Problems That Can Occur With Live Rodent Traps


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Many people prefer not to have to kill rodents that get into their homes or yards. As a humane pest control method, are fairly popular. Live traps are meant to capture the rodent, uninjured, so that it can be released elsewhere. But although live traps are generally considered humane, they do have their problems and drawbacks.

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How Live Traps Work

These traps work very simply. The trap is typically a sturdy plastic or metal cage with a door. Bait may or may not need to be placed inside the trap to lure the rodent inside. Once the rodent steps inside the trap, its weight sets off a trigger which shuts the door, trapping the animal inside.

Another version of a live trap is a rodent excluder, which has a one-door way instead of a trigger that shuts a door. Once the rodent squeezes inside, it cannot get back out again. This version is sometimes preferred because there are fewer moving parts and less chance of accidentally injuring the animal.

Other versions are also available; there are many varieties of live and humane rodent traps.

Potential Problems With Live Traps

Live traps aren't as straight-forward as they might seem. Here are some problems and drawbacks to the use of live traps.

Failed Traps

There have been numerous reports of live traps failing. Panicked rodents may try to squeeze out of any small hole in the trap and could strangle or fatally cut themselves. Some people have reported that jiggling their trap (for example, when moving it) could cause the trap to trip. If the mouse (or other rodent) moves at the same time, it could get caught in the mechanism and have (if lucky) an instant death or (if unlucky) a slow, grisly one.

It's very important to follow the instructions for setting up the trap correctly in order to minimize problems or failure.

Unintended Consequences

Aside from the potential of the trap failing by killing the rodent, it can also cause injury or death in other ways. There are traps meant specifically for different rodent types. If the wrong type of trap is used, it may not work as intended. Rodents may be unintentionally injured when the trap is tripped or if it is not used according to direction.

For example, if the bait isn't placed far enough at the back of the trap, the rodent's tail could be caught and broken when the door shuts. Even what appears to be a slight injury could severely compromise the animal's ability to survive when released. Likewise, stress, hunger, or dehydration while trapped may weaken the rodent and cause it to die once released (live traps should be checked frequently, as much as once every hour or two, and the rodent released immediately).

Nursing Females

What if the rodent is a nursing female? Trapping her, live or not, would result in her babies being abandoned to slowly die on their own from starvation and dehydration. Aside from the brutality of this, a practical consideration would be that the carcasses of the babies would be left to rot inside the house. This can cause a lingering, unpleasant odor as well as attract other pests.

Releasing Rodents

Where would the rodents be released? Ideally, you wouldn't want to release them in your yard or garden because then they might return to your house. They would need to be released away from any homes, in an area where there is adequate food, water, and shelter from the elements as well as from predators.

Some wildlife specialists say that rodents should be released within 100 to 200 yards of where they were captured. If they are not, they will not know how or where to locate food and water sources in an unfamiliar area and may die.

Harsh Weather Conditions

What to do with rodents caught in the winter? Releasing them during cold or inclement weather can cause them to die of exposure, particularly if they have already been weakened by hunger, thirst, injury, or stress. You may end up having to call around to find a company or organization that is willing to humanely euthanize them (a fee may apply as well).

Live rodent traps can be an excellent, humane method of removing mice, rats, squirrel, and other pests if used correctly. However, they are not always the right or most humane solution to use in an individual situation. Other humane methods may need to be used, or a professional pest control service can step in to help. Once the rodents have been removed from the home, preventive pest control measures should be taken to deter the rodents from returning.