Categories of baits and lures for capturing vertebrate pests. Understanding visual, taste, odor, audible, territorial, sexual, food and curiosity attractants.
PestGeek fans Stephen Vantassel wildlife control consultant bringing you another podcast here on some items related to wildlife control. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about understanding baits you know the food that you often throw in the back of a cage trap or a box trap. To lure that animal into it so you can capture it. So baits are kind of an interesting thing within Wildlife Control. Kind of has that sort of alchemy. Secretive hocus pocus element. People are always wondering what is that magic bait and sort of like a quest for the Holy Grail or something from Alchemy where you’re trying to transition the mundane metals into gold and that’s kind of taken on a mysterious element to it. Well you know the old trapper inside of his lab. You know concocting some magical bait or lure to draw that and we’ll just sort of magically works. Well I’m here to tell you flat out that while there are better baits than others to be sure the reality of the reality of the situation is is that baits are often used as an excuse for poor trapping but that’s for another topic.
But we’re going to be discussing today an overview of baiting theory and concepts that you can understand how to categorize baits so that when you’re working in the field you are knowing when you can transition from one bait to another because you should be keeping a record something more than just simply your own had something on paper to determine what works in your area and you have to have a way of understanding how to categorize baits. To do that. So let’s get into some of the details because I’m really big on definitions because professionals use professional language and that means professionals need terms and concepts that are precise so that we’re all communicating the same way. I mean if your doctor talk to you and said Yeah I know you have a bump. On that thingamabob over there on that part of your limb you’d look at him and you’d say hoo hoo by hiring here. Is that what kind of a quack is by dealing with. So I think sometimes wildlife control operators I can’t speak as much for PCOS but WCCO sometimes have an attitude to that if we’re using Highfalutin language we’re sort of above it all and I’m saying no professionals use technical language so that we’re all speaking the same way.
And so that’s one of my pet one of my pet peeves one of my pet desires is for people when we talk about things in our industry that we begin to talk with precision that doesn’t mean you overwhelm your client with this information but that you need to know this information so that when we communicate with one another we’re talking with the same with the same meaning rather than just saying you know gopher I don’t know what a gopher is I don’t go for could be a woodchuck it could be a ground squirrel. It could be a prairie dog hole could be a pocket gopher could be a host of things. I don’t know what a gopher is so but if you tell me I’m dealing with a northern pocket gopher. Well then I know what you’re talking about it’s technical language so that we make sure we’re talking the same thing.
But this also works for Baits as well and so I wanted to go over some bait concepts with you so that we are using language in the same way. So let’s begin with the word bait bait typically means something that you would eat. It’s a solid object. Like you know me or like peanut butter or molasses marshmallows. Those things would be known as baits. So the something that the animal would would look to eat. It’s a solid object. But there’s another word that we use that as a lure. Lure is often a liquid or. Semi liquid. In other words it may have solid components to it but it has a gooey fluid type feel to it. And it’s often used to lure to attract animals to a particular set. So baits think of them as something that’s solid where lures are often either liquids or their liquids with a lot with some heavy solids in them that has a gooey flowing element. So molasses could be understood as a lure. I would treat it more as a bait because if it gets cold it’s pretty pretty hard both for talking about urine for instance urine would be like a lure.
It’s not a bait the animal’s not going to eat the urine it’s more likely going to be attracted to the smell of the urine. So that would be more of a law element. So it’s just kind of subtle but it can be very important when we’re getting into things like canine trapping or chi such as Chi it’s where you’re mixing lures and baits together for most wildlife control operators that the words are often used interchangeably. So you haven’t just sort of keep them in the back of my head how is this person using the word bait. Do they really meaning a lure or are they using something that’s a food that’s a food item. There are various categories of. Of baits and so let’s talk about that the first one of course would be food. Food is something that the animal’s going to be eating you’re putting that food into the trap so that the animal wants to to eat it. The other type of bait or lure would be a sex something that generates an interest in sex. So the first one of course would be a food net as the animal wants desires it because it wants to eat something and fill its belly to get an energy source the next drive and an animal of course is sex. And that is if you have a time of year where mating occurs with that particular species you can sometimes use glands of let’s say a female to attract a male to that particular set. You can. This is often done to to attract males. You can also sometimes use a male odor to dissuade a female from being attracted to that.
