Tuesday, 22 September 2015 12:23

How-To: Trap Chipmunks using live traps

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How to catch chipmunks using live traps

I've used two different types of live traps and have tried a variety of baits, and after some experimenting, I am now successfully catching chipmunks, quickly and effortlessly.

I live in an area that is fairly open to wildlife (compared to the city) and over the past several months we started having issues with chipmunks in and around our yard and property.  Don't let these innocent looking creatures fool you, as cute as they may seem, they can create havoc in and around your home and property.  Chewing up the electrical wiring, tearing holes in siding, and getting into your out buildings.  I've come across some different ways to trap chipmunks, some pretty ingenious, but when it comes to no-kill style of trapping, the easiest way I have found is using small animal cage traps.  What you use for the bait is just as important and the trap itself.  You want a scent that will bring the chipmunks in and something that will appeal to their taste buds once you get them near the trap.


Not all traps are created equal, better doesn't have to cost more

Harbor Freight to the rescue!  Harbor freight sells a few different sized small animal cage traps.  I don't think for animals much larger than chipmunks, I would necessary depend on these style of live traps, but for chipmunks, I haven't found anything better.

Catching chipmunks live 08

Before deciding on the one from Harbor Freight. I started with a more robust trap I had from year ago.  The spacing for the holes were a little large, so I ended up adding some chicken wire I had to each side and securing it with some steel picture wire to prevent any of the smaller animals from squeezing through the holes.  You can find these type of traps in any major home improvement store or online.  They aren't cheap, they can run somewhere between $20-$30 dollars.  The way they work is once they are set, the animal steps onto the metal plate, and the spring loaded door snaps closed behind them.  The nice feature about these is that once the door is closed, nothing is going to escape from inside the cage.  The thick steel construction also is strong enough to last a lifetime  The bad thing about these are that the animal has to weigh enough to trigger the spring loaded door.  It doesn't take much, but I found when it came to some of the smaller chipmunks, their weight just wasn't enough.  They would go in and a have a feast, and I was stuck re-baiting the thing several times a day.


Catching chipmunks live 07I attempted to make some modifications to assist in the triggering mechanism.  First I added a weight to the steel plate, I had a large magnet laying around so this was perfect to slap on.  The second thing I did was to bring the bait up higher, which in my mind would ensure that the full weight of the chipmunk would be over the far end of the plate, in turn trigger the door.  I did this by placing another small magnet inside the bait cup.

Success!  But not for long though....

Some of the smaller chipmunks were still not large enough to trigger the door to close.  I greased up the metal hook that holds the door open with some butter, in hopes it would be enough, but in the end, it worked for some of the larger chipmunks, but too many smaller ones got away with a free dinner.


What did work, the $6 solution

Catching chipmunks live 09This single trap cost me somewhere around $6 out the door (using a 20% coupon as I always do) from Harbor Freight.  It's the smallest cage trap they sell.  It comes in a flat cardboard box. You have to unfold it to bring it to the full rectangular position, and you have yourself a trap.  The construction of this is of a much thinner material than the one described above, and the way the trap door holds closed, I would not want to use it for anything much larger than a chipmunk, or the animal might be able to push his way out.  This one works completely different than the one above, and is not dependent on the animals weight.  Instead the bait is suspended on a hook, which when moved ever so slightly, releases the spring loaded door closed.


Catching chipmunks live 11

I had to do some slight modifications when working with the trap.  The rear door, maybe due to the way they package the trap in a flat container, has no solid way to keep the door closed.  I actually had one escape this way as I was carrying him to my car.  I ended up using some steel picture wire in two or three places and locking the rear door for good.





Catching chipmunks live 10Once you set the trap, be sure to adjust the tabs on  the bottom to ensure the door closes securely.  If you bend the tabs up too much, the door may not close with the tension of the spring. Another thing I like to do, once I check the trap and find a chipmunk in the cage, is place a small clamp on the door to keep it securely closed.  I like the addition of the clamp, as when I'm transporting it, the chipmunk may push it open if he tries hard enough.


The bait that works

Catching chipmunks live 01Peanut butter and some black sunflower seeds I had for my bird feeder.  The peanut butter gives off a strong scent in which brings the chipmunks near the trap.  I use little butter cups you get at your local restaurant for the bait cups. I poke a tiny hole in the back of the cup, so the hook in the trap can go through it.  I usually only use the cups once, as the hole gets enlarged and won't hang onto the hook securely.







Catching chipmunks live 03I put about a 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter, (I used chunky, but I don't think it matters much, as the scent is the same) and cover it up with some sunflower seeds.  I like to have them poking out the top for easier access.  Once they start grabbing at the seeds, the trigger will close the door shut.  I also sprinkle about a small handfull of seeds near the entrance of the trap as well as inside, just to give them a trail of seeds to follow.






Where to release the trapped chipmunks

Catching chipmunks live 06You should check with your local state laws and regulations, as some jurisdictions have strict policies against releasing animals just anywhere you choose.  Another important thing is to let them go far away from your property (a good rule is around 5 miles away).  You could probably get away with letting it go a mile or two away, but these guys run fast and far, and I don't want to chance it after going through all the work of trapping it, just to have them all come back in a few days.  I have many open fields and wooded areas nearby that I was able to give them a good home.


Good luck and happy trapping!


Read 14786 times Last modified on Saturday, 26 September 2015 22:27
Algis Salys

Creator and owner of algissalys.com.  Linux enthusiast, electronics tinkerer, and likes to spend time in the workshop building and creating new projects.