The 10 Best Animal Traps
This wiki has been edited 18 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Anyone who’s ever spent the entire spring preparing a beautiful garden full of fruits and vegetables only to see it ravaged by unwanted pests will tell you that an animal trap can be a lifesaver. The items on this list make that literally true for the critters inside as well, as they allow you to relocate them in an efficient, safe, and humane manner. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best animal trap on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Animal Traps
These explorers needed a reliable way to catch food, and they used the furs and pelts of trapped animals to finance their expeditions.
The first known use of traps dates back to the Neolithic era, sometime around 5500 B.C.E. People around this time would use crude nets to ensnare their victims, or disguise pits with the intention of chasing prey into them. None of these tactics were terribly elaborate, but what was more important is that they were effective.
Soon, however, the widespread use of weapons — first spears, and later bows and arrows — caused trapping to fall out of favor. Hunting had one major disadvantage, however: it was incredibly time-consuming. With trapping, you could set multiple snares and then check them at a later date, giving you time to do other things, such as farm and, apparently, graffiti cave walls.
Around the 16th century C.E., new technology — specifically the steel-jawed trap — allowed hunters to securely hold animals until such time as they could be harvested, so the meat would stay fresh. The first spring-loaded mousetrap was invented around this time, as well, and people began to trap and kill pests in addition to food.
It was in the American West that trapping would come into its own, however. Native American tribes had long used pits, snares, and the like to hunt animals, but as Europeans came flooding into the continent and the idea of Manifest Destiny took hold in Americans, more and more people began venturing into uncharted — and untamed — territory.
These explorers needed a reliable way to catch food, and they used the furs and pelts of trapped animals to finance their expeditions. Fur trading outposts began to crop up all over the western United States and Canada; these stations allowed settlers to trade with native tribes, as well as establish territorial claims for their countries.
Beyond aiding with exploration, trappers and mountain men helped pave the way for settlers to follow them. By keeping local wildlife populations under control, they enabled farms and other settlements to become established without constantly being threatened by dangerous animals.
Once the West was finally tamed, trapping began to recede in the popular consciousness again. Today, most trapping is done for pest control purposes, or with the intention of relocating the animal to a safer location. The use of traps is heavily regulated, and the only interaction the average person will have with one is when they need to catch that pesky raccoon that's digging up their flower bed.
Of course, if cartoons have taught us anything, it's that the raccoon will hilariously turn the trap around on you somehow, so be careful.
Tips For Successful Trapping
Below are some tips you can use to ensure that your trapping efforts are successful — and that you don't end up accidentally snagging the neighbor's cat (unless you really want to, that is).
The first step is to determine what exactly you're dealing with as different animals require different traps.
The first step is to determine what exactly you're dealing with as different animals require different traps. Tunnels indicate the presence of rodents, while knocked-over garbage bins are a telltale sign of raccoons. If your taller plants are being nibbled on, you might have deer to deal with, so you'll either need a different strategy or much bigger traps.
Once you know the approximate size of the pests you're going to be trapping, purchase a model that's big enough to fit them — but not much bigger. You don't want them to have a lot of room to move, as they can injure themselves trying to escape, not to mention hurt you when it's time to relocate them.
Leave the trap somewhere along the animal's likely path, such as near its burrow or close to its food or water source. Make sure that it's away from any high-traffic area, or you'll spook the little critter and end up catching nothing.
From there, it's simply a matter of choosing a bait they won't be able to resist and setting the trap. Check it frequently; you don't want to leave the animal in there too long, as it can become terrified or even die. Likewise, if you're not catching anything, you'll want to know as soon as possible, so you can re-think your strategy.
Oh, and be sure to wear a coonskin cap and refer to yourself as "Trapper" the entire time, or no one will take you seriously.
How To Handle A Trapped Animal
Before we share tips for handling an animal you've captured, it's probably important that we remind you that the best way to handle a trapped animal is to not handle a trapped animal. Call the professionals, such as your local animal control service.
After all, you started that garden to improve your health, so the last thing you want to end up growing is the Hanta virus.
If you insist, however, be extremely careful. You may have the best of intentions for the trapped little fella, but he doesn't know that — and he's likely to try every method at his disposal to discourage you. Wear heavy gloves, and keep any exposed skin well away from the animal's claws and jaws.
No matter how cute the creature — or how heavy your gloves — do not pet or handle it in any way. You don't know what diseases it might be carrying, and many of them (like rabies) are no joke.
If the animal shows any indication of being sick, don't release it at all. Instead, call animal control and let them deal with it.
Once the animal has been released from your trap, disinfect the entire thing with a bleach solution. This is for your safety as well as that of future animals, so don't skimp on this step. Once you're finished, wash your hands thoroughly.
While trapping and releasing animals can be a humane way to deal with a pest problem, it's not without its dangers. Whatever you decide, be careful, and keep your own safety as your primary consideration. After all, you started that garden to improve your health, so the last thing you want to end up growing is the Hanta virus.
Statistics and Editorial Log