Backyard Trapping

Feel like giving the local wild life a hand in surviving as in the birds, lizards and insects imagine a garden alive with birdsong? Then why not pop a predator trap in the garden. NZ wildlife is predated by wild and feral cats, possums, stoats, ferrets, weasels, rat, mice (yes, even the humble mouse can be a predator) and hedgehogs. All take a chunk out of the NZ wildlife. You will be surprised as to how many of the mentioned critters pass through our gardens on the hunt for food.

Traps can be bought from as little as a few dollars like the rat snap trap. This is a great little trap for rats and mice, (baited with a bit of meat can also take weasels and stoats), but will need to be fixed down. It is best placed out of the way and covered over so that birds don’t get at the bait. For this a piece of pipe works well.

Rats are in abundance and all around us, they are great opportunists and will munch anything they consider food. They also attract in other opportunist predators as do rabbits.

Mice will munch away on most things, eggs, chicks, insects and small lizards, check the internet there is a video clip of mice starting to get into a live Albatross chick!

The DOC range of traps are an excellent range of traps. There are three sizes available: the 150, 200 and 250, the 150 being the smallest. They are designed as a kill trap and will take all the predators. These traps are usually housed in boxes with wire mesh ends and a wire baffle. There is a lot of information on the internet, use as recommended. They can be purchased from various companies on the internet (Google predator traps). They usually have a lid that can be screwed down, to prevent prying fingers getting in or your dog or cat opening the lid and setting the trap off. They can be baited with a range of baits, peanut butter for rats, tinned cat food, eggs, a chunk of rabbit, a piece of meat. There are plenty of rabbits and hares on the roads, pick up a fresh one (be aware of oncoming traffic) or ask someone that goes hunting. One chopped rabbit will last almost a year for one trap. Half freeze them before chopping up, it makes it a lot easier. DOC traps are an easy trap to set, bait up and pop in the corner of the garden and leave to its own devices. Eggs are also good for bait, but I think an egg is more of a visual bait and a seasonal attractant. There is hardly any scent from an egg to attract critters in, they will probably work best in conjunction with other bait .

If you have possums the Timms trap baited with a piece of apple works best. These traps (although not designed for) will trap hedgehogs, ferrets and stoats when baited with meat. They are probably not ideal to bait with meat if you or your neighbours have cats or small dogs. There is also a range of traps that can be fixed to a tree or a post.

My favourite trap at the moment, and the one that takes most of my catches, is 2 Fenn Mk6 traps housed in a wooden tunnel 1m long. These are an excellent trap when used and set correctly, they are a little more finicky to set than the DOC traps. They are capable of killing all the mustilids and rats. I also use them to trap rabbits, the Fenn Mk 6 was designed as a rabbit trap over in UK. There are a few manufacturers, my preference is for the ones made in UK, I have Fenn traps in my collection that are 30 yrs old and still working.

The box is easy to make, 3 pieces of timber about 1m long for a double trap, 500mm long for a single trap, by 200 x 20mm, screwed together to make a tunnel, these dimensions allow the trap to be set and sprung. A long screw can be put inside to put bait on. If you make it for a single trap, then a piece of small opening mesh up to 20mm opening needs to be fixed over on end to stop any critter getting in and stealing the bait without running over the trap. If you have cats or dogs put a piece of 50 or 60mm wire net or mesh over the entrance ends to stop cats and dogs sticking a paw in.

It is best to set traps against a fence or on a rabbit run to trap rabbits. A few times I have had a rabbit in one side trapped and a ferret or stoat in the other trap. Most of the critters that we want to trap want to take the easy way about. Rabbit runs are a highway, also tainted with the scent of a bunny, FOOD! Place traps against a fence, walkways, the quiet corner of your garden, but make it so they are easy to access. As with all traps check them on a regular basis, nothing worse than removing a stinky half rotten critter, hedgehogs are by far the worse in my book. Change the bait once or twice a month, depending on how quick it dries out or rots in your area. Traps work 24/7 but once a trap is set off then it’s not working and becomes just a box.

So from about $60 dollars you could have a good predator trap set up in your section and be on track for your own wildlife enhancement project. If we all had a trap in the garden, then the Wanaka wildlife would be on to a good thing and we could have a town and surrounding bush full of birdlife. This can also lead onto other things, you get out for a walk with purpose, even if it is just down the garden. When you see the bird life flourish, take pride in the help you have given them. I have also trained dogs to check my traps, I had 2 that knew where all my traps were and I could send them off to check each trap as I passed close by. It was simple in as if the dog came back there was nothing in there, if he didn’t then there was something in the trap. Dogs love a job to do. Mine still check my traps when we’re at work and I often know there is something in one by the dogs action before I get to it. At present, I look after over 500 traps on a few different properties around Wanaka and trap all manner of critters.

The traps mentioned above are all kill traps, but still need to be checked as sometimes a kill is not made cleanly and the animal can die a prolonged death. Please treat all animals with respect when dispatching them. They don’t know they're doing any wrong, they’re just surviving.

Wild and feral cats are a problem to all wildlife, but also difficult to deal with if the neighbour has a cat or 2. I think the best way to deal with these is with a live catch cage. If you catch a pet cat it can be set free. If you get a wild one you will have to despatch it humanely. Please identify fully as a not a pet before despatch. All live catch traps have to be checked within a 10 hrs of sunrise.

If you have children make them aware of the traps, what they do and why we use them. Make sure they cannot access the trap inside the box or get their fingers in.

Always work within the law and regulations when using traps.There is information on the MPI site, check with the local council or regional council.

If you want any more information on making the Fenn trap set up or trapping on your section or life style block drop me an email and I’ll do my best to help,  I’m a tad busy at the mo.

Plenty of info here


Trapping consultant to Phoenix SPB Ltd