How to Trap Squirrels | Squirrel Trapping
How to Trap a Squirrel
While they might appear harmless, squirrels can do plenty of damage to your property. Remove unwanted
squirrels the most humane way with a live squirrel trap. Below, the experts at Havahart® provide instructions
to teach you how to trap a squirrel, as well as critical steps to follow before and after a capture.
Select a Squirrel Trap »
Trap Placement »
Bait and Set Your Trap »
Expert Tips »
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Select a Squirrel Trap
A live trap should be large enough so that the entire animal can fit inside the trap before it reaches the
trigger plate. Depending on the size of the squirrel species in your area, select a trap that’s extra small or
small (15-25 inches in length). Most live squirrel traps come in 1
or 2-door variations:
For more information regarding these varieties, read about our Trap
Shop Traps »
Determine Trap Placement
Place your trap on a flat surface along your squirrel’s travel path. If you’re not sure where that is, a good
bet would be at the base of a tree or along a wall close to your damage area(s). Great trap locations include:
- along a wall in your attic, shed or crawlspace
- in front of an entryway
- at the base of a tree
- along a fence line nearby a frequented bird feeder
- a spot on your roof accessible by tree or power lines
TIP: Unlike many animals, squirrels tend to be more comfortable out in the open, rather than
close to cover. Place your trap away from low-lying bushes or shrubs.
Select and Position Bait
Follow these critical guidelines when baiting your trap:
- Select a bait that squirrels can’t steal: Spread peanut butter directly onto the trigger
plate. When using a solid bait, make sure it’s larger than the mesh openings of the trap – unshelled peanuts
- Properly position bait: Position the bait so it forces the squirrel to engage the trigger
(see diagram on the right).
For more baiting suggestions and expert tips, see How To: Squirrel
Set Your Trap
Carefully set your trap door(s) open by following its unique step-by-step setting instructions. Havahart®
offers video instructions for each of its traps, which you can find on the individual product pages, or Havahart®’s YouTube page.
If you are using an Easy Set® trap, set it by
simply pulling back on the Easy Set® lever.
Shop all Havahart® squirrel traps »
Check on Your Trap Often
It is inhumane to leave an animal trapped for an elongated period of time, because it can quickly grow
hungry, thirsty or anxious. Check your trap frequently so your squirrel is not trapped longer than necessary.
You’ve Caught a Squirrel!
- Wear gloves, and hold the trap by its handle to avoid contact with the squirrel. A squirrel bite may lead
to injury or disease.
- If local laws permit, relocate the squirrel at least 10 miles away from your home.
- After releasing a squirrel, disinfect the trap to prevent the spreading of disease.
Keep Squirrels Out
Once you’ve removed your squirrel(s), keep them out by taking some important preventative steps:
- Reduce attractants: clean up fallen birdseed, nuts, berries, etc.; remove garbage;
replace birdseed with a type squirrels dislike.
- Limit accessibility: trim tree branches within 10 feet of your home or feeders; cover
nearby power lines with plastic tubing; install a chimney cap; repair broken vents/screens and holes in your
- Apply squirrel repellents: regularly apply squirrel repellents that contain
capsaicin to repel squirrels by taste; frighten squirrels away with an electronic repellent.
- Learn about the laws in your area before trapping and relocating a squirrel.
- The best time of year to trap a squirrel is either in late spring or early winter. During these times you
have the best chance of preventing squirrels from breeding in your home, and you’re least likely to separate
a mother from her dependent young.
- When trapping a squirrel outdoors, anchor your trap or place a heavy object on the top of the trap to
prevent another animal from tipping it over and stealing the bait.
- Before attempting to catch a squirrel inside, confine your squirrel to one room or area by closing off all
doors, small holes and cracks that may lead to other parts of the house.
- Disinfect your trap after each use with a bleach solution: mix 1 part bleach with 9 parts of water, apply
the solution, and wait 20 minutes before wiping down the trap.
- The best way to get rid of squirrels is by adopting an integrated control plan that includes the use of
repellents, traps and electronics. Havahart® has many solutions to keep squirrels away.
Best (and Worst) Squirrel Traps
Whether you live in the suburbs or out in the sticks, squirrels are a fact of life. For the most part, they’re fun to watch as they carry on their own little drama up and down the trees in the fall.
On occasion, they can become a real problem, destroying crops and taking up residence in the wall of your house for the winter. Once they become a problem, it’s time to break out the squirrel traps.
