The Best Rat Trap

There are certain less-than-glamorous homesteading chores that I am really good at. Shoveling, doing dishes, and trapping rats. Sigh.

   Rats around here are not the loathsome Norwegian variety, but rather wood rats, or pack rats, which look like a big mouse, Kinda cute. In the woods, they build pyramids of twigs 3′ or so high—rat architecture—always in secluded spots, so you have to be bushwacking to come upon them. In semi-rural areas like this they cruise human habitations for easy pickins. One year I trapped over 40.

   For years I used the standard wooden Victor traps and would put peanut better in a little piece of plastic (with punched holes), tied to the trigger with baggie ties. Then I started sheet-metal-screwing a 1/2″ copper pipe cap to the trigger, which I filled with p. butter.

  I went through maybe 4 types of other traps until I discovered these. They have a bait cup so the rat has to tug at it, thereby releasing spring—plenty strong enough to insure fatality.

  I’m writing this after getting one last night that had been eluding me for a week. Outwitted by a rat night after night.

  Method: I washed 3 traps (getting rid of scent), smooshed some bacon in the cups, surrounded by smears of Skippy peanut butter—mwah!

   And whack! Mighty hunter.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

7 Responses to The Best Rat Trap

  1. well, yes, unfortunately a skill that may often be needed….these look like a good (effective) trap. havent seen them in this neck of the woods..

    we used to have quite a trap line going on, but have started encouraging the neighbourhood cats to visit (catnip in garden), and with four regular cats visiting, has been some time since mouse was trapped.

    never tried this myself, but my brother in law swears catches a fair number this way. just sets up empty wooden traps along wall lines, anywhere he can stick them under and along an edge. says he gets fair few this way.

  2. Oh yeah, I get to experience the joys of wood rats here too.

    After losing the fibrous sound deadening material under the hood of two of my vehicles, my local rat snuggled into the engine compartment of my Housetruck, building a surprisingly clean nest, made mostly of alfalfa from my horse's hay supply. The nest was built at the back of the engine, right next to the distributor.

    Unfortunately, all that ignition wiring was in the rat's way, so it all got chewed off. Mr. Victor was deployed to exterminate the problem, with a nice section of chain securing the trap to the engine so it couldn't be dragged away by a partially stunned rodent.

    The next morning, I found the trap hanging by the chain, snapped shut empty. Rebaited the trap and came back next morning.

    These little fellows are smart, smart and clever. Since the previous night's near miss had spooked it, the rat had carefully covered the still-set trap completely with sticks and leaves. Out of sight, out of mind. Cleared the debris and reset the trap.

    Next morning, same situation, a covered, but not sprung trap. By now, I was feeling kind of bad about trying to off an intelligent creature that was just trying to shelter under my hood.

    Next morning, well, let's just say that the rat should have cashed in his chips and made for the next county while his luck held out.

    Apparently, wood rats are edible. Good thing for me (and it) that I'm a vegetarian.

    Oh, and parting rodent trapping tip:

    Best trap bait ~ever~? Snickers candy bars. Mmmmm, crunchy peanuts, creamy caramel, chewy nougat. SNAP!

  3. I have been very fortunate so far, our population are mainly field voles, shrews & an occasional mouse. I have seen large rats in the ditch about a quarter of a mile away. We are blessed with a pair of wild barn owls who regularly patrol the property. Together with the kestrels sitting as watchful sentinels on the telegraph poles, passing farm cats & stoats on the ground everything seems to be in balance….so far!

  4. from the queen of the plains

    I use a "have a heart" trap. Usually some left over dinner and maybe a piece of aluminum foil for the lure. As soon as I blow out the candles I hear scampering. If one gets caught I have to get out of bed and I pick up the trap and carry it a ways off so I won't be kept awake all night with the cute little rat rattling the trap. Come morning my weimaraner gets me up cause she has work to do. I put on some boots, a coat over my night gown and we head out the door. I carry the trap out onto the flat above the cabin, picking a spot where there are not many sage brush or patches of cactus….I then dump the rat out and Lena, the rat killer, has an exciting 5 to 10 seconds. It only takes her a chomp or two, and then we head to the cabin, put wood in the fire and get the coffee going. So much for having a heart.

  5. I loved the last 3 commentos…yep, I've found that trap to be the best..and VICTOR Micetrap Souriciere. this one they just get in and yep…can just put 'em in a bucket of water and in a few seconds…..goners. I must say I was cheered what "MA said" above. having a heart…..I'm going to see what kind of rats we have….that's gonna take some research. thanks for the postings folks!!

  6. We have two different types of owls on our property. Once the babies begin to fly, the mouse incursions into my RV go down dramaticly. The few survivors are dealt with by snap traps and peanut butter 🙂 Keep up the great blog posts Lloyd. Thanks again.

  7. I catch mice in a live trap and then relocate them to out in the country. I don't like to kill things. Live and let live.

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