Probably most commonly associated with trapping, the foothold trap is made up of two jaws, one or two springs, and a trigger in the middle which is usually a round pan. When the animal steps on the trigger the trap closes around the foot, preventing the animal from escaping. Usually some kind of lure is used to position the animal, or the trap is set on an animal trail. Foothold traps set for beaver, mink, river otter, and muskrat are positioned in shallow water along the shores and banks of rivers, lakes and ponds. Sometimes the trap is attached to a weight sunk in deeper water. The animal, when caught by the foot, tries to escape by diving into deep water and drowns. Traditionally, these traps had tightly closing jaws to make sure the animal stayed in place. These traps are made in various sizes from catching weasels to bears. At one time traps for wolves and bears had rounded teeth on the jaws to prevent escape.
Modified traps are now available with offset jaws, or lamination, or both, both of which decrease pressure on the animals legs. Traps are also available with a padded jaw, which has rubber inserts inside the jaws to reduce animal injuries. However these traps are more expensive and not widely employed except by research and conservation experts. A single number 3 foothold trap which has a 6 inch jaw spread and commonly used for trapping beaver and coyote costs about 10 to 15 dollars depending on the make, while a padded jaw or "Soft Catch" trap cost from 12 to 20 dollars. Today's traps are specially designed in different sizes for a different sized animal which trappers and trap manufacturers claim also reduces injuries. It has been claimed by anti-fur campaigners that animals caught in leghold traps will frequently chew off their leg to escape the trap, but trappers dispute this, saying that such animals would almost certainly bleed to death before chewing though the bones of the leg.
The use of foothold traps, including those with padded jaws, can result in numerous soft tissue injuries including skin laceration, tendon and ligament damage, and dislocation of joints due to attempts to escape the trap, when a animal is left in a trap for extended periods of time. These traps may also cause simple and compound fractures of toe, foot and leg bones. Limb amputations and frostbite are also possible. In some cases, the trapped animal moves around so that the bone breaks, a sharp edge of the bone pierces both muscle and skin. As the animal moves around, it eventually tears the skin and muscles, freeing itself from the trap, Muskrats with three legs have been caught in Conibear traps with the leg as healed.
The traps are often criticized for being indiscriminate, and non-target animals are sometimes caught in these traps, occasionally including dogs, cats, and endangered species. Trappers claim that these animals are usually able to be released unharmed and that research has shown that new varied size traps are not indiscriminate. They also claim that regulations regarding the placing and baiting of traps prevents injury or capture to most non-target animals. USDA study on coyote trapping indicated that some steel jaw traps leave up to 45% of trapped animals moderately to severely injured. These are the preferred traps used for capture and relocation of endangered and threatened species such as Wolf, Otter and Bobcat.
In states that have banned the use of the foothold trap, a number of issues have arisen. In Massachusetts, the beaver population increased from 24,000 in 1996 to over 70,000 beaver in 2001. Coyote attacks on humans rose from 4 to 10 per year, during the five year period following a 1998 ban on leghold traps in Southern California.
Manufacturers of newer types of traps designed to work only on raccoons claim that these traps are dog-proof. These traps are small, and rely on the raccoon's grasping nature to trigger the trap. They are sold as coon cuffs, bandit busters and egg traps just to name a few.
Body gripping/conibear traps
The body gripping traps are traps designed to kill the trapped animal quickly. They are frequently called "Conibear" traps after Canadian Frank Conibear who first constructed this type of trap in 1957. This type of trap was considered by trappers one of the greatest innovations in traps in the 20th century. Animals were quickly killed and therefore no animal could escape once caught. The animal must be lured with a bait or guided into the correct position before the trap is triggered. The animal touches the wire triggering mechanism which springs the trap. The trap is designed to close on the neck or torso of the animal which closes the trachea, and usually fractures the spinal column. Animals die in one to two minutes. The trap is made from round bar steel and comes in several sizes. One size is 5 by 5 inches (130 by 130 mm) square shaped, for muskrats and mink. Another is 7 by 7 inches (180 by 180 mm) for raccoons and possums. The third is 10 by 10 inches (250 by 250 mm) for beaver and otter. Conibear traps are mostly used to trap muskrats or beaver.
A deadfall is a heavy rock or log that is tilted on an angle and held up with sections of branches (sticks), with one of them that serve as a trigger. When the animal moves the trigger which may have bait on or near it, the rock or log falls, crushing the animal. As a rule of thumb, the rock or log selected for use in a deadfall must be at least five times heavier than the weight of the target animal. The figure-four deadfall is a popular and simple trap constructed from materials found in the bush (three sticks with notches cut into them, plus a heavy rock or other heavy object). Also popular, and easier to set, is the Paiute deadfall, consisting of three long sticks, plus a much shorter stick, along with a cord or fiber material taken from the bush to interconnect the much shorter stick (sometimes called catch stick or trigger stick) with one of the longer sticks, plus a rock or other heavy object.
Snares are anchored cable or wire nooses set to catch wild animals such as foxes, rabbits, and coyotes. In the UK, they are commonly used for population control, but are used as well at times for food collection (e.g., rabbits) or for research. In the USA, they are most commonly used for capture and control of surplus furbearers, and, especially, for food collection. They are also widely used by subsistence and commercial hunters for bushmeat consumption and trade in African forest regions.
