Animal trapping - rats, mice, possums, snakes, birds

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So you have a problem with a pesky possum, rats, mice, snakes, birds, or stray cat? Well here are some practical tips on how to trap pest animals and more effectively deal with the problem once and for all. There is far more to trapping pest animals than just buying and setting a trap. Sure you may just may get lucky and catch something if you do this, but for your control measures to be really effective you need both the correct equipment and the know how to use the equipment correctly.

The more you understand about the animal you are trying to trap the more effective your efforts will be. Knowing whether the animal lives by itself or in groups. Knowing when the animal is most active as well as its activity patterns. Knowing what the animal likes to eat. And finally knowing how to dispose of the trapped animal are all considerations that will help make the process go smoothly.

Population Dynamics

Under normal circumstances wild animals self regulate their populations in line with the availability of food and shelter in any given area. In doing so they protect their population from overextending and collapsing. Any individuals removed from a population will generally be quickly replaced, but as most animals have more than one young, the replacement numbers can be higher than the original number lost. So in dealing with a pest animal population it is important that all efforts be expended to ensure that the pests are eradicated completely or otherwise you may end up with more pests than you started with.

Control the Problem not just the pests

Most of the pests species found around houses are there for a reason. If you can understand why those pests are there in the first place and remove that reason then any trapping efforts you undertake are going to be more fruitful. The combination of removing the problem and the pests is also going to result in a longer term resolution of the problem.

As mentioned above food and shelter are two key requirements of pest animals so by cleaning up rubbish, removing food sources, and removing water sources you are making the environment less attractive to the pests as well as making it much easier to attract the pests into a trap.

Pre-bait before you set any traps

In most cases pre-baiting is going to get you much better results than just buying a trap and sticking it somewhere. Pre-baiting essentially means that you feed the pest animal at the location that you intend to do your trapping. By free feeding the animal with the bait that you will be using during trapping you are achieving the following:

a. You will establish a feeding pattern with that animal that will bring it to the trapping location in order to get the reward of the food that you have left;

b. You will be ensuring that the animal is indeed present in the area before wasting any efforts on trapping;

c. You will give the target animal confidence by rewarding it for taking the food;

All of the above will help you once you are ready to set your traps and make your trapping efforts more productive. Your target animal will be accustomed to coming to the trapping area and getting the reward of a treat of food. The reward they get will outweigh any concern that they may have with your presence in the area as well as making them familiar with the feed source that you will be using as bait.

This single step will help increase the effectiveness of any trapping that you undertake more than any other factor.

Overcome trap shy animals

Animals that are trap shy may never enter a trap as the risks outweigh any rewards for doing so. Also trap shy animals can act more tentatively around the trap mechanism which can result in them setting off the trap prematurely without getting caught. An animal that gets spooked by a closing trap may never return.

In most cases the placement of the trap is going to be a concern for any animal as it is something that they are not familiar with. If you have prepared well by pre-baiting then you will be ensuring that the target animal is active in the area that you are placing the trap and you will have already built up some confidence in that animal that there is a reward for the risk.

Place the trap in the area but do not set it for a couple of days. Allow the pests to continue to take the feed treats from on and around the trap so that once again they become accustomed to the trap being there and no longer see it as a risk. Once the animals have become familiar with the bait and the trap then it is time to set the trap and catch your quarry.


Unless you are in a rural area, any mice that you see in or around your house are more than likely going to be the introduced House Mouse Mus musculus. These introduced mouse species have adapted far better than their native couterparts to living in close proximity to humans. There is no easy way to visibly distinguish introduced mice from native mice so dont be misled by suggestions to the contrary.

House Mice are very sociable and generally live in small to large groups. Mice need access to a good and reliable food source which may be in the form of food scraps, foods left out for pets etc. To deal effectively with these pests it is advisable to remove any other food sources when traps are set to ensure that the mice go for your trap.

Multicatch mouse traps work well with mice as they will readily follow the smell of other mice. So once you have caught one mouse, catching the others will prove much easier. There are a range of mouse traps on the market but non-electric, non-battery operated ones are generally the best choices.

Mice will generally follow a regular path from their house to the food source. This path will usually track along a wall as this gives them more security than being out in the open. So it is generally best to set a mouse trap against a wall and / or near some other form of cover as this is where the mice will more easily come across the trap.

