Raccoons are one of the most iconic North American animals, and instantly recognizable thanks to that adorable ringed tail, charming black mask and those expressive, dexterous paws so very much like human hands.
Sure, raccoons are cute, but they are also an enormous pain in the butt in many settings, especially one where you are responsible for provisioning your own food.
They raid gardens, steal animal feed, break into sacks of seed and scatter the trash all over the place in quest of food.
I will bet most of our readers appreciate communing with nature and would rather leave animals alone than be forced to relocate or dispatch them, but sometimes enough is enough.
You can be certain that where you see one raccoon others are sure to follow, and if you don’t nip the problem in the bud you’ll soon have an army of the fuzzy little thieves roaming all over your property.
Since raccoons are intelligent, wary, and primarily nocturnal pursuing them conventionally is usually a poor investment of effort and time that is better spent on other pursuits.
This makes traps, both lethal and non-lethal, your best bet for efficiently ridding yourself of the nuisances.
In this article we will share with you eight traps that will catch you a raccoon in short order.
Know Your Quarry
Compared to hunting or other forms of direct intervention, utilization of traps requires even more creativity and ingenuity if you want success.
Not only must you understand the best traps to use, where to place them and how to trigger them but you must also thoroughly understand your quarry, both its habits, preferences and other motivators besides.
When we consider the raccoon, what are its standout qualities and characteristics that we can leverage to our advantage and turn against it?
One of its primary characteristics is its dexterity, as the four paws function nearly as well as hands, allowing them to grasp and manipulate all manner of objects in their search for food.
Raccoons are also highly intelligent and adaptable, and this means that your traps must be certain in effect or at the very least proof against the animal’s efforts to escape it. Easier said than done!
Raccoons are also superb climbers, and are renowned for climbing trees downward head-first, utilizing those dexterous paws again as well as their strength to make it look easy.
This tells us that certain approaches we might employ against other animals will not work on raccoons because they could scale their way out of a trap or avoid it by climbing around it.
However, the number one thing that drives raccoons is also the number one thing we can exploit: their extreme drive to procure food.
You might say that raccoons are the gourmands of the animal world, or if not gourmands at least one of its most voracious but least picky eaters.
Raccoons will eat all kinds of stuff, and oftentimes the stinkier the better. Anything from tuna and roast chicken or pork to marshmallows, kitchen scraps and other unmentionables.
All you’ll need to do to lure a raccoon into your trap is to smartly place a little bit of bait.
Consider the list of traps below. All of them are functional for catching raccoons, and quite a few of them are ideal.
We have included both lethal and non-lethal traps to cover all potential outcomes as well as your specific requirements.
Lethal traps are exactly what they say on the box: When successfully triggered they have a high likelihood of killing the target or severely injuring it.
These traps are what you want to use if you do not have the time or inclination to relocate the target, or if you have been dealing with raccoons that are entirely too persistent.
Compared to non-lethal traps, lethal traps have additional considerations that must be accounted for prior to locating them. Make sure you read the appropriate section after our trap list for more info.
Conibear / “Body Hold”
The conibear or body hold trap looks for all the world like a supersized rat trap and is designed to do exactly what you’d expect, clamping and squeezing the body of the target animal.
It accomplishes this by means of single or sometimes dual bars that snap shut when the trigger is activated.
If it is working as intended, it will clamp the animal by the neck or around the torso, cutting off the flow of blood and or preventing respiration, killing it.
In case of a hold around the neck, death usually occurs very quickly either by the rapid loss of oxygenated blood to the brain or by the breaking of the spinal column.
Body hold traps are one of the most regulated types of traps, so make sure you check all applicable local and federal laws before employing them.
As long as you are able to you will find they are one of the most versatile and effective traps around.
They can be configured in a variety of situations to varying kinds of terrain and it is easy to entice a raccoon into activating it through the use of bait, per usual.
Other clever uses of body hold traps entail placing them just before or just after a hole or small passage that a raccoon regularly passes through or at the base of any location where they typically mantle or climb.
Like many traps, the operation of the drowner trap is in the name. A drowner trap is in effect a modified pit trap, only the pit is full of water that is too deep for the animal to stand on the bottom and keep its head above water.
After they become exhausted from swimming the animal will eventually drown. Drowner traps are highly effective against small animals like rodents and raccoons and are dependably lethal.
Designed and implemented properly, drowner traps require no resetting, only periodic checking and pose no threat to any humans except the very smallest children.
This can make them a good option for families with kids and larger pets or livestock. You won’t have to worry about horses, cows, or even large dogs getting into trouble with one of these traps.
