a body-gripping trap. Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Buckets can be designed to mount on trees (Figure 31e).
Figure 31e. Bottom view of a square bucket with a body-gripping trap. Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Bucket entry holes must have a height of 6 inches or less, the spring notches must be eight inches minimum and the trap must be recessed a minimum of 4 inches. Cut holes in the side or the lid of the bucket (Figure 31f). Another option is to cover the opening with wire mesh that narrows near the entrance (Figure 31g). Make certain the wire mesh will not interfere with the springs of the trap when they release. Check with an instructor, state wildlife agency, or a local NWCO for details on safe, legal, and effective bucket sets that can be used in your area.
Figure 31f. Bucket with a cut lid.
Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 31g. Bucket with a wire-mesh entrance.
Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Leaning pole sets (Figures 31h and 31i) are used for martens and fishers. Enclose a No. 120 body-gripping trap in a box, or set directly on a pole for martens. Use meat, fish, or strawberry jam for bait and skunk essence for a lure. For fishers, use No. 160 to No. 220 body-gripping traps baited with raccoon or porcupine meat. Use fisher musk, fisher urine, beaver castor, or skunk essence for fisher lure. Make running pole sets under evergreen limbs to help keep snow from covering the traps.
Figure 31h. Leaning pole set with a box.
Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Figure 31i. Leaning pole set. Photo courtesy of IAFWA.

Body-gripping traps also can be set in enclosures made of natural materials, such as rocks or logs. The opening height must be 6” or less and the trap must be recessed a minimum of 8 inches.

Cable Devices

Special training and permits are needed for the use of cable restraints by NWCOs. Currently, the only legal use of cable restraints in NY is for beaver control. Check with the DEC for specific requirements.
Animals often travel the same trails and paths on a regular basis. Locations where the trail narrows are good places to set cable devices. Place cable devices in the center of the line of travel, so the targeted animal will walk into it. Animals are accustomed to walking through weeds and brush, so cable devices typically do not alarm them.
Non-powered Cable Device
A non-powered cable device uses the forward movement of an animal to place and close the loop on its body or neck (Figure 32).

Figure 32. Non-powered cable device from Missouri Cable-restraint Training Manual, copyright 2004 by the Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri.

Cable Device Components

Cable devices include several specific components, such as multi-strand steel cable (Figures 34a and 34b), locks, break away devices, stops, and swivels (Figure 34c). Various sizes are used, but 3/32 inch is popular. State regulations/permit conditions may require you to use a specific size of cable.

Figure 34a. Multi-strand steel cable used in modern cable devices. Image by Natalene Cummings.

Figure 34b. Cable strands (7×7, left; 7×19, right) used in modern cable devices. Image by Natalene Cummings.

Cable Devices

Relaxing Lock
A relaxing lock will move in either direction on the cable. When an animal pulls against the device, it tightens, drawing the loop smaller. If an animal does not pull against the device, it relaxes. Animals can be released unharmed from cable devices with relaxing locks set as restraining systems on land. Many types of relaxing locks are available.

Figure 34c. Cable device components. Image by Natalene Cummings.


A. relaxing lock
B. non-relaxing lock
C. J-hook breakaway device
D. end ferrule
E. stabilizer tube
F. maximum loop stop
G. inline swivel
H. end swivel
I. trap tag
J. deer stop

Breakaway Devices
Trappers can use breakaway devices with cable restraints (Figure 34d) to allow deer, livestock, or other large mammals to escape. Breakaway devices are parts of a cable system that allow an animal to escape from the loop if the animal pulls against it with sufficient force. Ferrules, S-hooks, and J-hooks are examples of breakaway devices.

Figure 34d. Breakaway devices A: Breakaway ferrule. B: Breakaway hook. Images by Natalene Cummings.

Trapping regulations often require the use of a “stop” to prevent a cable loop from closing below a certain diameter. Some trappers call them “deer stops.” Heavy-gauge wire, steel nuts, or crimped ferrules can be used to make stops and maintain the cable loop at a minimum or maximum diameter, or both. The maximum loop stop prevents larger animals from entering the device (Figure 34e). The minimum loop stop prevents the device from closing around the foot of a non-target animal. For example, if a deer steps in the cable loop, the minimum loop stop keeps the cable from closing tightly enough to hold it.
Figure 34e. Stops used in modern cable devices.
Image by Natalene Cummings.