So there’s different ways of doing that so often the sexual sexual lures are often used in canine work but some of your raccoon eviction fluids are often used on females because they are male raccoon parts and sometimes predator yearns to can sort of evoke a fear in that female so that she needs to move her young because she believes another boar is going to come because when a male raccoon comes to a female with young the male often wants to kill those young so that he can then put her into heat so he can mate with her and have that offspring as his own rather than another raccoon male offspring for that young if you can follow what I’m saying there. The third element the third desire would be territory and this is where your ends are often used for Caio it’s for instance you are putting a foreign you’re in there because a urine is used as a marking symbol to tell that Chi out hey this is my territory and that can enrage the Chi out because he wants to defend his territory because its territory is where he controls and gets food from he doesn’t want a another kind of coming in and entering his area and interfering with his hunting grounds. Well that is it would be a territorial use of that law. The last one would be curiosity where you were trying to use foods or smells that elicit a reaction of curious ness where the animals like what is that. And that’s what’s luring the animal to that particular set is a unique set of smells that they have not encountered before. That elicits a curiosity response so let’s go over those four categories again.
The first one is food. Second one of course is sex a desire to mate. Territorial lure more bait. And then finally a curiosity where you’re trying to revolt elicit a an investigatory response on the part of that animal. Let’s look back at food again because the reality is for most wildlife control operators. Food constitutes the most common way we are going to attract an animal and to obey it is to go to the food animals always need food because when you’re living in the wild it’s hard to find that grocery store open where you can just walk in and pay some money and grab some food. So animals are constantly on the lookout for food. So food should be the core of any type of bait that you’re using and that can fall into two categories basically sweet food or a fatty food. There’s also some saltiness some some animals are attracted to saltiness particularly in certain times of the year. If you’re wondering why there’s a lot of roadkill at times because the animals especially after a long winter are coming to the roadside to try to renew their to try to restore some of their salt content that calcium and salts inside of them so they’ll come and lick that off the off of the road and then of course get struck by vehicles driven. So sometimes you can add some salt to foods to help encourage greater attracted attractiveness to that particular bait which would increase your catch obviously. So with food you’re thinking are you dealing with a sweet bait or are you dealing with a fatty bait.
If you have a lot of cats in the area and you’re not able to place that trap in a way so that cats are less or less likely to get into it like on maybe on a roof or on or elevated on a wall for instance then you want to make sure you’re using sweet baits because cats are not attracted to sweetness. You may say well that’s not true. My cat eats ice cream. Yes cats eat ice cream but ice cream also has that. And sometimes a cat will go into an area with sweet bait because it’s not because the sweetness of it because they’re curious but bad fat. But if you want to catch cats then you want something fatty in there. You know chicken would be a good example of that.
So you want to make sure when you’re using your baits ask yourself Are you mixing things up as particularly if you’re having trouble catching an animal. Ask yourself should you change up your baiting routine. Maybe Vova relied on peanut butter way too way too much and so maybe the animals have gotten accustomed to that. Or perhaps your client didn’t tell you but they were trapping animals prior to your arrival and they were using peanut butter and then they released the animals and now that they didn’t release them far enough away and they found their way back. And now you’re trying to catch an animal using the same bait in the animals already wise to your trap. You call that being you know trap wise or trap cautious and trap fearful so that they are so that that can make it difficult. This is a principle you want to be sure you’re following. So number one when you’re using baits laws you want to be sure that you always think about a little bit of variety. Don’t be afraid of. Don’t just simply rely on one bait for your work. You should have a couple of couple three to four main baits that you use and you want to be setting more than one trap in most locations so many times I will set you know I’ll make I’ll put traps out with the same bait but then you may find that the three traps with the same bait and that you may want to try the fourth one with a different with a different bait.
Why do you do that because you might want to find out if that bait work. So you’re doing a little experiment over time and then does this particular bait combination work. It’s often a good idea to use more than just some one bait rather than just using peanut butter you could use peanut butter with some oil sunflower seeds or mix the molasses into it or honey to give it a little bit of sweet factor. On a side note I would encourage people never pull out the Skippy jar in front of your client. It’s pretty rude. I mean think about it. They they’re already paying you probably more money than they want to pay. And then all of a sudden you pull out this Skippy jar in front of them and they’re like wow I could have done that. So this isn’t about this is about respecting your client because your client will just simply say well I could have done that. Yes your client could have done that. But the point is the client may not have understood where to place the trap what type of equipment to use the time involved.
