So You Trapped a Predator of Your Chickens. Now What?

If you catch a predator such as a raccoon in a live trap, there are local and federal laws (as well as safety concerns) that guide what you do next.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: Ana Hotaling

You’ve tackled the trouble at hand. Through stealth, strategy or pure luck, you’ve caught the predator that has stalked, harassed or attacked your flock. You woke up this morning to discover your live trap contained a snarling, agitated occupant. You breathed a sigh of relief. Yet then you realized you had a new problem: the snarling, agitated predator. What do you do with it?

First, set all emotion aside. As much as you might want to retaliate against your caged carnivore, you need to make sure your proposed actions are legal in your region. That varies by predator and sometimes by state. You also should take certain precautions because this is, after all, a wild animal. There is always a chance of rabies or other diseases being transmitted if you inadvertently get scratched or bitten.

Contact Your Local Authority

Every municipality has its own regulations regarding the handling of nuisance animals. Regardless of whether the predator is domestic or wild, you must follow the rules outlined by your local ordinances. Contact your city hall or county commission and ask to speak with your ordinance director or city/county manager. That person can tell you what applies to disposal of a wild predator.

Check with U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Local governments don’t necessarily communicate with federal agencies. Your city or county regulation might specify you can release your capture anywhere outside a 10-mile radius from your home. The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, though, might want to send an agent out to pick up the animal. Fish and Wildlife agents should know which creatures in your area are protected by federal laws, and they can advise the appropriate steps to take with your animal.

Disposing of the Predator

If authorities say you can dispose of your capture on your own, you need to decide whether to release it or euthanize it. Either way, you’ll need to follow the instructions given to you by your local ordinance director or the Fish and Wildlife Service. Typical guidelines include distance and time of day a nuisance animal can be released. Some also state whether you can drop it and go or whether you must see it disappear into the wilds. If euthanization is an option, disposal of the remains also might be regulated. This last part is crucial, as simply leaving the body out on your compost pile or in a nearby field can draw carrion-eating predators and start the entire cycle again. Verify whether guidelines exist for how the animal should be dispatched (shotgun, asphyxiation, and so on). As much as you’d like to make it pay for killing your birds, cruelty should never be a factor. After all, that predator is not malicious, but rather following its natural instinct of eating to stay alive. It simply chose the wrong place to dine.

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