How to catch trap shy rats

How do you catch trap shy rats? After early success, rats are now avoiding my traps. Chew cards show there are still rats around, but the rats are no longer clearing bait from the boxes, whether the trap is set or not. I have tried different baits, and locations, with no success. A Google search suggested I should wear gloves, and maybe also keep the traps clean/wash them. I have not tried the last two suggestions - are rats that fussy/clever? Please, do I need to clean my boxes and traps? Or are there other methods that are known to work?
Thanks, paul

I think wearing gloves is definitely worth doing. I have also found sometimes adding extra bait near the box entrance can help lure them in and think the trap is safe. You just have to be persistent.

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Get more cunning than the rat. If you are using a box trap dig a trench and bury the box in the ground, acessable from both ends. Put sticks and leaves around the entrance so it doesn’t look person made. Try putting lots of bait in the tunnel for three nights, on the forth night set the trap. Happy hunting!

You can add some different traps, e.g. SA2 cat/possum trap which we have found will trap rats also, including large rats

We’ve had success with rabbit blood. If you can get one, rubbing a rabbit all over the trap outside and inside must make the box smell amazing to a rat (and stoats as well). Also, if you’re using something like Erayz or peanut butter, dip your finger in the bait and drag a line from the trap through the holes in the baffles to the entrance. Another trick is to deactive the trap, and throw some bait in the box like what Hugh and Helen said. Get the rats used to the idea that the box is safe, and they’ll let their other rat friends know where you can get some food. Then after the bait has been taken a couple of times, activate the trap.

Many thanks for your suggestions. It sounds like rats are much smarter than mice. I have tried the rat cafe approach for over a week now (ie, bait but trap not set), and leaving food at the entrance. Worse still, they have not eaten the peanut butter I placed on the outside of the trap. That leaves me to: catch a rabbit (not easy around here), wear gloves (easy), use another trap (easy), and bury the trap/box (possible in some places). Many thanks.

I have read this chat topic with interest. We developed our rat eradication programme over eight years. The first thing to understand is that there is no template for pest control. There are too many variables. As this is a chat forum I cannot go into detail other than to say that we started with traps then, after total frustration, moved to a multi feed toxin, still not getting the knock down we ended up using very successfully the lowest toxisity single feed bait, Contac (Bromadiolone which is one fifth the strength of Brodifacom). If anyone wants a copy of our management plan google “Managiti Restoration” and ask us for a copy. You will not clear rats from an area with traps.

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Many thanks. It’s great to hear what your project has learned, but disappointing to hear that we may have to use toxins. Our project focuses on backyard trapping in an urban area, and I suspect many trappers, me included, would prefer to avoid toxins. Please check/confirm the name you suggested that I Google - Managiti Restoration. (Google seems keen on car restoration). And would you be happy for me to include your reply (and snippets from others) in a Facebook post to our project?

Rats become trap shy and this is why you will need to also use poison. Ditrac is a good product in the philproof rodent station.

How did you get on in the end Paul? I have a similar problem here where the ship rats are easy to catch in the traps, but the Norway rats seem to possess much greater intelligence and caution. In two cases I know where their den is, but they will not go near a trap or the poison I hung over their hole on a wire. I’m also open to any easy tips on how to kill them in their den without spending too much time and money. Cheers, Cam

In case you still need some pointers…

Focus on lures that are high in fat. If you can find it in your grocery store, tallow, sometimes simply labelled “beef fat”, is very attractive to both species of rats. It’s greasy to work with, and it takes a bit of time to get good at cutting it up, but it’s an excellent lure. It works well in snap-traps and in DOC tunnels. Give rats a prefeed of this for a few nights, and there’s a very good chance that you’ll get them. Skewering a piece of firm fat, like the kind found on a pork chop, is another option. Mice can eat tallow easily, but firm fat takes them some time.

