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Predator-Free 2050 is an initiative to help restore New Zealand's native biodiversity by eliminating three types of introduced predators: rats, stoats, and possums. These pests are considered the most damaging of all introduced predators. As much of New Zealand's wildlife has evolved to avoid native predators such as eagles, our species tend to be ground-dwelling, but this makes them vulnerable to introduced predators. See the video above to learn more.
If you're keen to join the masses of New Zealanders who are trapping in their backyard or in the bush, and are looking for some information or reviews on the best traps to use, then read ahead (also good on ya mate)! I'll include some external resources at the end for more detail.
I'm going to review five types of traps, which I've had experience using or been informed about in detail by colleagues during my work as a Ranger in New Zealand.
1. Timms trap
Main Target: Possums
These are the bright yellow box traps you may have seen here and there.
In my opinion this might be the best trap for beginner trappers. It's easy to set, all you need to do is shove the bait on the metal rod, fasten it into the ground with the pegs provided, pull back the setting lever and you're good to go.
I use these at home and on the neighbours' property (with permission of course) and have caught plenty of possums, as well as hedgehogs, which are also a threat to native species. My co-workers in conservation also seem to have a good opinion of Timms traps.
Bait: I started using apples with a touch of cinnamon sprinkled on, which was the recommended bait. I personally don't think the cinnamon is necessary, unless you particularly want to treat your target to a bit of dessert before they hit the can... it's up to you.
Timms traps are only about $60, and mine have lasted without problems for the last eight years or so.
Pets: Cats are not attracted to them in my experience. I've noticed dogs wanting a good sniff at used traps due to the smell, but mine knows not to get too close, as I give her a good telling off when she does. So if you want a trap that can be left alone with pets, this might be a good option. Of course this is my experience and I can't make any guarantees.
2. DOC 200s /rest of DOC range
- 200s: Rats, Stoats
- 150s: Rats
- 250s: Ferrets, feral cats (but will also catch rats, stoats)
DOC 200s are designed to target all species of rat, and mustelids (stoats, weasels etc). As the name implies they're used frequently by DOC (the Department of Conservation) for this purpose.
I've heard experienced trappers say, and my observations echo, that DOC 200s are the most effective traps for rats and mustelids. They have been around for ages which only seems to support this.
Tips for setting: Initially I found them a little tricky to set, but once you get the hang of it they're fine. A new trap should be easy to set; the older, rustier traps are the ones I've had a little trouble with.
This is because stabilising yourself against the trap on the ground while getting a good grip on the tiny trap handle is a little awkward. I don't understand why they didn't just make a bigger handle, but oh well. As it stands you can only really fit a few fingers into it, so what I do is stretch my thumb over the edge of the trap closest to me, so I have something to pull against as I bring the lever up. I also rest my legs down on the trap so it stays steady.
Other people get right into it, using their hands to grab under the lethal piece of metal and trusting themselves to hold a steady grip and focus until the trap is fully set. I personally don't take that risk!
Bait: Eggs are commonly used by Rangers. This is also probably best if you are worried about pets as it's not a smell they'd be attracted to. Otherwise, you could use a bit of meat—dried is good if you're not sure you'll catch anything right away and want it to last.
Price: $70 to 90 depending if you want a stainless steel one or not. You could also get the DOC 150s for about $60, which are a little smaller, easier to set and primarily target rats. I don't have any personal experience using 150s. 250s are heavier and require much more strength to set than 200s. They cost a lot more, $230.
3. GoodNature self-setting traps- A24/ A12
- A12: Possums, ferrets
- A24: Rats, Stoats
The GoodNature self-setting traps seem to be all the rage, so you've probably heard of these kind of traps before. Even DOC is beginning to use these more, although their effectiveness compared with other traps is yet to be proven. (If I'm wrong here and there is a recent study I'm not aware of, please do inform me!)
However the idea of only having to set a trap once and leave it to do its thing until the bait and gas bullets (which kill the animals) run out certainly is appealing, especially in today's world of expecting instant fast results.
