Raccon Trapping Techniques and Tips

Find out what you need to know before attempting raccoon trapping

If you haven't already read our other pages to find out about safely removing raccoons, please do so!

Raccoon trapping might seem as simple as buying a trap, baiting it with some canned tuna and presto! However, before you dive into you new career as a part time ‘coon trapper, you should learn about some of the potential complications and decide if this is the right part-time gig for you.

First of all – let’s set you up with the right equipment. The most common style of trap is the live capture galvanized steel cage. Havahart makes at least a dozen different models to suit every type of raccoon pest control situation. The animal is lured into the cage by some kind of food, and then trips a trigger pan at the far end of the cage, causing the door to close behind it, trapping the animal inside safely and humanely. Typically you will need a cage at least 32” x 12” x 12”, enough for an adult raccoon of average size. If you have a white whale on your hands, Captain Ahab recommends the Havahart 1081 model for large raccoons.

Whatever your situation, there are a laundry list of factors to consider before you purchase and set a raccoon trap:

  1. Raccoon Trap Size: Get to know your raccoon(s): How many are there? And how big are they? You don’t need the biggest trap for smaller juveniles and you cant catch a big adult raccoon in a small cage. Typically what happens in the latter case is that the door doesn’t close fully behind the raccoon as it enters and trips the trigger pan.
  2.  Targeting the right animal: You might find yourself returning a neighbors cat, trying to get a skunk out of the trap without getting sprayed, or with a family of moles inside your trap the following morning, while your raccoon runs free. Unintentional catches can be harmful to those animals, and especially so if you happen to forget to check the cage for two days. It’s not hard to imagine a lawsuit if a neighbors cat ended up suffering or dying for dehydration in your trap. 
  3. Setting the trap: There are a few things experience trappers will tell you that you have to finesse in order to be successful. First, the trap must be free from defects. Next, the trigger pan tensions must be set correctly. The trap must also be placed on a flat surface with no wobble and away from any ledges. Most importantly, you must be able to identify the animals paths and place the trap right in line with an entrance or exit.
  4. Raccoon trap bait: The truth is, raccoons are omnivores (like us) and will eat just about anything (like us). The trick with setting the right bait isn’t as much about targeting raccoons, it’s about discouraging other animals as much as possible. For example, if you use meat based bait, you are likely going to attract skunks, opossums, and very likely a cat or two. Many people like to use white bread or marshmallows. It’s a good idea to leave a short trail of bait leading up to and into the trap to get the raccoon acclimated to the new environment (your raccoon trap). Set most of the bait right at the back of the raccoon trap just behind the trip pan.
  5. Potential disasters to avoid: First and foremost – you don’t want to kill any animals in your trap, including raccoons. Be really careful not to set you trap where it will be in direct sunlight unmonitored all day long. It’s too common for an animal to die of heat stroke or dehydration in a scenario like this, which is a really awful way to go and totally avoidable. Don’t set the trap near a swimming pool or a ledge, or somewhere that the trapped animal could move the cage and fall. Set the trap adequately out of reach of electrical wires, screen doors, above ground pools, and anything else you don’t want damaged. Raccoons will often reach through the bars and rip and tear at whatever they can reach in an effort to escape. If your raccoon uses your roof for access, consider bolting the trap to you roof. This is a good way to avoid getting any other undesired animals, however, you have to make sure you set the trap at night, check it in the morning, and disable the trap during the hot daylight hours if you don’t get anything overnight.
  6. I Caught it! Now what? First of all it should be noted that although the bars of most raccoon trap seem spaced closely together, a paw can very easily make it through the bars and scratch. If your fingers enter the cage through the wire mesh, there’s a good chance the raccoon will lunge and bite. I’ve worked with a veteran trapper in Maine who covers the cage with a custom canvas cover before handling the caged animal - if they can’t see – it’s less stressful for them. Although some states require you to euthanize the trapped raccoon, most people won’t do it either because they don’t believe in it, or simply aren’t aware of the law.
  7. Releasing your raccoon(s). IF you plan to release your raccoon in a wildlife area, go at least five miles from your home, ten if you want to extra sure the animal(s) won’t find their way back the home range. If your raccoon is a mother with babies, let the mom go first, and then release the kits. The mother will likely run off and disappear, but she will return for her kits and find a new den for them. Keeping the mother and the young together, even if they will have a rough transition, is better that giving the kits to a wildlife rehabber.
  8. Be a law-abidin’ citizen. In most states it is illegal to trap, kill or relocate raccoons. In some case where trapping is legal, you must kill and dispose of the animal on your own property. Most people are unwilling to go through that horrifying process, which is why a professional raccoon pest control officer is the best option. You can find out what the regulations are by contacting your State’s Department of Wildlife or Department of Fish and Game.

Watch this release video from a successful raccon trapping:

If you follow these few basic guidelines and you have the stomach for dealing with a trapped animal, then you should have a successful experience. The most important thing to keep in mid is that you don’t want to cause the raccoon, or any other animal that may find its way into your trap, any unneeded stress, pain, or suffering. Second most important this to remember id to check our your state laws and get yourself educated about what you can legally do yourself.

Although raccoons may become pests when they enter your home or cause damage to your property, they are intelligent wild animals and deserve to be treated humanely. I have released many raccoons in the wild myself, and it’s actually quite a nice experience. Raccoons are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild, even city dwelling raccoons, and they will adapt quickly to the new environment.