How to Trap Fur Animals

Both for wildlife management and as a source of income, fur trapping has a productive history as a useful homesteading skill.

| November/December 2018

  • body gripping trap and cubby
    This body-gripping trap is combined with a homemade cubby for a cubby set.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • fox hunter's den with traps and tools
    Oiled and dyed traps will be more effective in the field than shiny traps fresh from the store.
    Photo by Stocksy/Rowena Naylor
  • groundhog
    Oiled and dyed traps will be more effective in the field than shiny traps fresh from the store.
    Photo by Getty/JeffGoulden
  • coyote caught in a foothold trap
    A coyote caught in a foothold trap; you can see that the trap catches only the toes of the animal.
    Photo by Michael H. Francis
  • beaver and a dam
    Beaver dams create plentiful trapping opportunities.
    Photo by © Ronald S Phillips

  • body gripping trap and cubby
  • fox hunter's den with traps and tools
  • groundhog
  • coyote caught in a foothold trap
  • beaver and a dam

All of us have a little trapping in us, even if it's limited to setting mousetraps in our kitchens to relocate or exterminate pests. I imagine if you look back in your own family history, you'll find trappers who made a living off of, or supplemented their income with, fur.

Trapping Benefits and History

Trapping surely began as a means of survival. Native Americans across the continent trapped fur-bearing animals with pits, deadfalls, and snares, and used the furs for warmth and trade and the meat for food. After Europeans arrived in North America, trapping provided furs for mountain men and Native Americans to trade with merchants selling rifles, pistols, knives, food, pots, and blankets.

Nowadays, trapping can supplement your income or provide furs for your own use, and it's also useful for wildlife population control. Trapping both predator and prey species keeps overpopulation and disease under control. If they're overcrowded, predators may end up licking their chops around your chicken coop more often than you'd like. No matter your goals, before you start trapping, check your local game laws for what is and isn't legal.

Tools of the Trade

There are several makes, models, and brands of the four main trap types. You should choose what's available, affordable, and effective for your target animal.

First, and probably most common, is the foothold trap. These traps are like toothless versions of the familiar cartoon bear traps with gigantic teeth. Like mousetraps, foothold traps have a pan in the middle that an animal will step on, thereby triggering the spring-tensioned jaws to close around the animal's foot. Foothold traps are designed to hold the foot, not to smash or injure it — which is handy if unintended creatures get trapped — but the safety of the trap depends on calibrating it correctly for the target animal. The trap will also need to be staked to the ground, to keep animals from making off with it. If you trap long enough, you'll probably find a nosey pooch in your set eventually.

Snares have been used from the beginning of trapping history. They're typically composed of a wire loop set up so the animal will walk through headfirst, and ideally, the snare will tighten around the critter's neck like a leash until you arrive.



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