Even if you have been trapping nuisance wildlife for more than 20 years, I bet you sometimes find that your trapping efforts do not result in catching the animal. Perhaps the animals are avoiding your traps or even being drawn to your traps as a result of odors left by the previous animal(s). Although you may have never considered cleaning the live traps you use, or if you just spray them down with water from a hose, it may be time to consider a different approach.
Tom Jordan, manager of the bird department for Arrow Exterminating in Lynbrook, N.Y., thought long and hard about how to clean a live trap in the most efficient and least costly method. He noticed that when trapping feral cats, they avoided the traps that had been previously used for the trapping of raccoons, squirrels and opossums. Other times, he would find the raccoon trap tipped over, flipped, moved around and often set off by a male raccoon that thought he had found a female mate — only to discover there was no female present. The odor drew the male raccoon to the trap and then the investigative raccoon sometimes became a little upset when there was no female raccoon present — there was only the scent she left behind.
Remember that it is not only the odor of the previous trapped animal that may cause you problems with trapping the next animal, but also the possible presence of parasites and other savory leavings that may be harmful to you, the trapper.
A Breakthrough. Tom tried various methods, all of which took quite a bit of time (since he has 40 to 50 traps) and they still did not remove all of the environmental repellents or attractants on the traps. He then considered the idea of using oven cleaner. He purchased Easy-Off oven cleaner, which was a cold cleaner (that means heat is not needed to activate the cleaning material). It worked! He found he could clean about six traps with one can of oven cleaner, which costs about $5 per can. Spray it on, wait the recommend time and rinse off the traps with a hose. The traps were as good as new and his catch percentage increased dramatically. Give it a try!
Have you ever heard the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? For us in pest management, that simply means if what you are doing is not working, try something different. If you always return to a problem commercial account kitchen for roaches and use bait in the same place for six months, you can safely assume that what you are doing in that account is not working and you should probably try a different approach — or at the very least change the location of your baiting. I have seen accounts where bait has been applied to the same area over and over and physically glues the counter (or whatever) to the wall. I am not sure I would label that behavior insane but I understand the connection.
Try the oven cleaner method for your live wildlife traps and see if it works for you. Keep thinking outside the box (the trap?) and always alter your treatment methods when they are not working.
The author is manager of training and education at Arrow Exterminating Co. in Lynbrook, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.