Swivels are used in cable device anchoring systems to keep the animal from twisting and kinking the cable (Figure 34f).
Cable/End Ferrule
An end ferrule, also called a cable end, is crimped on the end of a cable to keep the strands from unraveling (Figure 34f). A ferrule also can serve as a breakaway device.
Figure 34f. Cable swivel and ferrule used in a modern cable device. Photo by Ohio DOW.

Anchoring Systems
Attach cable devices to earth anchors (Figure 34g) or steel stakes (Figure 34h). An alternative is to pass a heavy-gauge wire through a swivel on the end of the cable and loop it around a tree. This allows an animal to circle around the tree without having the cable wrap up. Stakes and loops must be strong enough to hold an animal that can pull against it with all four legs.
Figure 34g. An earth anchor used in modern cable devices. Image by Natalene Cummings.

Figure 34h. End swivel and steel stake used to anchor a modern cable device. Image by Natalene Cummings.

Stabilizing Wire
Use a stabilizing wire (Figure 34i), sometimes called a “pigtail,” to hold a cable loop in the proper position to capture an animal. Use 11- or 12-gauge wire for stabilizers. If the cable has a stabilizer tube, simply place it over the wire. If not, bend the wire to support the cable.
Figure 34i. Stabilizer wire (pigtail) used to hold a cable loop in proper position.
Image courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

Cable Treatment, Handling, and Storage

Treat cable devices prior to use to reduce light reflection and visibility, and remove undesirable odors. Simmer cable devices in a mixture of water and baking soda to remove the oil and dull the appearance to make the cable devices less visible. Use 4 tablespoons of baking soda for every 12 cable devices with enough water to keep the devices covered for 1 hour of simmering. After simmering, add more water to the container until it overflows and drains the scum off the top, thus preventing re-contamination of the cable devices with oil when you lift them out. For a darker appearance, simmer cable devices a second time with a few logwood crystals. Do not make cable devices too dark, as they will be too visible. An alternative to using logwood crystals is to simmer the cable devices in water with bark, moss, plant leaves, or spruce needles collected from the trapping areas.
Use a strong wire to remove the cable devices from the hot water. Let them dry. When the cable devices have cooled, you can handle them with gloves that are free of any scent. Hang the devices in a dry place where they will not absorb unnatural odors.
Prepare enough cable devices to last the entire season. Discard cables that have captured an animal. Cables will kink after a catch, and possibly weaken. A kinked cable will not close smoothly. Inspect all other parts of the cable devices for damage or weakening before using them again.

Cable Devices for Non-lethal Sets

Even when using relaxing locks, cable devices can be lethal if set locations are not chosen carefully. Set cable devices in areas where captured animals cannot contact or otherwise entangle in brush, fences, or other objects that allow the cable loop to tighten. Prevent animals from reaching anything they could climb over, suspending them in the device with their feet off the ground. Animals caught in cable devices are unlikely to pull hard enough to hurt themselves, unless they tangle the cable in something.
Non-lethal use of cable-restraints requires that captured animals have freedom of movement within the restraint circle, which is the area around the cable-device that extends the length of the cable 360° around the anchor point. It is helpful to use shorter cables to prevent animals from reaching anything that could cause a problem.

Cable Devices for Aquatic Animals

Cable devices can be set for beaver on land (Figure 35), or in water (Figure 36).
Figure 35. Cable device set on land for beaver.
Photo by Ohio DOW.
Cable devices commonly are used by NWCOs to capture beavers. Cable loops for beavers set in water should be 9 to 10 inches in diameter with a third of the loop above the water line. Set cable devices in water to increase selectivity. Cable devices must be set as live-restraint traps in water and anchored on land to allow the animal to leave the water.
Figure 36. Cable device set in water for beavers.
Photo by Ohio DOW.

Cable Devices for Animals on Land

Set non-powered cable devices to catch beavers around the body (Figure 37). Cable loops for beavers set on land should be 9 to 10 inches in diameter and the bottom of the loop should be 2 to 3 inches off the ground.
Figure 37. Set made to capture beavers on a beaver trail on land. Photo by Ohio DOW.
Do not set cable devices in trails used by people, domestic animals, or deer. To avoid capturing deer, place a limb or pole horizontally just above the cable loop to make deer jump over the top. Keep the jump pole low or deer will try to go under it. Avoid using limbs or poles in a way that could entangle a captured animal. Do not anchor jump poles. Poles should easily fall out of the way when an animal is caught.
Cable devices work best in animal trails or blind sets where animals encounter them as they travel, preferably where paths narrow.