In areas where mice are in plague proportions a multi-catch trap can be a convenient way of dealing with the problem. In order to limit the numbers of mice entering the trap at any one time it is generally best to set the trap out in the open rather than near cover as mice are less likely to break cover in any numbers and you can catch the ones that do break cover one by one.

The best bait for mice is peanut butter.

Many mice traps work on the principle of a funnel entrance hole that gets smaller as it enters the trap or a flap door that closes behind each mouse that enters the trap. Some have a trigger and barrell mechanism.


Native rats are generally not a problem in urban areas and any problems with rats generally revolve around the introduced European Black (House or Roof) Rat Rattus rattus and Norweigan Brown (Sewer) Rat Rattus norvegicus. Black rats like to climb so can be found in roofs, wall cavities, sheds etc. Brown rats can climb but are generally found at ground level in burrows, under houses, in drains etc.

Rats are not generally as sociable as mice and will generally live a solitary life or in small groups of less than half a dozen animals. Rats generally do not come inside houses and are more at home in our gardens, but an exposed fruit bowl on a dining room table or kitchen bench can be a tasty treat that will bring rats inside.

Rats tend to be more wary than mice and can prove more difficult to trap. The pre-baiting technique mentioned above is the best way to overcome this natural shyness and help to ensure trapping effectiveness.

As with mice rats will generally have a trail that they follow when feeding so placement of the trap on or close to one of these trails is also going to help increase the effectiveness of your trapping.

Most rat traps work on the principle of a door that springs closed when the trap is triggered.


Possums are protected by law in Australia so check with your local wildlife authorities about the rules for trapping and dealing with pest possums. The rules vary from state to state.

There are two types of possum generally encountered around human dwellings being the Common Brush Tailed Possum and the Common Ringtailed Possum.

Brush Tailed Possums are generally solitary animals that naturally live in hollows so have adapted well to house ceilings and other cavities in dwellings. Brush Tails are generally the culprit when it comes to the scenario of possums in the roof. Brush Tailed possums can also be a problem eating flowers, fruits and vegetables in gardens as these are often located at a convenient distance from their rooftop home. Brushtails rarely make a hole to enter the roof they access the roof through existing holes. The only way to so solve the problem of a possum in the roof is to find and repair any and all access holes to prevent the possums from getting back in again. There are standard size possum traps available for catching possums and these can be baited with apple. It is best to place the trap inside the roof to make sure you catch the correct possum. Once caught the possum needs to be dealt with according your state government regulations.

Ringtailed Possums generally live in small family groups that live in shrubbery in the garden. They are becoming more and more common inside roof cavities and wall spaces but traditionally would not enter buildings. They can be caught with a standard possum trap baited with apple but are more difficult to catch than Brushtails and as they generally live in groups the trapping work takes longer. Also as they can fit through smaller holes than Brushtails they are more difficult to proclude from the roof.

Napthalene flakes and camphor in the ceiling does not deter possums. Bright lights placed in the ceiling space will not deter possums. Placing a possum box in a tree will not result in a possum leaving your roof of its own accord to live in the possum box. Trapping and relocating possums will not solve a problem with possums in the roof. The only way to solve the problem is to fix your roof and there are professional possum catchers that can help you with this work.

Most possum traps work on the principle of a door that springs closed when the trap is triggered.


Contrary to popular advice it is actually possible to trap snakes but it is not commonly done. Once again every state has its own regulations as far as trapping snakes so refer to those organisations as a first step.

Snakes can only be trapped with live food, and mice work well for this purpose due to their smell. Animal welfare rules come in to play when using live bait as the live bait are considered to have equal rights as the predator as far as animal welfare goes.

In most cases it is far better to deal with the reasons behind why you have a snake in the first place rather than trying to trap and remove the snake. Snakes will be attracted to gardens that offer, shelter, food, and water. By cleaning up a garden, removing rubbish that could house mice, and removing and water sources your chances of getting a snake in your garden in the first place and significantly lessened.

Snake traps work on the priniciple of a funnel entrance hole that gets smaller as it enters the trap.


Bird traps work on the priniciple of a funnel entrance hole that gets smaller as it enters the trap or swinging one way doors.


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