For the past 6 years, we’ve lived in relative harmony with our squirrels. We had an avid hunter cat that kept their population in check, and he’d bring in 2-3 a week.
He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of squirrels to hunt and eat, and he never bothered with kitty kibble. Well, one night he took to hunting a fisher cat and bit off more than he could chew, and I’m sad to say my hunter cat is no more.
The next year, the squirrels came back with a vengeance. A big grey squirrel stripped every plum tree bare overnight and stole at least 10 gallons of fruit.
I was willing to take that crop loss and move on until they took up residence in my wall the following week. A massive pile of insulation torn out of the house and a big hole in my wall is more than I’m willing to take.
Another few days later, a red squirrel claimed our attached greenhouse as his own. He stands on the supports near the roof and loudly displays when we come near, guarding his territory inside our house!
I’m pretty sure this little territorial demon is the same one that’s eating the side of the house, but I can’t exactly whip out a pellet gun in my own greenhouse.
That night I went on Amazon and combed through reviews for squirrel traps. After over an hour of reading reviews, I decided on three different traps to test out.
We have a healthy population and dozens of squirrels, so I don’t think 3 traps is overkill by any means. We caught our first squirrel in less than 24 hours, and the squirrel harvest continues even now.
In the process, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a good squirrel trap. Some of the original batch of squirrel traps were returned without catching a single squirrel, and we’ve since ordered more from a different manufacturer. We’ll continue trialing them until the population reaches a more sustainable level (and we catch that one that’s living in the walls).
I’ve tried a number of squirrel trap baits, but the best one so far is peanut butter. A trail of peanuts leading into the trap, with a smear of peanut butter on the trap trip draws them in. I’ve also taken peanut butter and rolled it in peanuts to make a ball of peanut-coated peanut butter, which they seem to come for within hours.
The problem is, in many of the traps they can steal the bait without setting off the trip. Squirrels are light, and it takes quite a bit to trip an animal trap.
One of the smallest Havahart traps available, the two-door small animal trap says it’s designed for catching squirrels, chipmunks, rats and weasels. The squirrels seem to be very comfortable around it. They have no problem stealing the bait every few days, unfortunately without setting off the trap trip mechanism.
Because this trap has two doors, the trap needs to set off both doors at the same time.
That means that it’s quite difficult to set, and you have to get multiple levers entangled in each other to set it properly.
Since the bait’s been stolen about a dozen times, I’ve read more instructions on this trap. Just about everyone that reviewed this trap positively did so with caveats. They had to heavily modify it to make it work, including drilling through the top of the trap so they could wire a piece of corn cob to the ceiling above the trip.
They then greased the trip mechanism and bent the trip bars to make it a true hair-trigger that the wind would sometimes set off. Using all those modifications, and taking about 20 minutes to set the trap each time, wiring in the bait and hair triggering it, they caught a squirrel every 3 or 4 times it was baited.
That’s not good enough for my book, and as it is there’s no way an animal as light as a squirrel can set off this trap. This one was returned without having caught a single squirrel.
The Havahart extra small one-door small animal trap didn’t fare any better. We set this one up on a flat section of our roof, just below the squirrel’s hole in the wall.
You can see all the insulation that’s collected next to it as the squirrel continues to excavate our walls. There’s a huge mass of peanut butter behind the trap trip, and more peanut butter smeared on the trip itself.
The squirrel walks right over the trip again and again and takes the peanut butter ball.
Again, there are reviews specifying some pretty extreme modifications like using chopsticks around the sides to prevent the squirrel from climbing the sides of the trap to steal the bait without stepping on the trap, wiring in the bait, and greasing the heck out of everything.
They also all mention the need to modify the trigger mechanism. It’s a simple hook that’s pretty well attached to the top of the trap, and it takes a lot of force to trip the trap. Again, it’d take a pretty fat squirrel to set this thing off, and even our well-fed squirrels haven’t set it off once.
I’ve since checked back in, and they’ve completely redesigned the trip mechanism and door for their squirrel trap. The new version, the Havaheart 0745 squirrel trap has nearly 2000 five-star reviews and I’m considering trialing that version in my next round.
Nonetheless, both Havahart traps I tried were useless for squirrels. I regularly use their medium-sized animal trap for raccoons breaking into the chicken coop or groundhogs in the garden and it works great.
There’s nothing wrong with the Havahart design in general, provided the animal is large enough to set the trap. For squirrel traps, their design just doesn’t work.
So what does work?