Don’t just walk out with Skippy jar. So what some people do is they’ll read. They’ll take that peanut butter. They’ll mix it with maybe some green. Food food coloring or red food coloring to change the color. And you may also want to add some other items maybe some bird seed maybe some sunflower seeds maybe some cracked corn maybe some flour to try to change the consistency in the odor of that somewhat the the animal will be able to figure all that out. But the but your client won’t just simply see oh that’s and no it is peanut butter. And so then they’re able to provide a little bit of mystery for your client but also you’re enhancing the attractive value of that peanut butter because you’re not just simply attracting the animal the peanut butter you’re attracting it with the peanut butter the seeds the cracked corn maybe some sweetness is in there. So you want to try to create some variety on that. Give it a try but at minimum if you’re going to be using peanut butter and again peanut butter an awesome bait there’s no doubt about it for many many species.
Make sure you change the color or at least don’t pull out the Skippy jar in front of it make sure you put it in a different container so you don’t insult your client. People already think that wildlife control work is not that valuable as it is we don’t need to reinforce that in the public mindset.
So we’ve talked about different categories of baits and laws in terms of the school over those again. We have food sex territory and curiosity but there’s another way of categorizing attractiveness and that’s another way of talking about this whole constellation of how of ways of getting that animal to be drawn towards your trap and that’s the idea of tracked ants. So I like that concept. So that becomes an umbrella term that covers not only baits and lures but also other items as well that we use to draw an animal toward our trap and so let’s talk about the umbrella element of attractiveness. The first one would be visual and that is visual. You’re trying to draw on the animals you’re enticing the animal with its eye just like if I just take a took a pile of slop and threw it on your plate you’d go Oh that’s disgusting it looks disgusting. It looks like someone just threw up. Well animals are attracted to certain colors and shapes that are that are they they find valuable when they’re hunting for food in the landscape. Secondly. So that’s one way of visual one thing you can do like with raccoons or you’re nocturnal animals is put a white object in the back of your trap marshmallows can do this. Some people use plastic eggs in and put those in the back of your trap or you put your bait inside of a white container.
Because they can be attracted to the White because they think there might be an egg in here in raccoons and skunks and possums are being ground carnivores love to predate ness and ground dwelling birds have nests with eggs in them and they love to be attracted to that. So I would be a visual attractive if you’re trapping Bobcat for instance Bob Katter often attracted to things that move so people will hang feathers from from branches that will wave in the wind that will catch a Bobcats eye and the bobcat will be attracted to it. Be careful when you’re using Visual attractions is that there are some states will have restrictions on the types of things that you can do like with bones. They’ll say you may be able to use a bone but it must be a a bleached white bone so that there’s no meat on it. And the reason for that is is you don’t want to attract. Raptors raptors to your trap when you’re doing that. Of course the next one would be next category would be odor and this is something that would often be used for food or lures. In other words if something smells nasty you’re not likely going to be wanting to eat it.
Well animals are attracted to various odors and that can often be done for food or sacs or territorial illness or curiosity those odors can lure them to be attracted to that particular set odors can also drive them away from sets. So some sometimes though there’ll be odors if you’re not careful using the wrong bait bait or lure combinations you can actually contaminated set sometimes with squirrels for instance if you have a a male dominant squirrel caught in a trap you may find that a female doesn’t want to go into that trap if he’s put urine all over the place and there’s an odor there and you’re wondering why can’t I catch this female. There may have been that she was spooked by that particular trap and you need to swap that trap out. These are things you have to kind of learn and pay attention to what you’re doing what did I catch in that trap. What some trappers will do is they will have learned if they catch a female skunk for instance or a female skunk and they want to catch up more skunks. They will often use mark that trap and use it to catch the males especially during mating season for instance of course taste. This is where we get to the wire Baits again Baits. The animals are wanting to eat and if there’s something tastes good in this high energy they want to eat more.
