Live Trap

Introduction: Live Trap

About: I have a lifetime of working on things. Jack of all trades, master of none.

Sometimes an unwelcome visitor shows up in your yard and takes up residency, and whether that be a skunk, rat, or raccoon you just don’t want them around. Often the best option for removal is to humanely get rid of the unwelcome tenant via a live trap. This may be because you are against killing anything; maybe you have children or pets around that could investigate a trap or poison accidentally; or in the case of a skunk you do not want them to destroy the air quality of your domicile for weeks to come.

In this Instructable I am going to illustrate a live trap design that I learned to make from my Grandfather some 40 years back. Grandpa lived on a farm and frequently had to get rid of skunks before the family dog ended up getting sprayed. The reason that I am only going to illustrate this design in CAD and not build it in physical form is twofold. First is that this trap can be built to scale depending on what you wish to catch and secondly because I have a broken leg at this time and building anything is out of the question. I have wanted to share this project for a while now and with my broken leg I now have the time to do so.

The last (and only time) I built a trap like this one was to catch a rat in my wood pile before it decided to move into my house through a garage door that was in close proximity. There were a lot of “free range” neighborhood cats that I was worried about finding a trap or poison so those options were out of the question.

As for Grandpa's skunk issues you may be asking yourself why would someone catch a skunk and wouldn’t it just spray when the trap is sprung or moved. The answer to that question is no it won’t. So if a skunk is your quarry be aware that a skunk cannot spray so long as a skunk cannot raise its tail. Be sure to take that little bit of information into account when designing the dimensions of your trap. Remember: Tail up is not good when talking about skunks.

Please accept my apologies for the poor photo quality in this Instructable. I do not know how to take screen shots from Tinkercad so I took pictures of the computer screen with my phone as I designed the trap. I am not happy with the photo quality, but I do not know how to correct it at this time.

If you do build or purchase a live trap please only set it when you are available to check it regularly for occupants.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

I have only built one of these traps in the past and I did so with materials on hand from my shop. If you do not have materials already on hand at least the material costs should not break the bank and once completed the trap will be usable for years to come should the need arise.



2 x 2 or 2 x 4 Scraps

Metal or wood for door

String or rope

A coat hanger

Some baling wire or twist ties to attach bait to string

Heavy gauge wire, bar stock or pulleys to build the pivot points

Screws or nails

Wood glue (optional)



Hammer or screw gun


Chisel (optional)

Table saw (optional)

Safety Note: When using tools of any kind please follow proper safety procedures and wear appropriate safety equipment.

Step 2: Start Your Build

Cut out the bottom of the trap from plywood to the desired size. This depends on what you are going to be trapping. You want it big enough for the animal to easily enter so envision the size of the target. A rough guess to get you in the neighborhood is 2.5 feet in length and 10 inches in width.

Next cut out the three upright 2 x 2 pieces and the one cross-member. These are to hold the door and a pivot point on the door side and the pivot point on the trigger side of the trap. If you have a table saw cut a grooved channel in the 2 x 2’s larger than the thickness of the material that you will be using for the door. I used an aluminum sign blank to make the door on my trap, but you can use wood if you do not have metal available. If you do not have a table saw to cut a groove with you can attach strips of wood to your 2 x 2 to create the channel for the door. I would also recommend cutting a channel into your base for the door to fall into or sealing the bottom of your door on the inside with a strip of wood as well. This probably only would matter if you are trapping a raccoon though as they are probably the only animal smart enough to lift the door up in order to crawl under it.

To start the build screw the uprights to the base. The two grooved uprights attach on one end with the grooves facing each other and third upright without a groove in the center of the other side of the base. (See note in picture about the length of the trigger side upright). Then cut and attach a cross member to the upper end of the door support posts. Making sure that the door tracks are perfectly square for the door to move up and down in without binding.

Step 3: Build Your Box

Start with attaching the sides of your box. These will be cut to the needed height for your intended target. Make them tall enough to get the animal in and out easily. Also keep in mind that you do not want the critter to hit the door on the way in either as that could trigger a premature release of the door. The side pieces should run the entire length of the bottom and be screwed or nailed to the base and to the door supports. The next piece to attach is the back of the box. This should also screw or nail to the upright on this end of the trap.

Step 4: Build and Install the Lid

Now we will work on the lid to the trap. I will show a couple of ways for you to build the lid on the box either over or around the back upright depending on the tools on hand. The total length of this top board is measured from the back of the trap to the inside of the door supports. You also need to drill a hole about an inch or two in front of the rear upright as seen in the pictures. This is the hole for the release mechanism and should be large enough to allow the wire of the trip mechanism to smoothly pass through.

As for the top board to either slip over the upright or through the upright this can be accomplished by cutting a square hole to slip over the post or easier yet to notch the top to slide past the post. To make the notch cut in on either side of the post and then use a wood chisel to remove the block of wood from your plywood. I added notes to the notch to make more sense of this.

Step 5: Adding the Door and Pivot Points

Cut your door to length and width. Making sure that it moves up and down freely within the tracks and has enough weight to drop quickly. Your uprights should be tall enough to completely hold the door to prevent binding. Drill a hole in the center and close to the top. This hole will have a rope or string tied to it. That rope will go up over a pivot point attached to the cross member that supports the upper end of the door track uprights. The other end will go over a pivot point at the other end of the trap and tie off to the trigger mechanism.

It is difficult to illustrate the pivot points as there are several ways to build them with materials on hand. Make sure that however you decide to make them that the string line moves freely over the pivot points without binding. The one that I built previously had pulleys at either end for the line to roll over, but you can use bar stock, heavy gauge wire, tubing or other method to make your pivot points. I illustrated the pivot point with pulleys in the photo for an idea of placement. I should have illustrated the trigger pulley in a higher position as too low of a location will not allow the door to close before the trigger reaches the pivot point.

Step 6: ​Building Your Trigger Mechanism and Setting the Trap.

As stated previously the rope runs from the hole in the top of the door over to the trigger via two pivot points. The trigger mechanism is fashioned from a coat hanger or heavy gauge wire that is bent into an “S” shape of sorts. This trigger hook needs to freely move through the hole in the top of the trap. Another string is attached to this hook and acts as the force to release the trigger. The trigger simply rests on the top of the box just inside of the pass through hole. Bait is tied to the string that is attached to the trigger and is the attractant to lure into the trap your former unwelcome house guest. When it grabs the bait the trigger releases and shuts the door.

Remember to build enough height into the trigger pulley side to allow enough rope for the door to fully close before the trigger binds up on the pivot point.

I did not illustrate it in the photos, but I would recommend that you build in a window to your box. This can be a flip up lid like I used on my build to peer in from the top or a full chicken wire or plexiglass front for viewing. It would be good to know if you have a skunk or neighborhood cat in the trap without having to open the door to find out.

Step 7: Conclusion:

I make no statements as to how to get rid of the animal once it is captured. However you handle your catch please exercise caution and do so in a legal and ethical manner. I hope that this provides a safe and economical solution to your pest problem.

I am always open to questions or comments.

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