The best squirrel trap I’ve tried to date is squirrelinator from rugged ranch products. There is no “trip” on this squirrel trap, just a one-way door that squirrels walk through and can’t get out.
I set a trail of peanuts into the trap and then sprinkled some all around inside and out of it. The squirrel finds the door, pushes through and then is trapped without any complicated mechanism.
Setting the trap takes about 2 seconds, simply set it on the ground and toss a handful of peanuts in its general direction. Though I tried to set it in our greenhouse to catch our extra-special house guest, he didn’t buy it in the artificial surroundings.
I’ve found it works best placed on the ground in a more natural environment. I put it on the floor of the woods about 50 feet from the house, and it catches at least one squirrel a day.
Occasionally, I’ve gone out to check the squirrelinator and found the bait missing. That left me wondering if a raccoon had come along and reached through the top of the trap to steal the bait. While that’s a possibility, it’d be easy enough to fix by putting a board over the top of the trap.
I eventually found that it wasn’t a raccoon, but the young baby squirrels just out of the nest. When they “fledge” they’re almost as big as a full-sized squirrel, but not quite. At one point, I saw from a distance that the trap had caught one, and when I picked up the trap the little squirrel dove through the side wire.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it, literally 2 feet in front of my face. It wasn’t easy for him, he had to squirm and another millimeter bigger and he wouldn’t have made it.
All around, it’s a great squirrel trap and very easy to set. It won’t catch the smallest juvenile red squirrels, but it does a great job with both adult red and grey squirrels.
The next two traps I’m hoping to trial are this tube trap that should work for the smallest squirrels and this small rodent trap that has a much more reasonable trigger mechanism. Reviewers say that mice set it off, and the cage is large enough to hold squirrels but has very tiny mesh, so I’m hopeful that it will work with the smallest ones.
Once you’ve caught a squirrel, they’ll make a tasty meal. Sure, you could release them somewhere else in the neighborhood to plague your neighbors, or you could quickly clean and gut a squirrel and cook it up like you would a rabbit.
One of the most effective squirrel traps. Squirrel meat tastes like chicken and in places where they are common, it is a good source for replenishing food supplies.
The trap consists of a small loop wrapped around a tree or stick. You should install several of them (3 or 4), on each stick that will rest on the trees.
The white wire trap is made in the picture for clarity, in the manufacture of a real trap it is better to use a wire that will be hardly noticeable.
The reason for using wire in the trap rather than cord or rope is simple, firstly you can give your trap the desired shape, and secondly, by tightening the loop, the wire will not allow it to loosen, while the rope loop, when tension is released, surely unravel.
Squirrels are lazy creatures. Instead of jumping from the ground, it will be much easier and more convenient for her to climb a tree, on a stick (inclined plane) you have installed.
Choose the most suitable trees. Suitable trees are those with a lot of likely squirrel food, such as acorns, or where there is a visible squirrel nest.
For clarity, the picture shows a pole with fixed traps, so to speak “naked”.
In fact, a pole or a young tree covered with bark is used, with additional masking from improvised wire traps.
As you can see from the example, the first trap is fixed starting from the second half of the support, this is done in order to give the squirrel an opportunity to run before the first trap.
Squirrel sees traps as simple rods. When the squirrel is inside the loop, or the loop begins to tighten on it, it thinks it is someone or something trying to grab it.
Instinct forces the squirrel to jump off the support to escape, causing it to hang itself. That is why it is better to fasten the wire (trap) wire around the pole (support) loosely. This allows the trap to rotate under the weight of the squirrel to hang it under the support.
Installed in a small depression on a well-trodden track. Snares are located on platforms on both sides of the trap. A platform of sticks or hard bark rests on the bottom plank. The top bar goes into the recesses.
When the platform is lowered, the pawl of the latch is activated and the game is caught by the leg.
The fish swims up to the shore at night and often rises from the depths to shallow water in search of food, where they can be easily led into a trap from which it will be difficult to escape.
The walls of the trap are made from a heap of stones or a palisade of poles stuck into the bottom of a pond.
To extract prey, you need to close the entrance to the trap, shake the water to raise the fish, and either try to pierce it with a pointed stick or catch it with a homemade net (in general, driving the fish into the trap is only half the battle).
Piercing Tension Trap
Effective for catching wild boars, deer or other fairly large animals. The trap must be positioned so that the horizontal blow with the tip hits the body of the prey.
This is a very dangerous trap. It must be used very carefully.
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