More of that of course. So this is brings me to the issue of when you’re purchasing professional professional baits for instance you need to be sure you speak with your bait maker and ask them is this a bait that just arouses they think it’s good to eat or that it actually is good for them to eat because some baits smell great but taste bitter. Now why is this important because some wildlife control operators like to put food at the beginning at the opening of the trap that the cage trap door or the box trap door and they want to basically cede the animal into the trap. I never really did that. I didn’t like the idea of putting bait at the front of the trap and then more bait at the back behind the treadmill. I wasn’t a big fan of that. I wanted the animal to have to commit in order to get a taste. But the reason why that’s a critical is that some of some baits that are manufactured by professionals are really only baits for smell. Not for eating. So if you put some of that bait in the front of the cage and the animal eats it and doesn’t like what he tastes he’s not going to go into the trap to get the rest.
So it’s not a criticism on those other baits because they work great and they have their place. Just be sure that you don’t use those baits improperly and get in convinced the animal not to enter your cage trap. So be sure to have a good conversation with your bait maker and ask him is this bait something suitable for me to lure to sort of seed the animal into the trap or does should I just simply put it behind the trouble and force the animal to come all the way in in order to beat it. The last one of course would be audible. So is this a sound that the animals are attracted to and there are new audible recording devices now that are often used with traps that can that will lure animal it can be a squeaker. Make it like it’s a mouse. Some people use coon scholars or female calling her young. These are ways to get animals to be drawn into the trap and again consult with your state to see if those particular techniques are legal because some states do not allow audible laws to be used in relationship to trapping but you have to find out what it is in your particular state. One disadvantage with audible laws is that if you’re close to neighbors your neighbors may be irritated by the sound or that your client may be irritated by the sounds he let’s.
Be careful where you use audible lures attractions to bring them into traps because they can’t be they’re not suitable everywhere. So let’s go down that list one more time so that you kind of understand some of the concepts where you can categorize what types of baits and laws you’re using. So remember we have food. Food laws and baits that it’s also broken down and the sweet fat and salty you have sexual lures you have territorial lures and baits you have curiosity Luis invades. Under the rubric of attract ants how are we attracting an animal to a particular trap. There’s different another way of looking at it and that is visual. Am I giving a visual attracting to that animal to the cage. Am I giving it an odor to attract it into the cage by giving it a taste to enter the cage. And am I giving it something to hear to enter that cage. And again. For most of us we’re gonna be using odor in food. Those are going to be your go tos and there’s nothing wrong with that but at times when you get to those types of jobs where maybe someone was trapping ahead of you.
Or maybe of a very trap wise animal for whatever reason where things just aren’t working right you need to be thinking about. Am I using the right bait by using the right Lord. Do I need to change things up. Have I educated too many animals. This is particularly important in those parts of the country where a lot of wildlife control operators simply trap and dump. Where they trap an animal drive 10 miles or even five miles or two miles or maybe at the end of the street dump the animals and you have a lot of educated animals around. This is also why you want to ask your client have they. Has anyone been trapping here before me. Because you’ll find if you get trap wise animals you are going to be spending a lot of time at that site and costing you a lot of money. She may be thinking about how your pricing that particular job. So don’t be afraid to use a little bit of variety. Keep records on the type of baits and lures that you’re using how well are they working thinking about the weather which is a whole different concept. But always understand they don’t want to just simply be trapped in a particular repetitive move just like you want to change up your your poisons when you’re trying to kill different insects you want to make sure you’re not using the same active ingredient for decades. Same way with your trapping you want to be thinking about what actually works for the animals in your in your area and you need to know at what time of year because seasonality and weather matter as well.
So think about how that is going to work for your particular situation but understand. Am I using all as many different ways of attracting that animal into the trap as possible and by using that whether it be site audible and taste and smell. And try to think about how you can mix things up so you get a deeper understanding of where to use the tools in that particular area. One final point before I let you go and that is when you’re using seeds you want to be careful that you do not allow those seeds to be seen from above. Now I’m a big fan of covering cage traps. I do not believe that cage traps should be put out without some sort of a cover at least over 50 percent the length the trap that’s for humane reasons. You can read my book. One of my books to learn more about that or about to talk about it maybe in the future podcast but if you have something using seeds. If you have that visible from above don’t be shocked. If you’re catching birds inside of your trap and that’s something you don’t want to be doing because you may get run afoul of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act so make sure if you’re using seeds in your bait mix that it’s that you’re covering your traps you’re putting your traps in the place where birds can’t easily seen and be drawn into those particular traps. So be careful with that. Hey. Again this is Stephen Vantassel. Wildlife Control consultant. Wishing you a great day with your work. Thanks for listening this podcast. Back to you. Frank.
Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP