Introduction: Humane Animal Trap (Small-Med)

Picture of Humane Animal Trap (Small-Med)

This is my first Instructable.  I apologize in advance for the semi-lubricated state I was in when creating it.

I built this trap to snag a couple of raccoons that have been getting into my dog and chicken feed, knocking over trash cans and trying to get into the garage.  Once they started getting a little brave and getting into actual fights with the dogs I knew something had to be done before somebody got rabies, and I didn't want to shoot the raccoons because, well... I don't like shooting something I don't intend to eat or that doesn't intend to eat me.  I also think this trap is sensitive enough to catch the fairly large mice and rats that nest in the large field behind my house and like to chew on hot tub wiring and steal animal feed.  We'll see.

Tools and Materials:

Table Saw
Dremel Tool (or any rotary/cut off type of tool)
Straight Edge (carpenters square, quick square, whatever)
Router w/ straight bit (Optional)
Hole Saw (Optional)

1 Sheet of 1/2 Plywood
Enough plexiglass to make a window or two
1 3" piece of PVC ~4'
1 1" piece of PVC ~4'
1 => 1" piece of PVC ~ 3'
1 2x4 ~1'
Wood glue
=<1" wood screws
<3" small diameter bolt with wingnut
2 ~2" bolts w/nuts
One small screw in hook or eyelet
Small amount of paracord or other small diameter rope
One empty tin can

Step 1: Plywood Prep

Picture of Plywood Prep

Using a table saw or circular saw with straight edge guide, rip 4 pieces of 1/2" thick plywood 32"x16".  I did this out of a 4'x4x piece of plywood, which left a perfect sized piece for the back of the box once assembled.

Step 2: Cutting Windows

Picture of Cutting Windows

In two of the pieces from the previous step cut holes for windows.  In my case I cut a hole in each piece approx 6"x16" because I had enough scrap plexiglass to cover it.  I imagine you could use chicken wire or anything else, but I think the trick here is to create windows that let in enough light to be able to view whatever critter you end up catching, which is why I don't think just a few small holes would work and large holes would probably get chewed on.

Step 3: Recess for Windows

Picture of Recess for Windows

I used a router to cut out a recess for the plexiglass windows to drop down into.  This step is most likely purely cosmetic, and I primarily did it because I had just gotten this new router and was looking for any excuse to route stuff.  You would probably be just as well off gluing down or screwing down the plexiglass to the outside of the box.  Anyway, I think the end result is pretty sweet looking.

Step 4: Cut and Attach the Plexiglass Windows

Picture of Cut and Attach the Plexiglass Windows

Cut the plexiglass using a Dremel, razor or whatever you have that can cut it to size with your previously cut windows.  I used a Rotozip with the 90deg attachment and a cut off wheel and it worked great... if you didn't cut a recess with the router like in the previous step make sure you have enough overlap to be able to glue or screw down the plexiglass to the outside or inside.  When working with plexiglass if it still has the protective film on it always leave that on until it absolutely has to be taken off to prevent scratching during the assembly process.

Once the plexiglass is cut to size attach it in whatever way you've deemed fit.  In this case I dropped a bead of wood glue around the recess, dropped in the glass and put a couple of weights I wasn't using to get all crazy ripped with down and let the glue dry.

Step 5: Routing the Door Grooves

Picture of Routing the Door Grooves

For this step use your router with a straight bit and straight edge or router edge guide to put in grooves where your door will ultimately ride on the two pieces you added windows to.  You can see here that when I put in my windows, I didn't take into account which side would be outward facing when I measured for and cut the portholes so my windows aren't perfectly aligned once the box is fully assembled.  This was due to the copious amounts of Pabst Blue ribbon and cheap Tequila, which should also be listed as a critical material for this project.  Since it's a raccoon trap and not something that impacts its functionality I decided to press on rather than waste more wood.

The grooves here for the door are critical however.  They need to be smooth and precisely straight or the door will not move easily from the open to the closed position under it's own weight.  If you don't have a router or aren't good at making straight lines with it, consider some other system using fabricated rails or whatever.  I used this square clamped down to guide my router since my fancy schmancy new router did not yet have a straight edge guide.  You want the groove about 1/2" from the edge of what will be the front of the box and the grooves should be just slightly wider than the thickness of the plywood you are using for the door so it can move freely up and down.  Set your router to ~1/4" depth or about half the thickness of your chosen plywood.  If your lines are good and straight you don't need much play here, but you don't want a tight fit either because the door needs to be able to close under it's own weight.   Hold a piece of scrap into the grove you've made and it should slide freely but not have much in the way of gap.  Remember one of the things I am always having to tell myself when working with wood while drinking beer... you can always take wood off but it's damn near impossible to put it back.