My neighbour purchased an A12 trap seven or so years ago, and in all the time since that trap has not caught a single possum, while our Timms traps nearby continued to do the job.
It may well have been something to do with the way my neighbour set the trap. Although he cleared the grass up to the manuka he nailed it onto, there was still a fair bit of long grass around, which may have made it less approachable to possums.
But honestly, if you've known possums like many of us have, you'd be skeptical that they would have any difficulty accessing such a trap if they really wanted to. Which makes me conclude that they didn't have any interest in that trap or the liquid bait that went with it whatsoever.
A few other professional trappers I've known have shared skepticisms about these traps, but on the other hand, you do hear stories of people who have had lots of success. One thing I will say for them is that they're great for difficult terrain where regularly checking traps is not possible or time/cost-effective for professional pest control workers. Once again, it's up to you whether you choose this trap or not. I'm just giving the guts of my experience with them.
Bait: As previously mentioned, the bait for A12s and A24s is a liquid, which is purchased from the same company Goodnature. It comes in either Chocolate or Blood flavour... mmm, delicious.
Price: As expected for a trap that re-sets itself, the Goodnature traps do not come cheap. The start-up kit for an A12 is $219.00 while the A24 kit is $189.00. Another factor you might want to consider when investing in these trap/s.
Pets: I've not witnessed pets showing interest in these traps, but you may want to check other resources to be sure.
4. Victor Professional Rat Trap
Main Target: Rats
These are like an upgraded version of your common mouse trap, placed inside a tunnel both for safety and as a more appealing place to sneak into for our rodent friends. They're especially designed for rat control and professional use, but are also widely recommended to the general public in New Zealand.
I haven't used these ones myself but I've heard that they are easy to set up and good for beginner trappers. Many Kiwis I know have gotten started trapping with these.
Bait: As in the picture, peanut butter is the most common bait
Price: Perhaps the best thing about these effective rat traps is that they're the cheapest professional-grade traps you can get at just $35.
Pets: I can't imagine they'd be a concern considering the small size of the tunnel.
5. Cage /Live Capture Traps
Main Target: Possums, feral cats, ferrets (may also catch other species).
Cage traps, or live capture traps, are not automatic kill traps. This means that if you're going to use this trap, you have to be willing to deal to the animal yourself. Feral cats are legally required to be taken to the vet to be put down, so you'll need to check if your local vet offers such a service. Otherwise if you are a gun license holder you can shoot them.
Shooting is also an easy killing method for the other species that get caught in this trap. I won't go into other methods here.
The main advantage of these is that they've been found to have a higher catch rate than many kill traps. The animal comes in after the bait and steps on a trigger, which then shuts the door behind it, trapping it inside the cage, but not harming it.
Please note that for animal welfare reasons, you are legally required to check these traps every 24 hours.
Bait: Depends what you are trying to catch—if you have a feral cat problem, meat; for ferrets, meat or eggs, and possums you can use apple again.
Price: Ranges from $60 to $160. The lower-end ones should do the trick just fine.
Pets: Considering it's a live-capture trap, these are the best traps for those who are really concerned about pets, or children! If your puss decides to have a nosey at the trap the worst that can happen is she'll be stuck in a cage overnight (although hopefully the time she got caught was actually during the day—please don't leave your cats out at night, as this can encourage them to hunt nocturnal wildlife!).
Additional Resources /The Verdict
If it was me choosing trap/s to buy, I would go for a DOC 200 for the smaller nasties (rats/stoats) and a good old Timms trap to take care of the possums. However everyone is different and it depends on factors previously mentioned such as pets, budget, and possibly the sort of backyard/bush you are trapping in.
Last but not least, remember that there are varying instructions for setup depending on the trap you choose to buy! In general you should place traps on relatively flat ground, and ensure that the traps entrance/s are accessible to your target pest.
Check out the links below for further information.
Finally, if you found my article any use, please be a good lad/lass and give it a share!
For more about me or to support my writing check out my website, join my mailing list and/or follow my social media (below) for monthly conservation articles and regular wildlife photography.
Happy trapping and let's make NZ a safer place for our native species!