Traps: What works and what doesn't

This was motivated by this thread about problem with the D-Rat traps and related threads like this one about problems with possum traps, I thought I’d put together a summary of trap experiences in case it’s useful for others. Listed in order from the worst to… well, the least bad really. Feel free to add your own comments on traps you use.

Rat traps

Jaw-style traps: These are the family of traps that look a bit like a shark’s mouth, a row of plastic serrations along the top and bottom and a long coil spring that flaps the lid shut on anything that triggers it, as opposed to the powerful torsion spring and kill bar used on standard traps. The Mitre 10 Swissinno and house brand Number 8 Rat Trap are examples of this style. These are comically ineffective at doing anything other than scaring the intended target, since having a lid flapped shut on you has virtually no long-term effect. A thrush somehow got in through the bird netting to one of these and triggered it. Opened the flap and it immediately flew off with barely a feather out of place.

Old-fashioned wooden traps: In theory pretty good, except that modern manufacturing has made them almost useless. Traditionally the wire that made up the trigger bar was severed with cutters that left a slight raised lip which hooked onto the trigger plate, or alternatively had a bend in them that had the bar come up into the trigger plate at an angle (better traps like the Victor still have this). Generic cheap traps are made with a straight trigger bar with a smooth rounded edge that slides off the trigger plate by itself, making it a huge pain to set and prone to self-triggering at random times.

The Big Cheese: I haven’t tested these since I was underwhelmed when I saw them at Mitre 10, but trap expert Shawn Woods has and found them to be rubbish.

Snap-E and variants: A modern version of the above traditional wooden trap. This fails in a different way, the wooden traps have tiny trigger plates that guarantee the rat will have its head under the kill bar when it comes down. With modern plastic manufacturing you can make the trigger plate extend all the way to the edge of the trap, which makes it almost impossible for a rat to get its head in far enough to be caught by the kill bar when it comes down. Short of the rat launching itself bodily into the trap in the hope of being far enough in before it triggers that it’ll be killed, I can’t see how these could trap anything.

D-Rat: The high-end version of the Snap-E. Same problem with the trigger that makes it almost useless for its intended purpose, but it has other nice design elements like a shroud that surrounds most of the trap, an ability to unset it without triggering it, and nice mounting options.

Felis Domesticus: Low-tech trap that’s very effective at getting rats initially but tends to become less so with age. Expensive to maintain, but definitely the best-designed rat trap I’ve found so far.

Not tried: Goodnature A24 (see the notes on the Goodnature possum trap below), Victor Professional/Modified Victor (on order, held up by Christmas/New Year), T-Rex (which I don’t have).

Possum traps

Goodnature A12: High-tech trap that uses a CO2-driven captive bolt to kill possums. Unfortunately since possums can’t read they can’t figure out how to use this trap.

Trapinator: Another trap that looks good in theory but is completely useless in practice. The problem with these is that the trigger mechanism is so insensitive that they’re almost impossible to set off, the possums simply eat the bait out of them without setting them off. At one point, after rebaiting it maybe a dozen times, I just left it set up, then some time later took it down, cleaned it out, and moved it to a different location. Only then did I realise that the entire time I’d been monkeying with it it was fully armed. I even tried putting some shims under the trigger bar to force it down a bit more into the about-to-trigger position, but it didn’t help.

Flipping Timmy: The tree-based version of the traditional ground-based Timms. A good idea in theory but a major pain to arm. With the standard Timms you put your knee on it and pull the cord up, with the Flipping Timmy there’s no way to do this, you end up having to reach inside to start moving the trigger bar across and then once it’s part-way across and there’s less resistance awkwardly pulling the cord around the side to fully arm it.

Timms: The gold standard. Easy to set, easy to use, just works.

Crossbow upgraded with cheapie airsoft accessories (RDS and spotting torch): Well, it’s killed more possums than even the Timms so far, so it deserves honorable mention here.

Well my experience, is that

Possums
(1) best trap are leg holds, but these required checking everyday.
(2) Timms traps work well, better than any tree based trap.

