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Build a Live Trap

By Edited May 24, 2016 1 1

DIY Racoon Trap

And clean up the scrap lumber in the yard

We were having a lot of trouble with raccoons attacking the chickens and needed to do something to thin the predator population a bit.  Live traps are actually kind of expensive, so after a little thought and a few videos my partner declared that he would just build one.  He’s made similar declarations before about being able to accomplish something he’s never done, so I had absolute faith in him.

Assemble your materials

The first thing we did was take stock of what sorts of material was lying in the wood pile.  There was some good quality, ¾ inch plywood left over from building the coop, a few garden stakes and a random assortment of other odds and ends.  He measured the plywood and designed the trap size according to what was available.  Ours is wider than it is high, and fairly long. About the size of a fox and a bit roomy for a raccoon.

Put it together

After cutting the plywood to size he screwed in lengths of garden stake to reinforce the corners. 

Corner reinforcements
Some of these were rotting at one end so the edges are put together with small pieces, but it makes no difference to the strength of the trap.  He assembled the four sides and added some brackets to the bottom since that would be supporting the weight of any animal that we caught.

trap walls


Next he cut a hole in the side to make adding the bait easier.  We used a piece of leftover composite decking to make the runners that the door slides in. 

Piece of decking marked for cutting

A smaller piece catches the door at the bottom.  A handle from one of the drawers I ripped out of the kitchen was attached to the bait door, as was a latch at the bottom to be able to close it.  In this photo you can see the reinforcing brackets at the bottom.

Bait Door

The front door/trapping door needed to be heavy enough to fall when the trap was sprung, but we were about out of plywood.  It ended up being half ¾ inch and half ½ inch plywood.  I don’t recommend this since it sticks a bit and can be hard to set.  The sliders here are made from the bottom piece of folding closet doors – that runner that the doors slide in.  Notice that the top of the trap is shorter then the bottom to allow space for the trap door hardware.

Trap door

The back end of the trap is wire so you can see what you’ve caught.  Our first version was chicken wire, but whatever we trapped chewed through it and left a fur-covered hole, so we replaced it with hardware cloth (both of which I had lying around from the chicken coop project).  Notice the frame around the wire; this is to keep the wire from tearing off if a critter is pushing on it.

We screwed some dowels on the top to use as handles since this thing is really heavy.

Making the trigger mechanism

Now you need something to balance the lever on.  A stick from the back yard works great. Attach it to a block of wood for stability and you’re set.


This part is a little difficult to explain so I’ll do short steps. There is a hole drilled into the top, near the back of the trap.  We found a stick that is slightly smaller than the hole so it can fall through it.  This is the trigger.  There is a small notch carved on the stick so it can be “hooked” on the edge of the hole.  A piece of wood, the lever, is tied to the stick, tied to the door and gets set on the fulcrum, that branched piece of wood that balances the lever.

You want the lever tied, not rigidly attached to the trigger or the door so it has some movement.

You need to carve the notch in the trigger at a height that will hold the door open.  To figure this out, one person holds up the door in its sliders at a height that opens the front of the trap but doesn’t take the door out of its sliders.  With the lever on the fulcrum, push the trigger stick down into the trap until the rope/lever is tight.  Mark the stick and notch it there.  You will be hooking the trigger inside the trap and the weight of the door will be pulling the lever down and the trigger stick up.  You can find drawings of the set-up on the web.[1]

Trigger mechanism

Setting it up

We put a can inside and put the bait in the can.  Next we put the trigger stick into the can and set the notch to hold the door open.  The idea is that the animal tries to get into the can, jiggles the trigger and gets caught.  You might need to adjust the position of the fulcrum as well, to get the door to stay up.

Back of trap

Does it work?

As I said, we caught something the first night but it got away.  I caught a few possums after that, but no more raccoons.  So yes, it does work, but there are a few difficulties with the trap.


It weighs a ton.  I can only drag it if I move it by myself.

The door sticks, but this is because we used two different thicknesses of plywood.  Use one solid piece and you’ll be fine.

It can be tricky to get the notch to stick, but it isn’t that bad once you figure it out.

Aiming the trigger stick to get it into the can is kind of tough.  If you’re setting the trap alone you have to hold open the door with your foot, maneuver the trigger stick with one hand and the can with the other.  You can see the top of the trap, or the inside, but not both.  You could always try it without the can; it would make it easier to get it set.

Shortly after building this we found a metal live trap at an auction that is much easier to move and set so I switched to using that for predator control.



Sep 14, 2013 3:11am
Brilliant pictures and step by step instructions. Hope you catch those pesky racoons. Congratulations on the feature.
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  1. Charles Sanders "Make a sure-fire live trap." Backwoods home magazine. 13/07/2013 <Web >

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