How to Set Live Traps

Live traps are an effective, humane and environmentally friendly alternative to poisons and kill-traps. Used properly, they can solve your pest problems. Inexpensive live traps, commonly used to catch small rodents and birds, are available online and at garden-supply centers. Havahart, Longworth, Sherman and Tomahawk are popular brands. Large animals can also be captured with live traps.


  1. Pick the size of the live trap to match your pest. The larger the pest, the larger the door and cage need to be. The Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences Extension Office recommends a 5x5-inch door for chipmunks, a 6x6-inch door for squirrels, a 9x9-inch door for rabbits and a 10x10-inch door or larger for raccoons.

  2. Read up on the habits of the animal to find the most effective spot to place the trap. Raccoons and rats are best trapped in the areas where they are active at night. For groundhogs and armadillos, set the trap close to the burrow entrance. Live traps for moles should be placed inside their active tunnels.

  3. Use bait to increase your chance of luring reluctant pests into the live trap. Entice shrewd animals by placing bait inside a cage with the door securely open. After a few days, set the trap with the food inside. The animal has now developed a false sense of security and will be easily trapped.

    The type of bait is important. The PSU College of Agricultural Sciences Extension Office suggests nuts and corn to trap chipmunks and squirrels, fresh vegetables for rabbits, and fish-flavor cat food or marshmallows for raccoons.

  4. Lethal traps can be dangerous to set, but live traps are much safer. Live traps, often referred to as box traps, are cages with doors that close automatically when the animal enters to eat the bait. Set the trap according to its instructions.

  5. Check your traps daily. Animals are often captured overnight. Relocate the animals as soon as possible. Release them at least 3 miles from the trap site, preferably where they won't be a nuisance to someone else. State lands and parks are ideal, but you might a permit to release animals there.


  • Handle live traps with caution: Captured animals may bite you.

About the Author

Victoria Weinblatt began writing articles in 2007, contributing to The Huffington Post and other websites. She is a certified yoga instructor, group fitness instructor and massage therapist. Weinblatt received her B.S. in natural resources from Michigan State University and an M.Ed. from Shenandoah University.