Rats
Victor traps in a wooden tunnel works the best. Also catch Rats in DOC200’s and once in a timms trap :slight_smile:

That is my two cents…Gary

Friend of mine caught a blackbird in a Timms once. Those things are pretty versatile :-).

We’re on the border between a residential area and a large block of native bush so have to be careful with trap types, thus haven’t tried leg holds or similar exposed-mechanism traps.

Of all the traps I’ve tried over the past 20 years the Timms trap is undoubtedly the most consistently successful for possums. I mount mine in trees.

I agree that the Goodnature A12 for possums was totally useless. I understand it’s no longer available. I’ve been using the NZAutoTraps AT220 for a couple of years and its catch rate is no better than my Timms but it does catch rats which Timms do only very occasionally. And, of course, it’s automatically resettable which the Timms isn’t.

After extensive video analysis of possums’ interaction with all these traps I currently have a hypothesis - unproven, unsubstantiated and possibly irrelevant (so don’t flame me) - that the reason that the A12 and AT220 are relatively unsuccessful compared with the Timms is that the possum is approaching the orifice vertically compared with horizontally for the Timms. Possums approaching the A12 and AT220 are clearly very interested in the lure - but appear very reluctant to put their heads up into the trap.

For me - as I check my traps regularly - the Timms is easily the most cost-effective option for possums. For rats I find those small cage traps best - but there is the inconvenience of have to dispatch a live catch.

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That’s a major problem with rat traps, the most effective ones, which from comments in overseas forums are the ones that drop them into a bucket by various means, e.g. a see-saw arrangement or a rotating drum with bait on it, then leave you with a bucket full of starving trapped rats to deal with. The various options for disposing of them once they’re in there are all pretty unpleasant.

Interesting point there, I had a Flipping Timmy in a tree close to the Timms, in an area where possums come up out of the bush, and the possums always went for the Timms and completely ignored the Flipping Timmy. Anyone else noticed the difference in possum reactions to horizontal vs. vertical head positions for traps?

Under Rat Traps, you forgot to list the T-Rex, the snap-trap that I’ve had the most success with.

The Pros

  • They’re very easy to set, they’re powerful, and they can withstand a lot of abuse. I’ve never seen any evidence that the springs in any of my traps have weakened over time.
  • It has a removable bait/lure cup, so it’s easy to lure them without a treadle in the way.
  • The T-Rex has teeth at the front and sides of the trap, so rats can be killed from 3 sides, and the rear is blocked off, preventing interference.
  • The teeth are very effective at preventing rats from escaping. Even when scavenging occurs, usually by brown rats (which can reach 400g+), they’ve never managed to pull an entire carcass out of a trap. In snap-traps with a smooth kill-bar that’s firmly-mounted, I wouldn’t be surprised if large rats or mustelids could remove an entire carcass.
  • Conveniently, they have mount-holes at the rear of the base. To prevent screws interfering with the trap, use flatheads. You can use small nails or tacks, but it makes removing traps difficult.
  • When mounted vertically in exposed areas, the back of the trap blocks a large amount of rain and harsh sunlight. Victors and Snap-E’s are completely exposed to the elements, so lures deteriorate much faster. Also, rats can’t access lures from the back/top of the trap, so they’re at risk from any direction they approach the trap.
  • Cost-wise, my T-Rex’s have been very cheap to use, because they perform well for years. A 2018 trap is still working properly, after killing 50+ rats. Out of 23 traps, I’ve had to throw out 3 that broke, because unmounted traps go flying when they go off, and I had some on top of a workbench, so they hit wood and/or concrete numerous times. My traps are all mounted now, so that isn’t a problem anymore. I’ve only had to toss 2 traps that refused to set properly, but they were 2 years old and had probably trapped 20 rats and 10 mice between them, so it was a decent return on my investment. Philproof’s version is as good as the original, so that should save you a few bucks.