Also, in DOC tunnels, put out a buffet for the rats, to make it as enticing as possible. Peanut butter, tallow or another fat, bacon, a punctured egg, a piece of fresh meat, bones from a roast that still has scraps on it, dead mice, etc. Egg mayo is another food that predators love.

For trap-shy Norway rats, the best lure is another rat, either a ship rat or another Norway rat. Rub the dead rat on the DOC tunnel and inside it, push it through the baffle, and then place it in the back, or middle, of the tunnel. Try to express some urine from the dead rat, if possible, on to wood, to let it soak in.

Good luck!

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Wow, many thanks for the numerous tips. I have never attempted using fat, or a dead predator, despite sometimes clearing half eaten mice from a trap. My usual approach is to be pretty generous with peanut butter and pumpkin seeds. I will give the messier approach a go. Thanks. Cheers, Paul

Which kind of traps do you use the peanut butter and pumpkin seeds in?
Are they mixed together?

The brown rats here, often make burrows underneath our deck and attempt to chew their way up to the pantry from underneath a crawlspace, and electric cables are at risk, so killing them is an A1 priority. They can be very difficult to kill, so I have plenty of practice killing them! I keep a small amount of poison on hand, in case I can’t trap them. It is very important to use more than 1 model of trap when you’re dealing with problem rats, as well as using a variety of very attractive lures. I have 5 different models on the go during the autumn and winter to trap brown rats, because very few rats will be able to escape all 5.

I refer to as mice and small rats as “small rodents”, because telling the 2 apart is difficult. They are excellent lures for both rats and mustelids, but you have to be dilligent about not letting them rot. I only use SRs as lures in my DOC tunnels close to home, so that I can check on them frequently.

The best way to maintain a constant SR supply, is to make at least one small, enclosed tunnel out of scrap wood/plywood that’s just high enough and wide enough to hold 2 traps. Aside from being the most effective way to trap SRs, this way there’s no concern about traps going missing. Put a barrier between the traps to prevent them from setting each other off. In order to prevent predators too large for the traps to access them (or small birds), I drill a 1" hole through the plywood entrances. Technically, rats and mustelids can squeeze through holes that small, but I’ve killed hundreds of SRs in my tunnels, and no adult predators or birds have been killed or injured. For my lids, I use small hinges.
Times Up One Touch Mouse Trap - Household Pest Control | Mitre 10™

I wouldn’t bother with other traps. I didn’t realise what absolute rubbish every other mouse trap is until I tried these. If you have others, you could make tunnels for them, but don’t expect kill-rates anything close to what you’ll get with the Times-Up traps. My traps have seen tons of action, without showing an signs of wear-and-tear, and they are also the most humane traps that I’ve ever used.

Inside tunnels, mold can be a problem in winter if they’re outside, so if you put a tunnel outside, recommend using Goodnature lures, which take a very long time to go moldy, stay attractive for months, are more effective than standard lures, IMO, are easy to lure traps with, and inexpensive. A goodnature sachet will last you ages, because you only need to use a very small amount per trap (about the size of a small baby pea).
I find that I don’t have to refresh the lures very often, because the trap is so effective that it’s rare for SRs to eat much of the lure before they’re trapped. Even 20% of the lure remaining will still get you plenty of kills.

When the traps start to get a bit dirty, just leave them unset for a little while, and SRs and insects will clean them pretty well. When they do need a proper clean, use a toothbrush with a small amount of white vinegar. Don’t use tallow in SR traps, because it could go rancid in hot weather, and would be way harder to clean than other lures.

The best spots for my tunnels are in sheds and where I store firewood, because the wood is home to lots of insects and provide good nesting sites. Even in my tidy shed, with the firewood stacked, SRs visit the firewood year-round. In autumn and winter, having traps by your firewood, and in a shed close to your house, are the best ways to put a serious dent in local SR populations. The insect life here started to flourish within a month or two of intense SR trapping, with a big increase in weta and moth sightings, as well as native slugs and snails.
If you have a DOC tunnel close to your house that SRs are stealing bait out of, move a tunnel there for a little while, and it can make a difference sooner than you might think.