Step 6: Assembling the Box Walls

Picture of Assembling the Box Walls

To start putting the pieces together  I used some corner clamps to hold the pieces together then pre-drilled some holes for the screws.  I pulled it back apart before screwing it together and put a bead of wood glue between the pieces then screwed it all together.  This might be overkill for this application and screws alone would probably suffice, but I intend to have this thing for awhile since I have a lot of critters around my house and friends who might want to borrow this contraption.  The most stable way to perform this operation is to first assemble the bottom with one of the sides, then the small square for the back end of the box, then add the third side on.  Once I had the two window sides, the bottom and the back on I went ahead and put in some steel corner brackets just on the front since there is less support on the front than there is on the back due to the free floating door.  After all that is done you're going to have to rip a little bit off the top piece so that the grooves you routed are exposed for the door to slide in.  You want it to be close to the groove so there isn't a big gap when the door is shut for the critters to gnaw on.  Once it's cut to size fasten it with screws and glue in the same manner as the last pieces and add corner brackets for stability if you want to behind the groove.

Step 7: The Door

Picture of The Door

Rip the door to the width of the grooves so it can slide in.  Remember it's easier to take wood off than to add it so don't worry if you have to cut a little more off of your first cut.  You should be able to hold the door up in the grooves and let it go, and it should plunge shut under it's own weight.  If it just needs a little assistance try using a file to smooth out your grooves so it can't snag on anything.

Step 8: Door Jam

Picture of Door Jam

Rip a small strip the width of the opening on the front of the box and thin enough to sit in front of routed grooves.  This small piece will help prevent some wild beast from managing to screw up your trap by bashing at the door.  This might be overkill if your grooves were done well and the door fits snug enough but still slides freely, but I figure it can't hurt.  Glue this piece in place making sure it doesn't impede your door from closing.

Step 9: Door Hook

Picture of Door Hook

Here is where the small hook or eyelet from the materials list comes in.  Fit the door into it's grooves then put this hook in as show, centered on the door.  The cord to support the open door will attach here.  I chose to use a hook here so I didn't have to tie and untie knots every time I set this up, but if you don't mind that you could just use a round eyelet screw or maybe just get away with drilling a small hole in the door.

Step 10: The Trigger

Picture of The Trigger

Here you'll be making the trigger or lynchpin for this trap.  Use the smaller diameter (1" in my case) piece of PVC for this.   First cut the piece to length by holding it up against your box from bottom to top and make the length approximately the same height as the box.  It's okay for now to make it a couple of inches longer so you have some to play with.  Once you have cut the piece to length mark a line 3" from one end, then a line about 1/2" farther than the thickness of the plywood you used for the top of your box.  Once you have those lines marked used a Dremel or other tool to cut out a notch, make sure you keep that bottom line as flat as possible since this is what will be bearing the pressure of this whole contraption and you want good contact later on.  You can always use a file to tidy this up.  After the notch is cut drill a hole above it splitting the difference between the top of the notch and the top of the PVC of a large enough diameter that your paracord or other rope can easily slide through the hole since it will be tied off here later.

Step 11: Trigger Hole

Picture of Trigger Hole

At the back of your box, you'll need to cut a hole using a hole saw or other means about 1/8-1/4" greater in diameter than the piece of PVC you used for the trigger.  Center the hole on the width of the box and about 4" from the back of it.  Once the hole is cut slide your piece of PVC from the trigger step into it with the notch facing up as shown.  You should be able to seat the notch on the plywood used for the top of the box and towards the front of the box and pull directly straight up on the PVC with a fair amount of pressure without the PVC sliding off.  If your piece is sliding out the hole when pulling straight try filing one side of the hole a little flat like shown so the notch has more of a purchase on the plywood.

Step 12: The Lever

Picture of The Lever

Now you're going to make the piece that acts as the lever between the door and the trigger.  Use the 1.5" or if you must a 1" piece of PVC here.  Cut it to length measuring roughly from the center of the hole you drilled for the notch to the hook you placed in the door.  Once you've cut it to length drill a hole at each end at the same angle straight through the PVC the diameter of your paracord or rope so that the trigger and one end can be tied together as shown.  Don't waste any rope here or give yourself a lot of slack to cut off later because some knot adjustments will be required later on.

Step 13: The Fulcrum

Picture of The Fulcrum

Now to make the fulcrum for the lever... for this cut a piece of your 3" PVC to length by making it approx 3' taller than your box.  You can always take a little off later if you need to.  You can see from the picture that you essentially need a slot in this for the lever to move freely up and down in.  I used a 2" hole saw to first make 2 holes about an inch apart and about 1" from the top of the piece and then used a Dremel cut off wheel to join the two holes.  Then drill a hole in the side of the piece a diameter the size of the bolt/wingnut combo you have.  Drill a hole in your lever at the center at the opposite direction that you put the two end holes at and you should be able to join the two pieces as shown below and the lever should move freely up and down.

Step 14: Fulcrum Base

Picture of Fulcrum Base

Now you need to make the piece that is going to hold the whole mechanical contraption onto your box.  I used a short piece of 2x4 which turned out to be a very stable platform.  Use a hole saw or some other means to make a hole the diameter of your 3" PVC.  I used a hole saw slightly smaller than the diameter of the PVC then used a rounded file to expand the hole so that the fit is very snug for the 3" PVC... not so snug it it gets stuck but snug enough to prevent a lot of wiggle.  Then drill two wholes at diagonal corners as shown the correct diameter for a couple of short bolts with nuts.  I had a couple of bolts lying around that were only 1.5" long so I drilled holes then used a larger bit to counter sink the bolts so they could pass through both the 2x4 and the top of the box which is why you see them sunk in here.  Then place your 2x4 on the top of your box and center it between the middle of the trigger hole and the hook you placed on the door.  Use the 2x4 as a template to mark the top of your box where the two diagonal holes are and drill the top of your box at the marks so that you can use your two bolts and nuts to hand join the 2x4 to the top of the box.  I took the picture of this seen after attaching a handle, which will come later.

Step 15: Assembling the Whole Mess

Picture of Assembling the Whole Mess

If you've made it this far you have all the essential pieces for a successful trap. Put your PVC lever contraption together, stick the trigger though the hole and down into what will be your bait can with pressure upward on the notch via the lever as you attach the door.  Start off with two pieces of paracord or rope with enough extra length on each piece to make adjustments.  Once you get everything just right and the trap is working the way you want it, you can cut the scrap off the rope.  When the device is triggered, the trigger PVC itself should come flying out of the hole, this will keep the critter you catch from chewing on it and ruining it if it were left inside the box.

Step 16: The Breakdown and Optional Handle

Picture of The Breakdown and Optional Handle

You can see here that the entire thing breaks down and fits inside the box.  I also used an old piece of webbing to make a handle for easy carrying.  This is recommended especially if you plan on transporting the animal you catch (the box isn't very heavy empty, but with a raccoon in it may be a different story), but isn't required for the trap to function.

Step 17: Catch the SOB's

Picture of Catch the SOB's

I put a little tuna in the can, left it over night and bingo.


whatisadrexel (author)2011-08-17

Congrats on making the front page. My advice is to tack on some copper and iron doohickies and call it a Steampunk Humane Animal Trap, thereby distinguishing your design from other, similar Instructables. Then sit back and soak up all the positive comments.

badpanda (author)whatisadrexel2011-08-17

Good idea, and perhaps my next Instructable will be a sweet pair of mini steampunk goggles for the captured raccoon and some sort of steam engine powered dirigible to set him free in the sky on.

grannyjones (author)2016-01-31

Great 'ible. I hear raccoons will kill and EAT your cats, so we need to build one. I am glad your fingers wound up unscathed from the combination of power tools and alcohol, as I know of SEVERAL old carpenters with missing digits.

stevenjacks (author)2015-07-24

Wow. Considering this your first 'ible you should be pretty proud of yourself. I'm very impressed by the quality of the woodworking. Considering this is something that's just for trapping animals, you really went the extra mile.

One thing, if I missed this in your description or comments, I apologize, but what process did you use for weatherproofing? I'd be concerned that leaving a wood box like that out in the elements could eventually lead to some water damage.

Also, did you use any sort of sealant or matting on the bottom of the inside? In my critter trapping experience (we get soo many possums in my garage) I've learned that once captured, they have a habit of leaving gifts from just about every orifice. As a matter of fact, I had to discard a trap because the "fear" scent from one stained the wood and no critter would come near it afterwards.

michaelreuser (author)2012-10-14

if you catch a porcupine in it . they will eat the wood to get out. lining with sheet metal helps.

ScottyAlmanjoy (author)2011-08-21

...And then the walls close in and crush it to death? Seriously though, you should just shoot the thing. How are you going to release it while knowing that it won't turn around and bite you? They're vicious little things, and once they know that there is food to be had somewhere, they'll be back. You're best off just shooting it. If you shoot one, nature will just make more come springtime.

LynxSys (author)ScottyAlmanjoy2012-05-12

a friend of mine once had problems with racoons coming in through her cat door, so she set a trap inside the house, directly against the cat door. When she caught one, she'd bang on the cage with a bat, rattle the cage, and generally make the racoon's brief captivity an unpleasant experience. Racoons are smart critters, and are naturally afraid of people (unless they're rabid), so if you open their cage with a pole or a string, they're pretty unlikely to come towards you. No need to shoot anything -- her raccoon problem was permanently solved with a little bit of training.

mariocodu (author)2011-08-22

Vou ver se dá certo para o que eu preciso...grato

badpanda (author)mariocodu2011-08-22

Você está convidado

rhkramer (author)2011-08-21

Sorry, there is something wrong with your dimensions--you won't get 4 pieces 36"x16" out of a 4'x4' piece of plywood. Did you mean 36"x12", or did you have a bigger piece of plywood to start with?

badpanda (author)rhkramer2011-08-21

You are half correct and I was half wrong. It's actually 32"x16" so it was three cuts one length and one the other. Thanks for noticing! It's been corrected.

rhkramer (author)badpanda2011-08-22

You're welcome!

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-08-21


Good instructable. well written(least for me it was), I understood everything, & the pics helped a lot!

There are a few things I would change were it me building it, but that's just me...I'm weird that way.

Definitely a good instructable, one that I would reccomend to all my friends. :-)

badpanda (author)SIRJAMES092011-08-21

Thanks James, much appreciated. More to come soon I hope, working on something pretty neat right now :)

SIRJAMES09 (author)2011-08-21

A while back I made a trap & for the door, I used "L" shaped metal...2 pieces each side & the door slid down between them. no cutting needed, and the animals can chew on the metal all day & it won't hurt a durn thing. was a lot more secure too.

Creativeman (author)2011-08-21

Good work!..............

yea, but did you catch the racoon(s)?

badpanda (author)Creativeman2011-08-21

It's on loan to a buddy right now, the one who helped me build it since the racoons at his place have been pulling the heads off his chickens. He's supposed to deploy it this weekend and get back to me with pictures if he catches anything. I'll throw up photos as soon as I get one... I did catch my neighbors cat though so I know it works.

Microbe (author)2011-08-21

Not sure what type of critters you catch, but where I live in Australia you would need to either build it out of metal or line it with something like a printer's aluminium plate otherwise you are going to end up with a tripped trap, a hole chewed through the wall and no critter.

badpanda (author)Microbe2011-08-21

I think you just Crocodile Dundee'd me, that's not a knife...

Kidding. Yeah, I'm not trying to catch crocs, just racoons. No evidence of any chewing yet, most of the surfaces inside are flat and would be hard to get a chewing angle on, and I imagine if you checked it daily it would be pretty unlikely anything would get its way out that quick with a can of tuna for bait for it to chow on. If I do notice heavy chewing I could probably patch it up with just some aluminum flashing or even chicken wire. I've seen a lot of similar traps used by others and they were all wood and lasted as long as they held up to the elements. Thanks for the feedback though.

greatpanda (author)2011-08-21

Cool! My dad did a similar thing for catching pack rats- same box, except with a peg to hold the door open, attached to the snapper of a mousetrap. When the bait was wiggled (hung from a string attached to the trigger of the mousetrap), it would jerk out the pin and close the door.

rhino (author)2011-08-21

I use this same basic design to trap feral cats, but I have found they do not want to go into a closed space, so I put expanded metal on the back wall instead of closing it in with wood. That way they can see through the other side and are more inclined to enter the trap and take the bait. I used two wooden strips on each side to slide the door into because I did not have a router and my bait bar and see saw mechanism are made from scrap wood as well. Some animals do not like the smell of man made materials so I left off any glue and just used wood screws to assemble mine. Also I store it outdoors so it does not pick up lots of strange odors from the storage shed.

