Snares are a very effective tool for harvesting small game and furbearers. They were one of the very first types of traps known to be used by early civilizations, and modernized versions are still being utilized to this day, by fur trappers, survivalists, and native peoples alike. Snares are simple, lightweight and easy to carry in large numbers over long distances.
Modern snares may be purchased or built on your own. For simplicity's sake, you can buy a beginner snaring package from this link F&T Fur Harvester's Starter Snaring Package
Be sure to check your local regulations to ensure it is legal in your area to use snares or other lethal trap sets; a permit may also be required if so.
Step 1: Understand How Snares Work
Modern snares are made from tightly-wound steel cable. Varying thicknesses can be obtained, but a good versatile thickness for catching and holding most common species is 3/32". The cable should be around 5 to 7 feet long.
Snares have a one-way locking mechanism on the main loop, which only requires a slight touch in order to slide down tight over the animal. There is a swivel at end of the cable, which allows the captured animal to move freely without twisting the cable apart. Most snares also include a small coil of wire around the cable, and this is for ease of attaching your snare to a support object, as you will see in the next step.
Step 2: Anchor Your Snare
Locate an area where your target animal is known to travel frequently. Look for tracks, droppings, worn trails through the brush. Once you find an optimal location, you will need to set up your snare in a place where the animal is most likely to walk through it.
Anchoring your snare in place is easy. Use a stiff wire (such as from a coat hanger), loop it through the swivel end of the cable and tie it securely around the base of a tree or other solid object. Wrap your wire in such a way that it can't be pulled apart or otherwise unwound by the animal as it fights the trap.
After your snare is secured to its anchor, find a sturdy stick or use a thicker piece of wire to work as a support stand for the snare. Push this object as far as it will fit into the support coil, and adjust the cable so that the slide lock of the main loop is about 1/2" in front of the support.
Step 3: Set Your Snare
After your snare has been anchored, push the support stand into the ground (I used a stick for this particular set) and adjust the height. My target animal in this case was an opossum. Keep in mind that your snare must be placed at the proper height to catch your target species.
For opossums, the snare must only be about an inch off the ground, because possums walk with their heads so low. If the snare is too high up, he will crawl right under it. The size of the loop should be about 4" to 5" around for this species.
For other commonly harvested fur species, follow these general guidelines for snare loop size and height:
- Raccoon - Loop size: 8" to 9" Snare height: 3" to 4"
- Beaver - Loop size 10" to 12" Snare height 3"
- Bobcat - Loop size: 7" to 8" Snare height: 10" to 12"
- Coyote - Loop size 9" to 12" Snare height 10" to 12"
- Fox - Loop size 6" to 8" Snare height 6" to 8"
Some species, such as raccoon, opossum, and bobcat, can be easily funneled into a snare with guide sticks, as shown in my opossum set above. Choose a few twigs and sticks from the immediate area, and push them into the ground to create a sort of "fence" that will guide the animal in towards the middle of the snare loop. Animals generally take the easiest route possible, so if there is a row of obstacles on either of side of its path, it will simply walk between them and this lessens the chance of the animal bypassing around your snare.
Other species such as coyote are a lot more wary of changes to their environment, so the use of guide sticks is not recommended for them. Instead, place your snare in a more naturally narrow path and keep your own scent and any changes to the ground at a minimum to avoid spooking them away from your set.
Step 4: Check Your Traps!
Setting multiple snares in one area greatly increases your chance at a catch, so set a few in the same trail if you can. Check your snare sets every 24 hours, as this is required by law in all states that allow snaring on land. (Some areas may allow a 72-hour check time, if you set up your snares to quickly drown aquatic mammals, such as beaver or otter - but always check your local regulations!)
Animals snared in these types of sets will be dead when you find them caught. The one-way sliding lock on the loop closes tight around the animal's neck as it lunges (see 2nd photo), and either quickly cuts off circulation or breaks the neck bones. Either way results in a quick, bloodless dispatch and you will have a clean, fresh catch that is ready to harvest for fur and meat.
Always be respectful of your catches and use every part of them that you can. The opossum shown above will be made into Possum Jerky and its fur and skull will also be preserved and sold to other crafters. There is a good use for every part of the animal!
Thanks for reading this tutorial, and hope you have a successful trapping season!