The Cons

  • The shape of the T-Rex blocks a lot of light compared to flat traps, but rats primarily respond to olfactory lures, so it’s a minor issue.
  • The biggest T-Rex flaw, is that you can’t put out pre-feeds, because the bait cup is covered when the trap isn’t armed. I smear a lure sample on the front of the trap, instead, which appears to eliminate the problem. Trap-wary rats might be deterred by the lure once it’s inside the bait cup in the armed trap, because it’s in a different spot and it’s inside the trap, but this appears to be a small problem.
  • When the trap is mounted, the bait cup can no longer be removed, so lures have to be applied while the trap is armed. All you have to do is hold the top of the trap and use a stick, popsicle stick, etc.
  • The T-Rex doesn’t have sensitivity settings, so lure-consumption and theft can be a problem (but having sensitivity settings doesn’t eliminate interference). To trap small rodents interfering with my traps, I squeeze a small piece of Erayz in to the lure cup, which is very difficult for them to eat, due to its texture, and removing it with their jaws or paws would be difficult. The movement that they create when Erayz is used, kills a significant number of small rodents. The Erayz in the bait cup is also difficult for rats to eat/remove, so it’s a good lure for snap-traps, in general. This technique doesn’t work when the trap is mounted vertically, unfortunately. Squishing a raw chickpea in to a firm lure is the best thing that I’ve come up with so far.

I highly-recommend buying a few T-Rex traps to add to your arsenal, whether it’s around the house, or in the bush.
I’ve mounted several T-Rex’s inside DoC tunnels, and they’ve been effective at trapping small rodents and rats too light to spring a DoC trap, limiting interference. Small and adult rodents are both excellent lures for scavengers and predators seeking social interaction, so a T-Rex inside a DoC tunnel can provide you with lures.
Traps can be mounted on to the base just past a DoC trap in a modified tunnel, or mounted vertically. I haven’t experienced sympathetic-firing when testing for it, or in the field, so it’s worth a go. In addition to trapping medium-sized rats in a T-Rex that were light enough to cross the treadle of a DoC trap, I’ve trapped several that have managed to eat the lure out of the T-Rex, and then been trapped by the DoC trap as it exits.

Cheers.

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Hi Kahikateatree, Yep, I agree with most of your rat trap findings. You didn’t mention Doc200 which is certainly the best. takes no prisoners & even kills hedgehogs & possums. A24 I have one & am not very impressed. Don’t believe all the claims of kills. It’s only the amount of times the trap has been triggered that is counted not the actual kills. I have an A12 possum trap & am even less impressed .I believe it has now been discontinued. I’ve tried the Trapinator & like you find it useless. If you are having trouble with the Flipping Timmy you should persevere. It is by far the best possum trap on the market. Hold your hand on the top of the trap & pull the cord horizontally. That eliminates the friction that happens when you pull the cord upwards. To make it more possum attractive I set mine onto a sloping branch leaning from the ground to the trunk of the tree. The trap is about knee height. Hope this helps.

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The can be A24 is effective in areas where there are large pest populations, if it’s in a good site and used properly (like all traps). For instance, if you were to extend your trapline, or start trapping in an area that isn’t receiving any pest control, it’s a good way to kill a lot pests quickly. Once the kill totals in an A24 start to drop, you replace it with single-kill traps to kill the predators that remain, suppressing their numbers. I’ve experienced this using my A24’s, and several studies have concluded that it’s a good trap for a first wave of control, but is sub-par afterwards. Presumably, the predators remaining are those that are wary about sticking their head inside the trap.

An A24’s kill totals could approximate those of conventional traps if they’re placed in remote areas that you aren’t able to visit very often and they eliminate the problem of re-luring traps and having to clean traps/tunnels that have had carcasses in them for a long time.

If you live in an urban area, and your neighbours don’t do any pest control, it’s a convenient trap to use, because there will be a constant supply of rats and mice seeking food and shelter, and pets will scavenge the carcasses.

The only way to know how many predators the A24 is actually killing when it fires, would be to use a trail cam.

I also have an A12, and it has racked up a few kills over the years, but it doesn’t perform any better than a Timms, IMO, but it is more convenient. It has been discontinued. My pair of Trapinators haven’t trapped a single possum yet. They’re highly-susceptible to lure theft by rodents and insects.

