Pennsylvania Game Commission Offers Trapping Tips

Pennsylvania Game Commission Offers Trapping Tips & Briefs

Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG, PA –-( To assist new trappers, as well as long-time trappers, the Game Commission developed a three-page “Trapping Tips” section, which is posted on the agency’s website.

To view the section, go to the agency’s homepage (, put your cursor over “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the page, then click on “Trapping & Furbearers,” and scroll down to “Trapping Tips” in the “Helpful Information” section.

“These Trapper’s Tips were developed by Dan Lynch, Game Commission Southeast Region Wildlife Education Specialist and experienced trapper, for publication in Pennsylvania Game News magazine, to further educate and improve the success of trappers everywhere,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.

“There’s something here for everyone, regardless of your level of experience or familiarity with trapping furbearers.”

Other trapping tips offered by the Game Commission include:

Scouting Matters: Pre-season and in-season scouting are critically important to any trapline. Furbearer activity centers sometimes shift, based on the availability of food and den sites. Scouting helps a trapper determine where it's best to put traps. After all, traps set in areas where targeted furbearers aren't available will only waste your time and fuel. Be efficient. Don't guess. In the process, you'll squeeze plenty of excitement into your morning trap-checks and become a better trapper.

Blowing in the Wind: When choosing trap-set locations, make sure to use the wind to your advantage. If a furbearer cannot smell your attractant, it may pass within a few feet of your set and never take a step toward it. Most furbearers are curious, and if they detect the bait, urine or lure you're using to attract them, they'll come closer to investigate. The wind will help you pull in furbearers by carrying your attractant's smell further than it would emanate on its own in a still night air, especially in cold weather. It also allows you to set further off the travel-way, reducing the possibility on non-target catches, and trap theft.

Every 24: Trappers have a legal obligation to check their traps every 36 hours. Most trappers, however, rarely check traps later than every 24 hours. Experienced trappers know that it's best to check traps earlier to ensure captured furbearers stay in the trap; and the captured furbearer spends no more time restrained than necessary.

Swivel Action: Adding swivels to your trap's chain – as well as shortening and center-mounting the chain to the trap frame directly beneath the jaws – will reduce escapes and self-inflicted injuries to the trapped furbearer. Swivels are inexpensive, easy to incorporate and will pay dividends. Consider placing one on each end of the trap chain, and one in the center. The swivel for the stake-end of the chain should be large enough to accommodate your trap stake. For additional trap modifications, please visit the Game Commission's website (, click on “Trapping & Furbearers” in the left column, then select “Best Management Practices for Trapping in the United States.”

Sweet Treats: If you're raccoon trapping in an area where there's a possibility of capturing a non-target animal, it's usually best to avoid using meat- or fish-based baits and gland lures. Try using substitute attractants such as grape jelly, anise oil or peanut butter. These baits usually won't pull in pets and they still have tremendous appeal to raccoons.

Rock Solid: Traps set afield for furbearers work best when they are seated solidly in a trap bed. This is accomplished by packing soil around the circumference of the trap's jaws. If the trap moves when you push down on the trap's jaws or springs, it's not seated firmly enough in the trap bed. Pack dirt around the trap or place a stone or small stick under the trap's jaw to keep it from moving. Traps must be immobile to be effective.

Ask First! Ask a landowner for permission to trap, even if he or she allows trapping, or doesn't have his or her land posted. Landowners often know their property intimately and can direct you to the best places to set traps, or the only places they allow traps to be set. Be responsible and trap ethically. Remember, wildlife conservation always wins when trappers and hunters ask for permission.

On the Blind: Another great way to take raccoons and mink in areas where using bait may lead to the capture of a non-target animal is by using “blind” or trail sets. These sets are placed where a raccoon or mink is forced to enter the water to get around a rock, tree trunk or to walk along a bridge abutment. These sets are especially effective on furbearers that have learned to stay away from bait sets.

Any Trap Won't Do: Traps must be matched to the furbearer you intend to catch. You can't use a muskrat trap to catch a coyote and a beaver trap won't work for raccoons. Here's a quick overview of what to use for popular Pennsylvania furbearers: foxes, 1.5 coil spring; coyote, 1.5, 1.75 or 2 coil spring; raccoon, 1 or 1.5 coil spring; weasels, skunks, opossums, 1 coil spring; mink, 1 or 1.5 coil spring or five-inch by five-inch, double spring body-gripping trap; muskrat, 1 long spring, jump or coil spring trap or five-inch by five-inch single spring body-gripping trap; and beaver, 3 or 4 double long spring or jump trap and 10-inch by 10-inch, double-spring body-gripping trap. For more information, look for Best Management Practices (BMP) studies for various species, which can be found on the Game Commission website ( by putting your cursor over “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then clicking on “Trapping & Furbearers in the drop-down menu listing and then looking under the “Best Management Practices” section.

Out of Sight: Most people do not consider the skinned carcass of any animal to be pleasing to the eye. Since furbearer remains are considered municipal waste, carcasses should be disposed through your curbside pickup, or at an approved waste or rendering facility. Don't dispose of them where passersby will see them, where a pet may drag one home, or where their decomposing odor will offend nearby homeowners. Keep it clean.

Protection Precautions: Trappers should always handle dispatched furbearers with latex or rubber gloves to avoid coming in contact with any body fluids from the animal. Rabies, which continues to pose a health threat in many counties, is transmitted when a furbearer's body fluids enter a person's body through a cut or body opening (mouth, eye, etc.) Don't take risks when approaching trapped animals to dispatch them. Always maintain a safe distance from captured furbearers and handle catches with gloved hands.

Auction Locator: If you're interested in finding a fur auction near you, consider visiting the Pennsylvania Trappers' Association's website (, then click on “Districts” and check the events listed for the districts in your area.

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