How to live trap a squirrel

It is not recommended that you trap and move squirrels. It may be illegal in your state, and since squirrels have teeth and may carry disease, it could be dangerous. But if you MUST trap a squirrel to move it, say, to a point a few blocks away, I suggest using a Havahart trap. Havahart traps can also be used to trap other animals such as mice, or larger critters, depending on the size of the trap.

The best way to trap a squirrel is to use the proper bait and a modicum of patience. Also, you must be diligent if you plan to trap the animal live. therefore, place the trap in an area where you can check it regularly (or see it from a distance) but where it is also a bit out of the way and, above all, out of the sun. A squirrel will die in a short time if trapped in a sunny area.

There are two kinds of traps, one with one door, one with two, and they come in various sizes. Basically, you should browse around for the appropriate Havahart trap

In all cases, the trap consists of a wire cage with a bait holding table on the inside, and one or two trap doors that will drop if the bait table is moved even a little. Once the doors drop, they should remain held in place by a bar that falls down with them.

If the animal you are trapping is too larger for the trap, the door will fall onto the animal and it may escape before it is sealed shut. You may need to switch to the larger trap. If in doubt about the size of your quarry, go for the larger trap ... it will be effective in trapping smaller critters, up to a point.

If the squirrel is in your attic or elsewhere in your house, be aware that after you've trapped the adult squirrel, you may have babies hiding away somewhere. The best way to get rid of such a squirrel may be, if you can manage it, to disassemble or damage the nest to the extent that the mother squirrel carries the young off on her own. Then clean up whatever is left behind and seal off the nest entrance. That will save a lot of trouble and the moral conundrum you may face when left with a bunch of orphaned squirrel-pups.

Anyway, set the Havahart trap out of the sun but not too close to cover, if possible. Squirrels are more comfortable being in the open, as their main defense strategy is to remain vigilant and run to a tree if anything goes wrong. The base of a tree is an excellent place to put the trap if you can manage it.

Get a bunch of unshelled peanuts from the grocery store. Scatter a dozen peanuts around the trap, put two or thee just outside the entrance way of the trap, and then a handful of unshelled AND shelled peanuts on the trigger plate.

When using the two door trap, put the peanuts near the MIDDLE of the trigger plate so the squirrel is more likely to step on the edge of the plate to get to the peanuts.

Remember to check the trap frequently. If there is a period of time over which you can't be checking, spring it, but leave the trap in place and keep the peanuts in and around it .... to lull the squirrel into a state of complacency.

If you screw up and let an animal die in the trap, remove the animal and wash the trap with warm water. Don't use soap. Let it air out. I assume, guess, believe based on experience but no real scientific knowledge (so this may not be true) that traps that have had dead critters in them for a while do not attract as many fresh critters.

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Or you could move to Wyoming where youn can just shoot them.

Also, don't put in a spot where, if it rains, the trapped animal could be in serious distress! The first time I used the trap to re-capture one of my cats, the trap instead trapped a skunk. Poor little bugger tried to keep himself dry by digging as much as he could through the links on the underside of the trap. When I got to him next morning, he was so happy to be out of the trap, he ran as far as he could without looking back to see who captured him. Kitty never came home. :(

If you need to transport the trapped squirrel in your car to where you will release it, put the trap plus squirrel in a big plastic bag (open at the end) to protect the car. The squirrel will be spitting mad.

I recommend transporting it a lot farther than a few blocks, to make sure it doesn't come back. A forest with hungry coyotes is good.

Do not remove the squirrel from the trap to put it in another container for transport. Keep it in the trap until you are ready to release it.

Don't release the squirrel near any dogs. The dogs will run you and anyone else over getting at the squirrels

Use a cardboard box to contain the trap, which you should avoid putting in the cabin... if you have a trunk, use it.

In the UK, if you trap a grey squirrel it is illegal to either keep or release it - it has to be killed.

Red squirrels on the other hand are pretty stringently protected.

By Andrew G. (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

I believe your English gray squirrel is the introduced American gray squirrel. Your red squirrel, which is the same genus as our gray squirrel, is not introduced. Our red squirrel, which is not the same genus as our grey squirrel is not introduced either.

Out at the ranch a rock squirrel had her babies under the house. I was out there for a few days and had a bunch of old shelled pecans. In a couple of days she would sit on my knee and eat pecans. She became very tame and would stretch out on the cool concrete porch in the shade during the heat of the day. I was sort of surprised because rock squirrels are ordinarily very shy and spooky compared to tree squirrels. If I had had the time to spend to get her and her babies to where they would come with me, I would have taken her and her babies to where I now live (still in the country) and built them a rock house out of my abundant rocks.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Apr 2010 #permalink

If I had had the time to spend to get her and her babies to where they would come with me, I would have taken her and her babies to where I now live (still in the country) and built them a rock house out of my abundant rocks.

