Just because you live in an urban environment doesn’t mean you have to rule out trapping as a way to get protein. Of course, when things are normal, this isn’t something you’d want to do. But in a true emergency, one that breaks down society, it may become very necessary. So, it’s a good idea to know how to trap animals that inhabit the city.
The first issue you’re going to have to deal with is getting over the “ich” factor. The thought of eating rats and pigeons will not be very appetizing to many. But if it’s the difference between that or going hungry, the plate fright will quickly vanish. So, what can the urban dweller look to trap?
As I already mentioned, rats and pigeons are two of the most abundant and easy to trap critters in the urban environment. But there are also squirrels, raccoons and opossums. There may be others running around, but this is the bulk of what you can expect. I’m going to discuss trapping in two sections: birds and mammals. Each possess unique challenges and require different traps and triggers.
Let’s start with birds. Pigeons aren’t the only birds in the city. There are dove, finches, black birds and crows. You may even have sea gulls in your city, you do not have to be near the ocean to find them. Birds can be very easy to trap as they have a couple of quirks that we can capitalize on to our advantage.
First, birds cannot walk backwards. Knowing this allows us to utilize funnel traps in a variety of manners. One of the easiest pigeon or dove traps is a simple piece of four-inch PVC pipe with a cap on one end. You lay the pipe out and sprinkle some bait in front of it and more inside. The birds will land and peck at the bait outside and eventually walk into the pipe to continue feeding. Once in the pipe they cannot turn around and will simply continue until the end of the pipe. Having a hold drilled, about ¾ of an inch, in the cap will provide light that they will try to get to. You can stack them up inside the trap in this manner.
Another method, utilizing a pipe, requires a 90-degree fitting and five-gallon bucket with a lid. You cut a hole in the lid to fit the elbow into and bury the bucket, so the top is level with the ground. You bait this one in the same manner as the lone pipe. Only this time, the birds will walk to the end of the pipe and fall into the bucket. Then, all you have to do is pull the bucket from the hole and carry it home. You can acquire a lot of meat this way.
There are also bird snares that can be employed. A perch snare is a good option. For this snare, you simply need an upright pole about one-inch long. Bore a hole all the way through it. On one side, open the hold in a bit of a square shape. Now, find a small stick for the perch. Carve one end to fit snugly in the square hole. Not too tight, just so it fits. Now, set up a spring pole. Run the line from the spring pole through the hole and form your loop. Load the spring pole by pulling it over and insert your perch into the same hole the line comes through. This will hold the line in place, keeping the spring pole leaded. Lay the noose over the perch and you’re ready.
When a bird lands on the perch, it’s weight will knock the perch away and the noose will catch it as it’s pulled up against the pole. This is a very effective trap. If you can bait it with something, your odds will be greatly increased. These are just a couple of examples of the sort of traps you can utilize in an urban environment, or anywhere for that matter. You’re only limited by your imagination.
For small mammals in the urban environment, there are numerous options. While none of these critters may be at the top of your menu, they are all protein and should not be overlooked. One of the easiest to catch are rats. They are plentiful and provide a decent reliable source of meat. Of course, if you can score a raccoon or opossum, there’s considerably more meat on those. They just require a slightly different trap.
Rats can be trapped with everything from soda cans and water bottles to buckets and snares. One of the easiest is a five-gallon bucket and a couple of empty soda cans. Using a piece of wire, like a coat hanger, punch two holes in the bucket about an inch from the top so the wire will span the opening. Now, punch a hole in the top and the bottom of the soda cans as close to center as possible.
Push the wire through the first hole in the bucket and feed your cans on, then through the second hole in the bucket. Fold the ends over to hold it all in place and you’re almost ready. Fill your bucket about half full of water. Place your bait on the top of the soda cans. Something like peanut butter smeared on it will work great. All you have to do now is sit back and wait.
The rat will smell the bait and try to walk out and get it. The cans will roll, dropping him into the bucket where he’ll drowned. This is a great trap because once it’s set up, it keeps producing. Unlike snares and the like that must be reset. It’s quiet and passive. A perfect way to collect food in what could be a very hostile environment.