This was an exceptional instructable. Well written and illustrated.

LifeWarrior (author)2011-08-18

The fulcrum is very slick and very well designed, actually makes me think of another use for the fulcrum besides trapping.

badpanda (author)LifeWarrior2011-08-18

Thanks... yeah the original idea I had in my head wasn't very good, but once I realized I had a few feet of scrap 3" PVC lying around too this one came to me. I'm so happy with it I've been trying to think of alternative uses as well... like maybe a counter weighted system for some other applications I've been tinkering with. Let me know if you use this in some non trap related build I'd love to see it.

rickharris (author)badpanda2011-08-19

Shadoof! Always a good choice for extra pipeing

Followed by Archimedean screw  - lay poly pipe at 45 deg make stand for each end. Put a spiral of poly tubing round the pipe - lower end in the water - when you turn the ware flows up the tub and out of the top.

badpanda (author)rickharris2011-08-19

And well, it's just fun to say shadoof!

LifeWarrior (author)badpanda2011-08-19

Both also interesting concepts not to mention every time I hear that name i think of Merlin's owl. And yes shadoof!

rickharris (author)2011-08-16

Nicely made but at a cost and time spent. My example is much cheaper and quicker to build.

ctrevino1 (author)rickharris2011-08-17

Great Job Panda! The other instructable listed above me would not hold up to a raccoon. It's good to see that there is a trap on here that would hold up.

rickharris (author)ctrevino12011-08-18

Wasn't intended as it is for a large animal BUT it can easily be beefed up - Heavier wire for example. The doo would need to fit better as well.

Just pointing out that over engineering isn't always the answer.

badpanda (author)rickharris2011-08-18

I apologize if my superior over engineered build hurt your feelings. I thought it was pretty obviously over engineered considering I made mention several times about the purely cosmetic or the unnecessary. I wasn't trying to to go minimalist here, I was trying to have a few beers with a friend and build something cool, and sometimes that my friend, is the point.

LifeWarrior (author)badpanda2011-08-18

Panda and Rick,
Just my 2 cents but both serve the purpose their intended for, Obviously ricks is from a minimalist design frame of mind and panda's is obviously from an engineered design frame of mind. Being of both worlds they both have solid designs. Just my thought rather than argue who can build a better mouse trap collaborate on the design and build a third with the best of all the qualities, Minimizing cost and time, with an over engineered design. As it stands you both are in an un-winnable debate.

rickharris (author)LifeWarrior2011-08-18

True, apologies exchanged :-)

LifeWarrior (author)rickharris2011-08-18

Hey it's cool! It was just an observation, I just thought there were 2 really good switch designs both based on pre-medieval machines, which is really sharp to see them used in modern productions. It just came across on the comments that it sounded like that old mousetrap thing. Anyhow no offense intended on that though, it just occurred to me that a couple good designers working together might come up with something even more interesting.

rickharris (author)badpanda2011-08-18

If I came across critical I apologise : It was just a comment. Your design and engineering are excellent. Peace! :-)

badpanda (author)rickharris2011-08-18

Thanks rick, apology accepted. The written language often fails in conveying ones true intentions. You have some great and very useful builds out there and I'll be looking for more. Peace!

rickharris (author)badpanda2011-08-18


badpanda (author)rickharris2011-08-17

It's a design that has been around as long as people have been trapping animals so I wasn't trying to re invent the wheel here. I guest cost is relative, it looks like we both built it out of crap lying around the garage. The only thing I had to buy for this build was a wing nut, and I picked up a bag because wingnuts always come in handy. Oh, and beer, I did buy a 6 pack of beer. I wanted to build something that would last a long time, always be effective and that broke down for easy transport or loan to friends... and something that limits exposure to the trapped animal, which is why I chose not to use the extra chicken wire I had laying around and build something formidable. Good build yourself, now people can strike out for the quick build or the Cadillac, and anywhere in between. Happy hunting.

d1wolf (author)2011-08-17

Pretty low tech. i like the trigger. Mine uses an electronic trigger - a simple scr circuit and a micro switch on a teeter board. Gotta recharge the gell cell once a week. put my "window" on the top but made it out of chicken wire so the summer heat could escape. It also helps when you have to hose it out because you know those pesky possums like to crap in it.

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