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. They 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).
Squirrel Trap Bait
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.
Havahart Two Door Small 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 instruction 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.
Havahart One Door Small Animal Trap
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.
None the less, 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
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 walkthrough 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.