Notes from Windward: #69


Trapping the Seed Snatchers

Andrew builds a live trap for Vermadise

     After Lindsay found the fledgling chestnuts in disarray, I was asked to build a trap to lure the thieving squirrel to its impending doom. Personally I have no problems with squirrels, as long as they stay out of our food. However, seeing as our negotiations with them have proven unsuccessful, we must resort to traps in order to keep the populations of squirrels around our food low (as close to zero as possible).

     Since they are coming out of hibernation, and are about to start breeding, now is the time to limit their numbers. Every squirrel we keep from breeding in and around the crops is multiple squirrels that we don't have eating crops in the future. Last year we lost a good deal of our rhubarb to ground squirrels who dug down to eat the tubers.

a side view of the live trap

     By keeping the squirrels in the forest, and out of our greenhouse, we are sort of striking a bargain with nature in the only way we know how. We do not intend genocide on all of the squirrel people, only those that threaten our livelihood. The squirrels probably don't wish us harm, but none the less they are robbing us of the fruits of our labor. Since nature decided to bestow big brains and opposable thumbs with which to design and construct greenhouses and traps, it is only suiting that we use them to the fullest and most responsible extent.

     So, having fully rationalized why it is acceptable to trap the squirrels, I will try to use my big human brain to explain how the trap works. In order to continue the theme of re-use, I will add that the wood I used for the traps was from a half rotted piece of lumber, cut on site from a dead tree.

     The basic concept on the live trap is very simple and is designed in such a way as to require a minimal amount of money and supplies. I reused many pieces of wood in the scrap piles for this project, as well as using fallen branches from the forest for the trigger and lever parts of the trap.

     The structure is a long box approximately two feet long, and big enough to allow a squirrel or other small animal to fit inside. The back end is made of a mesh, so that the trap appears to be a tunnel. Otherwise and animal will not want to enter it.

an end view of the live trap

     The trap operates with a simple machine, the lever. The door of the trap slides up and down with the aid of side rails, and is connected to a trigger via a stick which acts as the lever. The door is heavier than the trigger, so like a see-saw, the lever naturally wants to fall down on the side of the door. The trigger is notched and fitted into a hole near the back of the cage. The door, lever, and trigger are positioned in such a way that when the notched trigger is jostled by the animal it comes loose, and the door closes.

     To arm the trap you put the food bait (in our case wheat or corn) behind the trigger, so the animal has to go past the trigger to get to it. Then you position the notch in the trigger so it is held on to the top portion of the trap by the weight of the door.

     I have already successfully caught one squirrel with this home made trap. We cooked him up, and had a taste test. A little gamey, with little actual meat, but it is worth the price (free). In addition to the meat, the squirrel skins are excellent for making hats and lining jackets; especially now as they have thick winter coats. I was unsuccessful at fleshing and tanning the hide. Mostly because I waited too long to start the tanning, and the hairs began to fall out of the follicles.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69