Thanks for the Flipping Timmy advice. FYI, feijoas are a good lure for Timms traps. Skewer a small, under-ripe one horizontally. Possums bite feijoas to determine how ripe they are, so even rock-hard feijoas will get some. I’ve also trapped rabbits and hares in Timms with feijoas in them, to my amazement. They should also be effective in cages.

Cheers.

Good to know it’s not just me being incompetent with them :-). The problem with my Flipping Timmy is that I’ve had to mount it fairly high up, around chest height, in the places I’ve had it because we’re on the boundary between a residential area and large area of native bush, there’s a walking track down there used by joggers and dog walkers and occasionally an overly-energetic hound will bound off the track and sniff around, I’d be traumatised if they stuck their head into a trap like that for some reason and set it off so I put them up out of reach.

Your photo also shows it more horizontal than vertical, which seems to confirm willowflat_warrior’s comments about them being reluctant to stick their head up vertically into things. I tested it about a year ago with the horizontal-access Timms next to the vertical-acccess Flipping Timmy and the latter was totally ignored… I’ll see if I can find a mostly-horizontal branch that extends up high enough that it’d be safe from over-enthusiastic pets.

I have had quite some success with Trapinators, Flipping Timmy’s and Flip-converted Timms, about head-high up trees. I use apple (about 1/6 apple-slice) as bait and smear apple (if still usable the old bait) onto the tree-bark up to the trap. The Trapinators also work well, but the bait-platform needs some modification. I screw one or two screws through (existing holes in) it, so that the apple can be spiked onto the platform which ends up hanging upside down. The success must be coming from the apple-scent up the tree and the fact that the possum will be trying to use his weight to pull the bait down. Servicing a Trapinator is so much easier because of the handle to set and release it. Give is another try!

We too are having plenty of success with trapinators in the Lewis Pass. Easy for volunteers as you say Roel, as well as suitable for areas with kea - important in the Lewis Pass.

Interesting discussion.

I LOVE Kness Big Snap E traps. I’ve caught a couple of hundred of rats around my house with them over the last 6 years.

The springs are super strong, they’re easy to set and bait with the rear bar - so you don’t have to touch the business end.

I set mine on 45 degree trees. This makes a huge difference. If I set them on a vertical tree - nothing. If I move them about 2m away to a sloping tree - bam - mulitple catches.

I do agree the bait is exposed to the elements. And they can be set off by heavy rain. And also occasionally I’ll catch a rat that has entered from above, so around it’s middle.

And by the way, they get hit behind the head - exactly where they should be - almost every time. I’m not sure why you think this doesn’t happen?

Some pics:

This is a 450mm rat:

Different rat, same tree, nice behind the neck capture:

Another one.

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Regarding TRex’s: I quite like them, I’ve used quite a few inside wooden tunnels. I do tend to catch rats by the front legs with them sometimes…which I don’t like.

Regarding Trapinators: Yes I don’t think they’re that great. I imagine, like all tree mounted traps, most just walk past. Also, if you have branches near the bottom of the trap, the possums can push on those when they are caught, meaning they take ages to die. So you have to have them on a straight bit of tree.

Flipping Timmys: Yes, pull the cord when they are flipped open, then push up and secure with the red knob. This is easier. And I agree with others that on an angle will be better. But note that this trap and the Trapinator are NAWAC tested in the vertical position - as far as I know. Possums will die quicker with their weight pulling them down. If they’re on an angle, they’ll take longer to die.

So one interesting point that’s come up several times both here and in the other thread is the importance of putting them at 45 degrees or so rather than vertical. Anyone have any ideas why that would be the case? Looks like I’ll have to relocate the Flipping Timmy yet again once the rain stops, the downside is that all the trees within easy visual range are the vertical variety.

