If you trap at night, there is always the possibility of trapping other wildlife that coexist with humans in the urban environment. Once trapped these animals are especially vulnerable, and the trapper is responsible for ensuring that as little harm as possible is caused, when releasing the animal from the trap. These animals should never be relocated to another area, and are protected by the department of Fish and Game. Relocating a wild animal even just a few miles away can cause serious risk to the animal and other animals in the area and is against the law.

Fix Our Ferals urges all trappers to be compassionate and cautious around wildlife at all times.  If you are comfortable with wildlife and find one of these animals inside your cat trap, these suggestions may be useful.

Some wildlife can be a vector for rabies and should never be handled with your bare hands:

Be aware of where your fingers are at all times. Do your best to avoid being bitten, not only for your sake, but for that of the animal. If a wild animal bites you, DO NOT release it from the trap. Contact animal control. They will remove the trap and have the animal tested for rabies. This is a public service and will be done at no cost to you.


The most common wild animal that finds its way into our cat traps are raccoons. Raccoons are strong, smart and aggressive creatures.

To release a raccoon from traps with back doors, stand behind the trap before lifting the door up, and then slowly back away. The raccoon will shoot out straight ahead. It wants to get away from you and the trap as fast as possible, so just like releasing a cat, you want to first point the trap toward some bushes where it can run and hide, not into traffic.

To release a raccoon from traps without back doors: NEVER use your hands to lift the trap door to release a raccoon or any other wild animal. Get a rope, dog leash, thin belt, even a rolled up plastic bag. Thread the rope through the finger grip at the bottom of the trap door. Hold both ends of the rope in one hand, with the other hand push in the top of the trap door. Pull back on the rope as you step backwards (behind the trap) to lift the door.


Opossums mean no harm. They will hiss at you like a cat and show you their fifty teeth, but that’s about it.

Opossums are released in the same manner as raccoons.

Sometimes a opossum will get its jaws caught in the trap or play dead. While they bite at the cage in an attempt to escape, their narrow upper and lower jaws might push through the spaces between the cage wires. If they open their mouth a little wider while pulling back, their jaws will get stuck. It might be hard to visualize but believe me it happens. Often the opossum’s struggling just makes it worse. The animal will dehydrates quicker because its mouth is open. It is unlikely you will be able to shake the possum out of the trap by turning it on one end. You can:

  1. Use wire cutters to release the possum.
  2. Push the possum’s head forward inside the cage to release. Think about it. The possum got stuck because its mouth was open wider when it drew back from the cage than when it pushed in. When you push the head forward the mouth should close a little (the jaws will be tired) and then be drawn back out easily.
  3. Wearing a jacket and gloved hand, scruff the possum like a cat and push its head forward. Pull back gently and see that the jaws have released, and then quickly draw your hand out.
  4. Or, fill the trap with towels before pushing the possum’s head forward. The towels create a barrier between you and the animal
  5. Cover the animal and place in a quiet, cool place and call your local wildlife center:
    • California, Northern region, Alameda County (Oakland)….. 510-421-9897
      Lila Travis, (director), Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue
      [email protected]
      Wildlife Species: We specialize in mammals; Tree and ground squirrels, raccoons, and opossums.
      We do NOT take birds, but can refer people to local centers who do.
      Specialties: Squirrels
    • California, Northern region, Alameda County (Newark)….. 510-797-9449
      Ohlone Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
      [email protected]
      Wildlife Species: All manner of birds, from raptors to songbirds, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and more
    • If you are outside the East Bay geographic area, See also Wildcare’s link to other Wildlife Hospitals or Humane Societies:


The thing to remember about urban wildlife is that they are much more accustomed to us than we are to them. They see, hear and smell us everyday, while we are often unaware of them. Keep this in mind when you have a skunk in your trap.

Skunks are reasonable creatures. Don’t surprise them and they will work with you. Here’s how:

  1. First method: If a skunk is in your trap, approach it slowly and talk to it gently. Talking is mandatory! Skunks have poor eyesight and will need to know your position through your voice. Take a few steps and stop, take a few more steps and stop. Speak softly to the skunk and always MOVE SLOWLY.If the skunk gets nervous, it will give you a “pre-spray” warning by stamping its front feet. You can’t miss it, it’s NOT subtle. If this happens, STAND STILL. After the skunk calms down in 15 seconds or so, you can continue to move forward. Keep talking gently. Release the skunk as you would a raccoon or possum. When it’s over, you will feel a rush of victory!
  2. Second method: If the above method is too scary for you, try this one. The chances of the skunk spraying are greater, but you will feel more protected.  Cut head and arm holes in a large plastic garbage bag and pull it over your clothes. Get a blanket (best) or LARGE towel and saturate with water. SLOWLY walk towards the trap with the blanket held up in front of you like a shield.Talk to the skunk. Slowly and gently drape the blanket over the trap. Then release the skunk from the trap. The wet blanket will do a good job of absorbing skunk spray, if any.

Recipe to neutralize skunk spray:

One gallon water
One quart hydrogen peroxide 3%*
¼ cup baking soda
One good squirt Dawn or equivalent (one-two teaspoons)
Mix together in a bucket, then rub on affected area and leave for one to ten minutes. Rinse off with water.
Do not make and store this recipe in advance. The mix causes a mild chemical reaction and the expanding gases could break (“explode”) the container.

*The hydrogen peroxide could cause bleaching. You can substitute white vinegar for a slightly less-effective remedy.

Release these critters as you would a raccoon, standing behind the trap.

Other Tips and Advice

What if the trapped wildlife appears to be sick or badly injured?
Be compassionate. Do not release the animal. Call Wildcare or other Wildlife center (see above), and drive it to the wildlife center.

Suggestions for trapping at night where there is lots of other wildlife:
When trapping at night in an area with lots of other wild life around, the following are some suggestions that will make releasing caught wildlife easier.

  1. Do not lock the trap’s back door: If your trap has a back door you can keep it unlocked and unlatched  for a speedier release. (Note- remember to lock the back of the trap when you catch a cat before lifting it! This is a dangerous move when trapping cats, because the cat can possibly get out the back door!)
  2. Prop up the back door handle: Use binder clips to support the handle so it is ready to grab.
  3. Have a long dowel or lightweight pipe to remove the door:  If the trap’s back door is unlocked and unlatched, and the handle is propped up, it is easy to stand a distance away and use the dowel to grab under the handle and lift up the door. You should practice this first.
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