Instead of trying to describe a bunch of traps, I’m going to cover three triggers to be used in various traps for mammals, though a couple of them work for birds as well. The Paiute deadfall is probably the most common and if you’ve watched any survival show, you’ve seen it. You need two primary sticks. One needs to be about a fourth longer than the other. Cut the shorter one into a chisel style end. On the longer one, close to one end, but not directly at the end, carve a small notch. This is where the lever will rest on the post.
At the opposite end of the lever stick, tie a piece of string. Find your weight and prop it up. Place the post stick vertical, but not under the weight and put the lever stick in so it’s tip is under the weight and holding it up. Now, you will determine where to tie the small stick that’s one half of the trigger. This doesn’t need to be a very big piece, but it does need to be flat.
Once it’s tied on, rest your trap. Take the cord around the vertical post and use another small stick to hold it in place by putting one end against your flat stick and the other against the back of your weight. To insure better success, tie your bait or rub it into the trigger stick. This will ensure they trigger it. This will work for mice, rats and squirrels.
The next one is called a treadle trigger. This is a fantastic trigger than can be used on any size game. First thing you need to find are a couple of “Y” sticks. The two tops of the Y’s can be cut with one short and one approximately a foot long. These will be driven into the ground, so make sure they are long enough. (If you were going to size this up for hogs or similar, you’d need larger parts). The bottom of the Y can be short. Drive these into the ground, upside down as it were, leaving the Y a couple of inches above the surface.
Using a spring pole or other mechanical driver, attach your cordage. Pull the spring pole over and determine where to tie your trigger stick. This is small, two inches long and goes into the line above the noose. You’ll need two more sticks the size of your finger. Pull your spring pole over and put one of the sticks under the two Y’s. They will hold it in place, so it can’t be pulled up. Take your trigger stick and place one tip of it so that the cordage runs under the horizontal stick and is vertical on the other side. Now, take your other stick and put against the two Y’s, move it up so it is just holding the trigger in place. Your trap is now set.
Cut several small sticks and lay them on top of the bottom horizontal stick supporting the bottom of your trigger. In doing this, anywhere an animal happens to step, they will set off the trigger. Lay your noose out over these and place your bait in the center. The trap is now ready to go. As you can see, this can be scaled up to trap hogs or deer as well. There is also a way to make this an instant kill trap but describing that would be difficult.
The last one I’ll cover is a true trap, not just a trigger. It’s called a pencil snare and is easy to set up. This trap also uses a spring pole to apply the mechanical power to close the snare. Find a suitable location and pick out your spring pole. You can also cut one and bring it with you, simply drive it firmly into the ground.
Tie cordage to the end of it and pull it over to load it, making sure it won’t break. Now you need three more sticks. Two of these need to be about the diameter of your thumb and long, as they will be driven into the ground. The third can be smaller but needs to be strong enough to take the force of the spring pole. One the two larger ones, carve a notch in one end. You want a flat side close to the end of the stick. The flatter and cleaner the better.
Drive the two larger ones into the ground roughly eight to ten inches apart depending on what you’re trapping. Find a suitable stick to go between these two and cut it to length. Flatten the top of the tips if necessary, you want as little friction here as possible. Tie this to the cordage on the spring pole, leaving plenty of the noose, then tie the noose.
Pull the spring pole over and fit the ends of the “pencil” into the notches and support your noose so it’s held open. When the noose is disturbed, the pencil will roll out and set the spring pole off. This is a very effective trap for small game and, when set correctly, works every time. It’s very difficult for an animal to get away from such a trap.
Get creative. There are endless ways to trap small game. Hell, there are traps that use cardboard boxes! You can even do the simple, prop a box up, tie a string to the prop and wait. When something goes under the box, pull the prop. This works really well for pigeons. Do not limit yourself. Just because you live in an urban area doesn’t mean there isn’t any wildlife. There’s always something around. It’s just up to you to find it.