Yeah, but don't do that ...

I used to work in an industrial building big enough to have a serious indoor pigeon problem. One of the production people discovered that there was a pest control company running a long-term pigeon control activity using baited traps up on the top floor, and campaigned for assurance there was no animal cruelty going on.

Her concerns were fully addressed by management, when they explained the contract with the pest-control outfit, which specified that the pigeons were live-trapped and relocated elsewhere.

I couldn't believe anyone involved was able to keep a straight face while discussing the relocation of pigeons.

Relocate them under under the tires of my truck.

I don't have any pets. But I wouldn't mind having a pet squirrel because it (they) would be low maintenance. I very seldom see squirrels here, even though my next door neighbor raised some.

Back before the drought of the '50's, occasionally mother would take the 22 and get a couple of squirrels for lunch.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Apr 2010 #permalink

I believe your English gray squirrel is the introduced American gray squirrel. Your red squirrel, which is the same genus as our gray squirrel, is not introduced. Our red squirrel, which is not the same genus as our grey squirrel is not introduced either.

Want to try that again?


By Blind Squirrel (not verified) on 17 Apr 2010 #permalink

This type of trap is very good. It is the standard for field biology work when you have to catch small mammals.

You may look at the various sizes and be tempted to use one which is "plenty big" instead of "just right". Don't. The amount of pressure needed to spring the trap is different. A squirrel can happily trod on the trigger for a larger trap without springing it.

Also, the "in shade part" is important if you actually want to catch the animal alive. Even well shaded, the frequency you need to check the traps is higher than you probably think. Most small animals do not handle stress well and are metabolically more sensitive than you would guess (they overheat easily).

All that said... killing common squirrels is perfectly fine. They are pests / varmints in the technical and legal sense almost everyplace. You could probably live catch (to make sure you actually have a squirrel instead of some by-catch) and then rig a sort of killing jar out of a big cardboard box or trash-bag you can put the trap in (fill with carbon monoxide or other relatively human poison). Another, potentially less humane, option is just to submerge the trap in water.

BS: I took a full dose of my pain killers, drifted off somewhere, wrote that comment, then double checked it and I was certain then and I'm certain now that it is technically correct.

What I left off is a rant I've been working on about colors. You know, there are Minnesotans who think that there are black bears and brown bears in this state? They think that because ... well, there are. But they are all the same species, and the bears that we call brown bears are a different species. Strangely, polar bears arise within the clade of brown bears, so among the brown bears there is a form of brown that is actually white, and a different species, while here in Minnesota we actually have white black bears, which are not the same species as the brown bears. And squirrels. We have white squirrels too. Which are gray.

I hope this is all clear now. That is all.

You are correct.


By Blind Squirrel (not verified) on 17 Apr 2010 #permalink

We have a small population of white squirrels here too (in Toronto). A few of them live in the grounds of one of the psychiatric hospitals, leading to the great postcard slogan: "If you see white squirrels, you're not nuts!"

They are really albino grey squirrels and thus heavily selected against, I believe (being blind and more visible to predators), which is why they are so rare.

There is a population o white squirrels around Olney, Illinois. I don't think they are albinos in the usual sense. There was a study published in the Illinois Stat Academy of Sciences Transactions which said, based on several year's study, that the populations of white and normal squirrels met Hardy-Weinberg predictions, and the population was stable.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Apr 2010 #permalink

Do not feed squirrels roasted nuts.

Manhattan backyards do not usually have squirrels, so I was not sure what creature was responsible when I found my flower pots violently emptied, and the contents torn apart and thrown about my patio -- but sure enough, a wayard squirrel soon put in his appearance. I gave him some nuts to save the remaining potted plants.

This became a nice morning routine, feeding the squirrel while I had breakfast. When the fancy nuts ran out, I bought a bag of unshelled peanuts and offered one to 'my' squirrel, who was hand tame by then. He shelled the peanut, nibbled, looked at my in disbelief, marched over to me, threw the offending peanut to the ground, and leaped on me to find his 'real' food. I am originally a country girl -- dealt with all sorts of animals, but a livid squirrel intent on a body search was beyond anything I had ever imagined.

I fled. Then I realized that an unroasted peanut is really a bean, whereas I had been feeding him roasted peanuts and fancy nuts. So I went back to the store and bought him roasted peanuts, which he accepted with grace and pleasure. We continued on in peace for much of the rest of the summer. One day, he was no longer around -- we hoped he had moved back to Central Park.

