Most folks are familiar to some extent with animal trapping but have little experience. In a TEOTWAWKI world I suggest there are several advantages that trapping will offer almost everyone. With minimal equipment and some basic experience trapping can offer security, food, and economic opportunities. Before taking any action please familiarize yourself with your local laws and requirements related to fur-bearing animals and trapping.
I trapped coyotes and bobcat back in my college days with a good friend. It was a great time but required considerable equipment, preparation, effort, and skill. Today I still do a lot of trapping, though not for profit. Most of my trapping is for security of my livestock and preservation of my garden.
My first recommendation for everyone is to have a live trap. These are the cages with the trap-door that locks shut when the animal enters the cage. These are useful every day in the city, suburbs, or on the farm and very simple to use. New they cost about $150 for large animals, but they are often found on craigslist for $30 or less. The best part about these traps is that they are so effective and easy; yet do not injure the animal. This is very important in a populated area where neighborhood pets are a frequent “by-catch”.
The live is effective at guarding our chicken coop. The western Oregon woodlands are full of predators – coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and feral cats. All of these predators love chicken, and frequent our coop. We keep a live trap ready at the back of the coop at all times, and it never fails to catch a troublemaker. Since deploying this security measure we have never lost a chicken to a land-based predator. No bait is necessary; we simply leave the cage open against the back of the coop, and as the snoop travels along the coup it naturally enters. We have regularly caught the neighbor’s cats, and it is always much appreciated when we can return the cat (still in the cage) safely to the grateful owners – no harm done to either party and stronger, friendly ties are forged between us.
A side benefit we soon realized with our live trap is a big reduction in field rats. All of the chicken feed and eggs naturally draws rats, and they regularly are caught in the trap as well. I recommend your first trap to be a big one – big enough for large raccoons, but if you can find a smaller one just for rats and rodents this is also a good investment. Over the last three years we have averaged 4 skunk, 2 raccoon, 3 opossum, 5 rats, 1 squirrel, and 1 cat.
Look for a strong, sturdy construction on the trap. Newer traps with fancy double-doors or mechanisms are less reliable. Another great benefit of heavier wiring is that the trap is more forgiving when a trapped skunk must be dispatched by a .22 while in the trap. We tried to get a tarp over a caged skunk to help calm it for transportation, but that did not work! The .22 is the cleanest option for all involved with skunk work.
In the last couple of years the budget cuts to our county’s Animal Control office rendered it almost entirely useless. Animal Control now only responds to dog control, since that still generates income for the county. Neither Animal Control nor the Sheriff’s office is willing to respond to livestock or predator calls – including cougar threats! Last night the Sheriff informed me personally that even if my children and I were physically attacked by wild or domestic animals, other than dogs, they would not respond unless there was a court order. We are on our own. Having a means to neutralize a threat to our animals (and kids!) with a live trap is simple, easy and effective.
In Oregon the use of foot hold traps is not allowed. Too many pets were being injured, I guess. I still have many foothold traps from my college days, and expect these could be valuable in a post TEOTWAWKI world. Our area has been plagued over the years with “drop off” pets – people disposing of their pets they no longer want or can care for by simply driving out in the country and dropping them off. Wild dogs and cats are often our problem to deal with, and leg hold traps could help if or when they might be permitted. They might be quite effective against 2-legged intruders in some scenarios, too. Just another option to consider in your planning.
Wire snares are another inexpensive option to consider –especially if your plans include livestock like sheep or cattle. My wife’s family ranches on 3 sections of northern Wyoming range, with coyotes (and of course wolves) being a major concern. Wire snares around the perimeter have been our most effective means of coyote control, and are inexpensive to deploy in numbers. Take caution when using these as they are very effective on a neighbor’s dog and are deadly or at least disabling. Because of this risk I do not recommend them for everyone unless you have some pressing need or experience.
Food opportunities are an obvious option trapping affords post TEOTWAWKI. No, our family has not yet sampled opossum or raccoon. While it might sound unappetizing in our current lifestyle of plenty, preparation is not about having treats, it’s about having options. Food for your dog is also an important consideration.
My second recommendation for every person would be to get at least one #110 Connibear style body-grip [killing] trap. These are small, inexpensive, and fantastically effective tools for catching smaller animals – especially squirrels and weasels. Squirrels are abundant in suburban and city settings and could become quite valuable. A single trap can be found on eBay for about $8 and are so effective; we only allow each of our children to use them for catching one squirrel. This gives the kids a great learning experience with the trap and the habits of a squirrel, and is also good practice skinning and sampling wild game. It teaches them the responsibility to wisely use the life they took – a valuable lesson preparing them for hunting when they get older. A simple Google search of the web or SurvivalBlog.com will provide more than adequate suggestions on using these traps.
The last trap recommendation I would offer is to get one or two mole traps. The scissor trap is available for $5-10 and is quite valuable Pre-TEOTWAWKI in teaching skills, securing our gardens, and helping neighbors. A wide variety of trap styles are available but we have found the old standard scissor traps to be most effective. My younger daughters, ages 10 and 7 are my mole trappers – they wait for me to return each night from work to make our ‘rounds’ checking traps. We have caught 15 to-dates this year, and they love it! Our neighbors love it too, since we ran out of targets in our yard and expanded our territory. Sure, it technically isn’t ‘trapping’ in the traditional sense, but don’t underestimate the value of quality time with children, service to neighbors, and riddance of problem animals in preparing us for a SHTF event.
In this sense trapping can be a valuable service to offer others as well. My live trap is frequently at friend’s homes to deal with marauding raccoons or rats. The added benefit of the body trap is its use on fur-bearing animals such as martin, mink, or fishers. In some parts of the US they can pose a threat to livestock, and with the proper license they can be a valuable source of income. Even the less-valuable pelts from raccoon and skunks are quite sought after by friends and the community – people love a nice raccoon pelt, and skunk pelts are beautiful and proudly displayed when we give them as gifts. Even small ‘niche’ skills like these can have real value in any type of economy.
Two final recommendations I would offer for someone unfamiliar with trapping – a big bag of salt and a small ‘tanning kit’ of chemicals. Salt is a critical, “stock up” item for preparations in general, and is very useful in working with animal hides. I won’t go into skinning or tanning an animal hide, but it is quite easy and very fun – especially for teenage boys. When the animal is skinned and the hide stretched out on a board, salt on the underside of the skin can preserve it for months until you work it for tanning. Van Dyke’s Taxidermy supply has several ‘tanning kits’ offering complete directions and chemicals needed to tan animal furs. They are easy to use and a $30 kit has tanned 6 or 7 different animal hides over the years. It has offered us great experiences and fun for us to do together. If or when you start trapping animals, making use of that animal will be the next logical step.
Fur trapping is not for most folks, but it does offer considerations and options for everyone as we are abandoned by our society and government. There are pictures of equipment, skinning animals, and tanning hides on our family blog (nwpodcast.blogspot.com). Our goal in emergency preparations is to find what opportunities afford us the greatest benefit and options. Hopefully my ideas have generated some options for you.