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Posted on June 9th, 2015 in Gardening, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

This is the time of year that many homeowners start their annual battle with nuisance wildlife. While trapping animals is not always required or desirable, it may be necessary in some cases to alleviate damage. Homeowners will typically use a box-style or cage “live” trap. Before you take action, there are a few key points you should first consider.

on in a box trap

What permits, if any, are required?
Some animals require a permit prior to trapping. Raccoons, skunks, opossums, groundhogs, gray squirrels and fox squirrels are examples of mammals that do not require a permit in Indiana. Resident landowners or tenants can legally capture these species if the animal is causing damage to the property. However, you no longer have to report capture of wildlife to a conservation officer within 72 hours. Perhaps to the surprise of probably most people, rabbits do require a Nuisance Animal Control Permit prior to trapping. The Indiana DNR has a list of permitting requirements.

What do you do with wildlife you catch?
You have two choices of what to do with wildlife you capture: let it go or euthanize it (put to death humanely by injection). In either case, you may not possess an animal for more than 24 hours. If you relocate an animal, you must have permission of the landowner or property manager (even for public lands) AND you may only release that animal within the county of capture.

A common question I receive is, “What should I do?” There is no answer for which is best because circumstances differ. Most people probably prefer to let them go somewhere else because they find euthanizing animals unacceptable. They also may think that letting them go allows them to live out their lives, but this may not be the case. There has been some research on what happens to translocated raccoons and tree squirrels. In both cases, the animals don’t stay where they were let go. In the case of squirrels, a high number died within 88 days of release. Raccoons removed from structures tended to relocate in another structure.

Other things to consider

  • Despite being cute and furry, wild animals are exactly that – wild animals. You should always use caution when handling traps that contain wildlife. Wear thick leather gloves and avoid sticking fingers inside the trap.
  • If you transport an animal to be released (assuming you have gotten permission), do not place the trap inside your vehicle. Use a pickup truck to avoid contaminating your vehicle with animal waste and to minimize the spread of disease. Wildlife carry many pathogens and diseases that are transmittable to people.
  • Animals can roll traps or pull in vegetation from the immediate vicinity. Be careful where you place the trap. Staking box traps is also a good idea.
  • Be sure the trap is stable or “bedded” when you set it. Remove rocks and debris from under the trap. You may have to “work” the trap into the ground. Just be sure that debris doesn’t get caught under the treadle. If it does, the trap may not fire.
  • You may want to cover your trap by wrapping it with cardboard and wire.
  • Check your traps frequently. Indiana has a 24-hour trap check law. It is often a good idea to check them more frequently – perhaps 2 to 3 times a day. This is especially true if you are trapping during extremely hot or cold weather.
  • Wildlife species have different times of activity, so you can be selective what time of day you trap. For example, tree squirrels and groundhogs are not active at night. Closing traps at night can avoid non-targets but would also require opening the trap at sunrise.

If you are interested in hiring a state licensed animal control professional, you can visit the Indiana DNR Nuisance Wildlife page and click on the link to “Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators​.”

Additional Resources
Preventing Wildlife Damage – Do You Need a Permit?
Indiana Wildlife Conflicts Information​
Indiana DNR Nuisance Wildlife​

Brian MacGowan​, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University



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