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Not all snap traps are created equal: how to choose humanely

While preventing rodent problems and rodent-proofing your home are the most effective and humane options, lethal control is sometimes necessary for health and safety reasons.

Snap traps can cause a quick death for mice and rats, but some traps are built better than others.

The quality of snap traps varies widely, and it can be difficult to choose the best ones, but you can make the best snap trap choice.

Here are four features to consider when choosing a snap trap.

rat under deck

1. Spring power

Make sure the trap is the right size – mice and rats will need different-sized traps to be effective as rats are much bigger than mice. Find out how to tell mice and rats apart. The best-designed snap traps have the strongest spring power or “biggest snap.” It may seem counter-intuitive, but the harder the snap, the more humane the trap. If a trap is too soft, it’s more likely to catch animals without killing them. This means animals may suffer non-lethal injuries, or even stay trapped until they die from starvation, dehydration or exposure.

You can test the spring power on your own, using toothpicks or a wooden stick to trigger the trap. Don’t use your fingers to test the trap! A sufficiently powerful snap trap should snap these wooden sticks no problem. If it doesn’t, that means your trap might not be strong enough.

2. Material

Have you ever heard that wood snap traps are better than plastic? Or that plastic is better than wood? While each has its own pros and cons, material means nothing when it comes to humaneness.

What matters most in a snap trap is the spring power.

Some people find that wood snap traps have more spring power, but plastic is generally easier to clean and cheaper to source. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell. Good (and bad) traps can come in many forms. The best way to guarantee good spring power is by checking yourself.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter where you get your snap traps. Many traps that are used by pest control companies are also available in hardware stores. Just because it’s for sale or a pest control company recommends it doesn’t say anything about quality. If possible, ask your pest control provider if you can see one of the snap traps they recommend using.

3. Trap boxes

Snap traps don’t just catch rodents – if they’re left outside in the open, they can also hurt pets or animals like birds, squirrels and raccoons. Outside, traps should always be placed in a specially designed, locked box with small entrance holes that only fit mice and rats. Securing the box to the ground or weighing it down will also prevent animals from dragging it out of position.

For traps set inside a building, these locked boxes can also help protect pets and people. However, they may not be necessary if traps are set (for example) inside a ceiling or wall void where only mice and rats would be.

Avoid sealed, “disposable” snap trap-box combo units. These single-use devices are wasteful and problematic for trapped rodents. The traps are designed to catch one rodent and then be thrown out – a tremendous waste of plastic that goes straight to the landfill. The traps aren’t designed to be opened, so there’s no way to know or help if a rodent has been caught in the trap but not killed.

4. Signaling

New tools are continually coming out that signal when a snap trap has triggered. These can be as simple as small flags that show when a trap has triggered, or as high-tech as getting alerts right to your phone. If you know when a snap trap is triggered, that means you can respond more quickly to any trapped animals.

Encourage your pest control company to use these devices – for better monitoring and more humane results.

snap traps for mice and rats

The best way to manage problems with rodents is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Learn how to rodent-proof your home and if needed, how to deal with rodent problems the poison-free way. If DIY isn’t your style, you can hire a BC SPCA–recommended AnimalKind pest control company to help you deal with rodents in a humane and effective way or use our question guide to help you find the most humane company in your community.