Implementation is one area where you can get creative, as I have seen these traps installed via a dugout in the earth with a camouflaged teeter-totter board placed over it, a length of PVC pipe strung out over the water container with some bait placed in the middle and other equally ingenious but functionally simple designs.
The key thing to remember is that raccoons are excellent climbers and fairly athletic. Any container you employ must be slick-sided so the animal cannot climb out, and deep enough where they cannot easily jump out from the water.
A deadfall trap is any one that crushes the target with a large, heavy object. These traps are ancient, and have been used by many cultures around the world throughout history, and are still in use today.
The major advantage of a deadfall trap is how adaptable it is, and how comparatively simple a triggering mechanism is.
You can even set them up on a primitive remote utilizing nothing more than string or twine attached to the prop stick that you tug from a nearby concealed position when the animal is in the kill zone.
Victim operated deadfalls typically rely on the animal attempting to grab or eat a piece of bait attached to the trigger which subsequently topples it.
The rule of thumb with a deadfall is that the weight should be at least five times that of the target.
Keep this in mind depending on the size of your raccoon, as you don’t want to maim it and let it escape, and you don’t want it to activate your trap without inflicting any damage whatsoever, as it will be doubly cautious next time around.
Deadfalls work well when placed along regular routes of travel or near common feeding areas, especially ones where raccoons are used to receiving a certain kind of food.
You will find good success with a deadfall trap if you “season” the area where you plan on placing it with free handouts for a short time so that the intended target can become acclimatized both to the food and to being fed at a particular location.
Even with the presence of the deadfall, it won’t be long before he cannot resist moving in for a bite, and then you’ll have him.
Plunger traps are a type of mechanical spike trap, only instead of letting the victim blunder into a fixed set of spikes and relying on momentum and the weight of the target to impale it the plunger trap uses springs or other articulating mechanisms to drive a spike or multiple spikes into the target animal.
Small versions of this trap are typically employed to kill moles and other subterranean animals, but larger, above ground versions, work equally well on raccoons.
The advantage of the plunger trap is that they are highly lethal and will typically pin the animal in place, meaning that if the animal is maimed or otherwise suffering and you are nearby you can quickly move to dispatch it without having to track it.
However, you must use care in placing both the trap and its bait so that the animal is not enticed to simply reach in for the bait before triggering the trap, as this will result in a hit to one of the limbs which might not be fatal or even secure the animal in place.
Generally speaking, these traps are adaptable, work when entered from either direction, and are one of the best for exploiting raccoons’ food-driven nature.
They are, however, extremely gruesome in operation, and so may not be the best choice if you have any sensitive bystanders or are a bit squeamish yourself.
Compared to lethal traps, non-lethal traps represent a much, much lower chance of severely injuring or killing the target animal.
They are ideal for people who would rather catch the animal and humanely relocate it instead of dispatching it.
However, depending upon the design of the trap a risk of injury still exists, particularly if the animal actuates it in an unusual way.
Though most non-lethal traps are by design significantly more humane than lethal traps, it is up to you to check the status of the trap regularly.
Even animals that are held without a scratch on them they still die of exposure, dehydration or starvation, all of them fates far worse than most physical trauma.
Foot hold traps are a cousin to the conibear trap above, designed as you would expect to grip the lower leg or paw of the target animal and hold it in place until you can come along and capture it or dispatch it yourself.
Compared to the gruesome, steel-toothed, or studded “bear” type traps of old, modern foothold traps are designed with padded jaws or even a certain amount of standoff built into them that will prevent the worst of the crushing and disfiguring injuries typically inflicted my older varieties of this type.
Foothold traps are excellent for a wide area approach because they are easy to set, easy to bait, and generally reliable.
However, special care must be taken with setting for raccoons because you will only reliably have one of the raccoon’s limbs caught and it will work furiously to free itself from the trap.
Any foothold trap you employ for the purpose must be securely emplaced for this reason.
Also, consider utilizing specialty raccoon triggers with your foot hold traps. Compared to levers, toggles or pressure plates a raccoon trigger must be squeezed or clutched by one of those nimble little forepaws before it will be activated.
These triggers are intended to prevent non-target animals like dogs and cats from activating a trap even if they step in it. More on that after this section.
Like so many of the other traps on this list, pit traps are exactly what they say in the name. It is a big pit, either an open hole in the ground or a large container above ground for the purpose.
A pit trap delivers the target animal into its clutches via a short or long drop, and considering we are dealing with a raccoon it should be a shorter drop rather than a longer one if you don’t want to hurt or kill the little critter.
Activation for pit traps can work very much according to the methods laid out for drowner traps above, only the animal should be dumped into a dry hole or container where it will mill around contemplating your inevitable arrival.
However, pit traps present a special challenge when trying to catch raccoons because they are such adept climbers.