My 2 cents…

Flipping Timmies are my preferred possum catcher. I use Nutella (supermarket brand) which they love, although catches have been lower last spring when lots of trees were budding (depending on the area) although the numbers would have been lower from trapping. Prefeeding with some at the base of the tree helps. I think it’s a more humane kill due to the hanging nature or it rather than the possum rolling around on the ground with a box on its head. They pull the pegs out unless screwed to something. We don’t use them anymore. I mount FT’s chest height on the tree - ideally post width, but most trees will work. The sensitivity is very adjustable to allow for manufacturing variances. Some possums might not like to put their heads in, but most traps will require that. I find them very easy to set and work with. Yep, keep them above dog height. I often mount in multiples as their scent can attract more to the scene of the crime.

Rats can get into them, so we often pair them with a rat trap - I often use an A24 for the initial installation as it can quickly knockoff a bunch of rats. I don’t use the ALP (auto lure pumps) as I don’t think they’re cost effective unless not servicing the traps regularly. I just fill the hole in a used ALP with Nutella (or peanut butter). When kill rates go down it can go mouldy in the winter months (Auckland). If the Nutella is gone, then likely out of gas unless mice or insects have eaten it. Some mice get killed while others are too light. and don’t trigger it.
image

I consider the Trapinator its poor cousin. You can flip the kill bar over to adjust sensitivity, but it’s just not as refined and effective in my experience.

For rats we use Victors (don’t got for the cheap/weak ones) in wooden boxes which protects the bait from the elements. I often put the boxes up in the trees for ship rates which I think increases the catch rate a lot as they feel safe from predators up there. I put platforms on the front of the boxes to allow the rat to drop down from above and enter the box.

Otherwise I find a branch that will lead them into the box entrance. I initially used the Victors with metal tabs and put an almond on it, but then switched to the yellow tabs. Mice can clean them out, but I set them very close to triggering if that is a problem.

T-Rex’s are probably good too, but I think they’re more expensive. Easier/safer to set.

For mustelids, hedgehogs and Norway rats (neophobic and smart) I use DOC200/250s.

For wild cats , hedgehogs and mustelids we use the smart cages (Tāwhiti – Smart Cage – Predator Free Franklin) which are very effective, but being live capture cages, someone needs to be on hand, willing and able to despatch the catch with an air rifle or similar. They’re not dog proof, so they can possibly damage the trap or dog if they try to go it. I get an email for every catch, so there’s no need to check the traps on a schedule. Great to have some in the tool kit depending on your situation. With the right lure, it’s a doddle to catch possums in the smart cages too. Essential if you’re trying to cage those last predators or the hard-to-catch ones.

I’ve had limited results with the autolure pump (mayo mix) so I’m still working to figure out the best flavour to mix with the mayo. great for those locations further away with few predators though.

I haven’t used the AT220s

For the lure, fresh rabbit is easily my best for mustelids, cats and rats. I don’t use it specifically for rats, but I do catch them with it. Erayz for longer life and slightly less effective.

Ants can be a challenge with all baits in some places. I find Mortein ant sand an effective deterrent. I’ve yet to try Ripcord in the mayo mix, but concerned it might make it unpalatable.

For baits, we use pied piper bait stations for high rat populations (to avoid hoarding) and raised mini Philproofs for possums. Pest Off brody being easily the best bait for us. Almost all other baits have been useless in my experience. Double tap goes mouldy and I rarely see anything eating it.

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You could use bits of wood at 45 degrees to trees.

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Ah, of course! That’ll also make it much easier to relocate, just bolt it to an old length of fencepost or something and move it around areas where it looks like possums are active, leaning against a convenient tree. Thanks!

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Have you ever tried coating the apple with cinnamon?

I’ve had way more success with it than plain apples. It keeps the apples firm longer, because the cinnamon reduces the evaporation-rate, and it keeps insects and birds away. Maybe 5% of the time mice/rats eat the cinnamon apples, and I’ve trapped a large ship rat in a Timms using it. A flour, icing sugar, and cinnamon blaze can be used.

I have had most of my rats the double doc150. I have also had ferrets, stoats, hedgehogs and cats. It is amazing how the big ferrets and cats squeeze in and hedgehogs can only go one way forward.