Regarding messy traps, with snap-traps, a lot of people wash them every time they make a kill, which is a bad idea. Rats can detect the smell of other rats on the trap, which is a sign that other rats have visited it before, which makes them feel safer. The remains of lures contain traces of rodent saliva, which is a powerful lure, because it indicates that the lure is safe to eat. Rat 1 might visit a trap, have a bite, and not get caught. Rat 2 will follow the scent-trails that Rat 1 left that leads to the trap, and smell the saliva on the lure, thinking it’s safe to eat some of it, too. With less of the lure remaining in the bait cup/on the pad, Rat 2 is more likely to be killed.

Until a trap gets truly dirty - covered in mold or a rat has rotted in it - leave it be. Also, the smell of multiple lures can be attractive, so don’t remove the traces of lure #1 if it’s still good, before you try lure #2. Peanut butter, with a hint of Nutella underneath it, will attract more rodents than one or the other. Use multiple lures, switching them frequently. A rat that doesn’t find PB enticing, may be unable to resist a trap lured with Marmite or BBQ sauce. PB is a great lure, but there are a lot of rodents that you won’t trap if you don’t keep things interesting. In DOC tunnels, I use a “cocktail of death” of lures, which has increased my kill-rates significantly (I’m at 231 rats so far, this year).

Cheers, Mark

Thanks for the extra info Mark. I have tried to add a photo of my typical trap, ie, a wooden tunnel with plenty of peanut butter at the entrance (as well as on the victor trap), plus a few pumpkin seeds. I suspect that rats rather than mice take the pumpkin seeds, as sometimes all the peanut butter has been taken, but not the seeds. And I suspect that a rat would have set off the Victor trap. I will check out Mitre10 for the traps you rate. Much more expensive than Victors. It’s great that you are sharing your tips. Cheers, Paul

Rats would definitely take the pumpkin seeds. Mice probably don’t have jaws large enough for pumpkin seeds. Do they ever nibble them, or are they left intact?

I’d love to see the tunnel. E-mail me at

Note: the Times Up mouse traps are excellent, but the rat traps have not received good reviews.

Hi Paul, what other lures have your tried other than peanut butter? You previously mentioned that you had tried several.

Hello Dan, it’s a while ago but I did try a few, especially cooked meat items, especially bacon and ham. I suspect I had read somewhere that they work. What I have settled for is peanut butter, plus 3 or 4 pumpkin seeds. I place the peanut butter at the entrance, also inside the entrance, as well as on the trap. The pumpkin seeds form a sort of trail from the entrance to the trap. The rat trap is in a standard wooden box. I hope this helps. Cheers, Paul

Hi, re pumpkin seeds. They have either gone, or left intact, but I have not inspected them for nibbles. Maybe if I shelled them then mice would be interested, but that’s a lot of bother and I would eat them. (There’s a prize for someone who can train rats to shell pumpkin seeds for human consumption.) My traps are nearly all a Victor trap in a wooden tunnel, so the peanut butter and pumpkin seeds are typically inside the tunnel, close to the entrance. When I cut up a pumpkin, I let the seeds dry by a window/in the sun, then save them for later use.
I went to my local Mitre10 but they did not seem to have the Times Up trap range. I will have to keep looking. From the M10 website it looks like these traps are much more expensive than the homemade wooden tunnel and victor trap combination. But, I want to see one.

The Times Up range is a variety of common traps that M10M sells. The Times Up mouse traps that I’ve been raving about, are actually made by a company called Big Cheese, for example.

From the photo you e-mailed me, your setup is what I was thinking of, from your descriIptions. Aside from the Victor Pro, what are the other traps do you use?
I’ve researched a lot of traps, and have tried out a number of them, learning from trial and error what does and doesn’t work.