Leave a raccoon the smallest toe hold or a textured surface and they will climb right out of it with nary a care.
This makes designing an effective pit trap, compared to a drowner trap, challenging because the only other way to ensure that the target animal stays in the trap is by designing some sort of cover that will activate consequently and then enclose the animal.
Ounce for ounce one of the most effective traps for raccoons just so happens to be the most humane.
Cage traps are extremely effective when set up properly, and function by luring in the Target raccoon using a little bit of bait, once again.
Once inside, the raccoon will activate the trigger, typically a panel on the floor of the cage, which will shut the door behind it and trap it in a cage that is ready for transport.
There are all sorts of ways to employ a cage, and they can be placed near typical routes of travel, near habitual feeding areas or even loaded with a baby or young raccoon that has been separated from its mother in order to lure her in so you can catch them all at once.
Once the raccoon is in the cage, you may dispatch it at your leisure or, preferably, take it somewhere far, far away from your home before releasing it back into the wild.
As always, check for odious local laws to make sure you are obeying them before catching and relocating any wild animal.
Perhaps the only drawbacks to cage traps are their size, as they tend to run a little bit large compared to all of the other traps on this list and that can make them difficult to emplace in close quarters or cluttered terrain, be it an attic or dense foliage.
Snares are probably the most versatile and adaptable of all the traps on our list, and suitable for catching small critters or large, raccoons included.
Snares typically work similar to a foothold trap, so long as they work as intended, and will hold an animal in place either as long as it keeps pulling or until the news is manually released.
You must keep in mind that any snare, particularly one that is set a little larger, runs the risk of catching the animal around the neck or body, making death or serious injury a significant possibility.
However, compared to the other traps on this list snares seem to be the ones that suffer from a reduced success rate, and for that reason, professional trappers will set many snares instead of just one or two.
This is fine for you, however, because a good snare is comparatively quick and easy to set up once you have the appropriate wire and toggles.
More so than most of the other non-lethal traps on this list, make sure you check on your snares regularly because they will be easily fouled if they miss and also because they run a higher risk of significantly injuring or killing their quality compared to the other non-lethal ones.
Consider the Consequences of Placing Lethal or Non-Lethal Traps
Before you place any lethal or non-lethal trap with the intent of catching a raccoon you must think through every, single factor that goes into your decision.
First, what will you do if one of your traps injures or maims a raccoon but it escapes? Will you try to track down and dispatch the wounded animal? Ethically, that responsibility falls on you.
Second, consider the hazard posed to people and pets by any trap, but particularly lethal ones.
Some dogs and many cats fit into the same size category as a raccoon, and you’ll be beside yourself if the trap you set out for a raccoon, nails your dog or the neighbor’s cat.
Also, you are responsible for any damage that occurs as a result of you setting a trap, particularly for traps you set that are not under more or less constant supervision.
You must take pains to ensure you do not catch any non-target animals or injure any human or animal passersby.
This can be done by cleverly reasoned placement of the traps, using the right kind of bait, or just avoiding areas where humans and non-targets are likely to be or reach.
You must always be especially cautious when using body hold and plunger traps, as these are capable of inflicting serious wounds even on adult humans.
A Raccoon in Your House Usually Means Babies!
It will be irresponsible of me not to mention one of the most common trapping mishaps undertaken by homeowners who are trying to get a raccoon out from under their deck or out of their attic.
Raccoons that take up residence in people’s homes typically do so for a purpose, and that purpose is the rearing of the young.
That raccoon is probably a mother, a mother who has stashed her babies someplace warm, dry, and safe that has nearby food sources!
When you trap the mother and either take her away or kill her you will leave behind her babies behind, who will then eventually start making a racket and causing problems all on their own.
This will necessitate going back to collect them or potentially even being forced to trap them all individually.
A far better strategy is to carefully observe or track the mother and find out where she has nested her babies.
Once you have found her nest, and mom is away, all you’ll need to do then is collect the little ones and place them inside a specially designed cage trap that has a partition for them.
Make sure you place some nesting material, food and water in there with them before leaving it nearby.
It won’t be long before mom comes back and seeing her babies trapped will stop at nothing to get to them, quickly entering and activating the trap.
Then you’ll have mom and babies all in one bundle and you’ll be able to relocate them together to safer pastures- just ones that are far from your home!
Raccoons can be persistent and aggravating pests, but take heart. Once you are tired of dealing with them you have many options for trapping them, both lethal and non-lethal.
There is a trap for every setting and situation, so no matter where you live and what kind of raccoon problem you are dealing with you can be sure that on the list above you’ll find at least a couple of traps that will be perfect for your purposes.
With a little bit of ingenuity and a dash of patience pretty soon your raccoon problem will be over.