Snares are one of the simplest traps and are very effective. They are cheap to produce and easy to set in large numbers. A snare traps an animal around the neck or the body and tightens around the animal, restraining it. Snares are widely criticised by animal welfare groups for their alleged cruelty. UK users of snares accept that over 40% of animals caught in some environments will be non-target animals, although the range of non-target captures range from 21% to 69% depending on the environment. In the USA, non-target catches reported by users of snares in Michigan were 17 +/- 3%. Some scientists believe that in animals which are trapped, pressure necrosis may have caused hidden injury to the animal, and that trapped animals should be taken to a vet rather than released. However, trappers claim that modifications now provide working snares that have relaxing locks that do not cinch down, break-away locks that open up after 110 kg of force are exacted, deer stops which prevent the snare from closing down so far as to catch a deer's leg, and live-catch stops that prevent the snare from closing to a point that chokes an animal of a certain size.
Snares are regulated in many jurisdictions, but are illegal in other jurisdictions, such as in much of Europe. Different regulations apply to snares in those areas where they are legal. In Iowa, snares have to have a 'deer stop' which stops a snare from closing all the way. In the United Kingdom, snares must be 'free-running' so that they can relax once an animal stops pulling, thereby allowing the trapper to decide whether to harvest the animal or release it. Following a consultation on options to ban or regulate the use of snares, the Scottish Executive announced a series of measures on the use of snares, such as the compulsory fitting of safety stops, ID tags and marking areas where snaring takes place with signs. In some jurisdictions, swivels on snares are required, and dragging (non-fixed) anchors are prohibited.
Trapping pits are deep pits dug into the ground, or built from stone, in order to trap animals. Like cage traps they are usually employed for catching animals without harming them.
Cage traps are designed to catch live animals in a cage. They are usually baited, sometimes with food bait and sometimes with a live "lure" animal. Cage traps usually have a trigger located in the back of the cage that causes a door to shut; some traps with two doors have a trigger in the middle of the cage that causes both doors to shut. In either type of cage, the closure of the doors and the falling of a lock mechanism prevents the animal from escaping by locking the door(s) shut. Supporters of cage traps say that they are the most humane form of trapping, and in some countries is the only method of trapping allowed. However studies have shown that animals restrained in cage traps may break claws or teeth, and skin their faces.
Cage traps are used by animal control officers to catch unwanted animals and move them to another location without harm, as well as by gamekeepers to catch birds and animals they consider to be pests, and which are killed after catching. Cage traps are also sometimes used for capturing small animals such as squirrels by homeowners in urban areas, such as in attics of homes, for removal to locations where they may either be legally killed and disposed of, or released unharmed. (Some municipal jurisdictions specifically prohibit transporting live squirrels and releasing them into other areas to control the spread of diseases; for these jurisdictions, killing the squirrels within the cage quickly and humanely is the only legal and ethical means of disposing of them.) Cage traps are also useful in catching large dangerous animals for transport and are a favorite of Australian crocodile trappers. Due to their bulk and cost, they are hard to set in great numbers or in remote locations. Cage traps are also used in muskrat trapping. A cage trap is set in a runway and the muskrat pushes the door open which is at a 45 degrees. But once the muskrat enters the cage trap the other side is closed with another door at 45 degrees. So the muskrat drowns in the trap which is set under water. No bait is necessary as trap is set in muskrats runway.
Glue traps made using natural or synthetic adhesive applied to cardboard or similar material. Bait can be placed in the center or a scent may be added to the adhesive. Glue board traps are used primarily for rodent control indoors. Glue traps are not effective outdoors due to environmental conditions (moisture, dust) making the adhesive ineffective. Glue traps are not used by animal trappers or fur trappers and are almost exclusively used by homeowners for rodent control. Many animal welfare groups, such as the Humane Society, oppose the use of glue traps for their alleged cruelty, since animals desperate to escape may chew off their own legs, and sizable sections of fur and skin may be ripped out as they struggle. Glue traps are not used for trapping birds, however a substance known as birdlime was used in the past in a similar manner to catch small birds, its use is banned now in most countries. A sticky repellent can be applied to surfaces to temporarily repel perching birds from building ledges and statues. The adhesives registered for this use are classified as tactile repellents.
Trappers can employ a variety of devices and strategies to limit this problem. Trappers claim that if a non-target animal is caught, such as a dog, bobcat or lynx, it can be released without harm. A careful choice of lures may help draw wanted catch, and discourage the unwanted.
Other exclusion devices exist for snares. The catching of non-target animals can be minimized through the use of devices that exclude animals larger than the target animal. Deer stops are designed to release leg-snared deer and cattle, and are required for snare usage in many states of the USA. Precautions can be taken in the case of small animals as well. One UK report stated that researchers using 1.65 mm smooth wire, instead of the larger 2 mm standard wire, had brown hares caught about as frequently as foxes, with about half of those hares being released unharmed. The UK report goes on to say that using the standard, larger wire in addition to equipping the snares with rabbit stops eliminated the unwanted catch of brown hares.