sorri y'all but cant imagine wat ye all r smokin' these daze but i've bn trappin' the squirries for nigh on many a year, ya hear. hav alwys used havaheart dble dr w/crunchy peanoot booter. prob hav caught nigh on prob say 3-500 of dem critters, the grey tree 1's of course. dont kno where y'all got the idea that a few blks move is sufficient. perhaps whoevr said that shld consider seekg mental assistance. has to b @ least 3mi preferrably ovr a body of wawa & they'll nevr retn. i kno cause i paint the tails w/dayglo orange & hav nevr seen them agin, period. however, a few times i culdnt get to the trap qwik enuf & they died cause they exhaust/ovrheat themselves tryin' to git out. its only happened maybe three x's ovr say a 3yr period. its best to eyeball'em rite away tho just to b humane of course. no point in hurtin'em if u dont hav to. some people do eat them tho but not me. they r very property destructive creatures. i've seen them literally rip apart the interior of an attic in just 1 summer season. by the by, they sort of hibernate ovr a really cold wintr which is more correctly referred to as a state of torpor. & yes eyeball their fav tree to play in & place the trap rite @ the bottom & u'll nevr fail. i've actually gotten 2 @ once several x's. so long bunkies, unca ken

By KEN STEINBERG (not verified) on 18 Mar 2013 #permalink

I appreciate the discussion here on live trapping. Making effort to live trap shows an evolved capacity for compassion a sense of humility toward nature and an understanding of stewardship. Making cavalier comments about shooting and killing is not germaine to this discussion and is similar to the interjections of adolescents into adult conversations for only the sake of shock value and promoting a fragile self image puffed with bravado. Please be quiet and let the adults talk. Thank you.

By Christian Todd (not verified) on 03 Apr 2014 #permalink

Wow Mr. Todd. I suppose you don't think squirrels are a type of vermin do you?

Tell you what. I'll gather up all of our squirrels and deliver them to your house so you can be this grand steward of squirrel/human relations. They'll be quite happy happy with your lack puffy bravado.

While they're their you can show them your unicorns that blow rainbows out of the bums!

By realistic rancher (not verified) on 07 Aug 2014 #permalink

What disgusting idiots. If you want to discuss killing squirrels learn to Read. This is a discussion about Humane traps Realistic rancher go to a serial killer site. There you can really get off. There is a direct collation between psychos and the killing of small animals. Caught you! Get lost!

Why do you have to kill or trap squirrels why don't you just fix your house or roof so they cant get in.

I had no idea that it could be illegal to be transporting squirrels in some states, luckily it isn't in mine. I have a really annoying squirrel in my back yard who digs up my flowers, chews up my garden, and wreaks havoc on my yard. He is constantly taunting me in my own backyard, and I've had enough. These cages are exactly what I need to get this squirrel out of my yard humanely and safely.

By Ronald Swanson (not verified) on 10 Mar 2015 #permalink

Ronald, if you are in Utah you should know there are regulations.

Very interesting article. Squirrels can be a nuisance and so they should be trapped to avoid them from causing any more issues.

When you start to pet a squirrel from its birth never leave it uncared. As they will not be aware of predators. Have the pet in captivity. Else it would end in becoming a meal of a predator or will get smashed by you. As it's more affectionate, it will come to your bed waiting for you to wake-up. When you twist yourself in bed it will be the victim.

By Jesse Matthew Isaac (not verified) on 06 Sep 2016 #permalink

I came here trying to find out how long squirrel live in a trap. I had an exterminator put a trap to catch what I thought was two mature squirrel living in my soffit. Sadly, it turned out to be a family. The trap now has three babies, one baby somehow got loose and is climbing on the bricks. The mother, I can see her tummy has been nursing, is running all around the roof trying desperately to free her brood. I'm not normally an emotional person but this is breaking my heart. I called the company and they promised to get here in the morning. I wish I knew for sure they'll survive the night. I get they are rodents but I'm not into killing anything you're not going to eat unless it's causing an unsafe condition.

By annoyed homeowner (not verified) on 29 Sep 2016 #permalink

This is bad advice. If you catch a squirrel you should definitely kill it rather than drop it off a few blocks away which makes it somebody else's problem. And I'd guess it will come back anyway. The squirrels in my neighborhood go pretty far to find and bury things. And if squirrels carry diseases, why wouldn't you eradicate them from your neighborhood? The advice on this blog has nothing to do with "science " so it should be deleted.

By Squirrel hunter (not verified) on 27 Dec 2016 #permalink

I used to mark squirrels' tails with fluorescent paint before releasing them. If I did not release them at least 5 miles away they would come back. Squirrels down South are notorious for invading attics in the fall and doing thousands in damage to electrical wiring. Instead of transferring the pests to other houses I now take care of the problem quickly and humanely. A quick shot with a pellet gun dispatches the squirrel immediately. Squirrel is quite delicious. After dispatching them I usually skin and braise them in a rich brown sauce. You haven't lived until you've tasted a tender bushy tail!

Nothing a good 22 caliber pellet gun won't fix in a hurry. I say pop their little asses!

By Tre Gumbush (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 #permalink

And man, umm, umm, they sure is tasty eatin!

By Tre Gumbush (not verified) on 26 Jul 2017 #permalink