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Body-Grip Traps For Cats
Prepared By: Alex Dutcher, Hono O Na Pali Seabird Mitigation Project

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Safety Concerns

  • Personal Protection Equipment

    • Always wear gloves and close-toed shoes, for safety and scent-control, while setting and handling Conibears

    • Supplemental safety grippers recommended (Photo 2)

    • Carry Paracord with looped end for re-setting Conibears in the field (see how to set)

    • Keep Fingers out off firing range when the trap is set and safeties are off (Photo 1)

  • Conibear Spring Safeties 

    • Always keep an eye on the position of safeties when setting traps – they can slip off. As with firearms, safeties can fail

  • Visual Warning for Trails

    • Mark presence with brightly-colored flagging to warn other trail users

  • Non-Target Species

    • Choose trapping locations and timing carefully – avoid multi-use trails with public access, and provide seabird colonies a wide berth.

    • Consider only using Conibears when seabirds are not nesting if birds are abundant

    • Non-targets can include dogs, forest birds, seabirds, and other animals that may be injured or killed if caught in a Conibear.

  • In case of accidental self-entrapment (Call for help if needed)

    • Use paracord to compress springs and relieve pressure (Photo 6)

    • Wedge sticks around the trapped appendage to relieve pressure

Ideal body positioning for a clean capture of a cat in a Conibear. Trap: 220 Victor brand Conibear

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Ideal body positioning for a clean capture of a cat in a Conibear. Trap: 220 Victor brand Conibear

1. Live Conibear Danger zone in red (Photo source: Ohio DNR)
1. Live Conibear Danger zone in red (Photo source: Ohio DNR)

1. Live Conibear Danger zone in red (Photo source: Ohio DNR)

2. Conibear Safety gripper styles (Photo Source: Coon Creek Trappers)
2. Conibear Safety gripper styles (Photo Source: Coon Creek Trappers)

2. Conibear Safety gripper styles (Photo Source: Coon Creek Trappers)

(Photo Source: Paul Dobbins)

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(Photo Source: Paul Dobbins)

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3. Dog modification on Conibear traps

Modification and Maintenance

  • Trigger

    • Spread wire from original narrow "V" shape into a rounded "U" shape

    • Map off-set wires from vertical plane

  • Dog

    • Using Dremel or file, deepen the grove of the dog so that the top of the dog is flush with the bottom of the trigger, and the wires won’t wobble (Photo 3)

    • Shave the front-inner edge of the dog to an angle to allow the trap to fire with minimal pressure on the whiskers

    • Extensively test fire all modified Conibears to ensure proper functioning

  • Scent Control and Camouflage

    • Spray traps with a mixture of salt, vinegar, and water and allow to rust

    • Dip each trap in a mixture of boiling water and trap dip to dye and de-scent traps. Allow to hang dry

    • Only handle with scent-free gloves after dipping!

    • Wax may be added to trap dip to lubricate the trap for faster firing

    • Scrub off rust with a wire brush and re-dip as needed, depending on weather conditions: More rain = more frequent maintenance​

Where to Set

  •  Large-Scale Site Selection

    • Areas with limited or controlled interaction with non-target species

    • Time of year may be important when considering location (non-breeding season for seabirds)

  • Within-site set Location

    • Trail convergences, narrow choke points on ridgelines, etc

    • Aim for the most narrow corridor/route

    • Use multiple traps in a single area if there are multiple potential trails

  • Areas to Avoid

    • Avoid multi-use trails with easy public access, or areas that are difficult for crew to traverse, such as steep slopes or slippery hillsides

    • Avoid clear hilltops with potential Pueo or seabird activity

    • Avoid any areas with potential for wash-out from a stream flooding or drainage, as debris can clog a Conibear trigger and prevent it from firing

  • If you’re just beginning to use Conibears, pair with a trail camera to observe target species interactions with your trap

4. Basic Blind-set Conibear example

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4. Basic Blind-set Conibear example

5. Seabirds and owls may land on open hilltops or trails

5. Seabirds and owls may land on open hilltops or trails

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6. How to compress springs with paracord: loop through one side of the spring to the other multiple times – don’t cross the cord over itself otherwise it will be difficult to close the spring. Using a boot, pin the Conibear jaws to the ground and pull the cord through the spring loops to close. Latch the safeties and un-loop the paracord

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6. How to compress springs with paracord: loop through one side of the spring to the other multiple times – don’t cross the cord over itself otherwise it will be difficult to close the spring. Using a boot, pin the Conibear jaws to the ground and pull the cord through the spring loops to close. Latch the safeties and un-loop the paracord

7. A Conibear with too much camouflage can deter animals from passing through

7. A Conibear with too much camouflage can deter animals from passing through

8. Anchoring the springs to the ground with sticks can secure a Conibear set (yellow)

8. Anchoring the springs to the ground with sticks can secure a Conibear set (yellow)

How to Set

  • Prepare the Set Location

    • ​Find game trail or corridor and clear the ground of brush, sticks, and debris

    • Collect large, sturdy sticks to use for anchoring the Conibear

  • Set the Conibear

    • Compress the springs using your hands, Conibear grippers, or paracord and latch safeties over the springs

    • Attach the supplemental safety gripper across the jaws after the trap is set for extra protection

    • Blind-set Conibears with dog on the ground and whiskers pointed up

    • Ensure proper clearance under the dog so that when the whiskers are pushed, the dog has room to drop. Set sticks under Conibear for additional clearance if needed

  • Anchor the Conibear

    • Push the previously-collected sticks through the spring coils, into the ground. Fill the entire space in the spring coil with sticks and test for wobbliness 

    • A properly anchored Conibear shouldn’t budge when the top of the jaws are pushed

  • Camouflage

    • Bring in brush and sticks around the Conibear, blocking off the trail so the trap appears to be the most passible point of the trail

    • Add sticks arching above the Conibear to prevent animals from jumping over

    • Avoid creating a wall of brush- just enough to deter any other path choices

  • Final Setting

    • Before leaving the site remove all trap safeties and add flagging so that trail users are warned of the trap’s presence in advance

How to Check

  • Visual Inspection

    • Look over the entire trap set-up and observe the trap status and site surrounding the trap for evidence of animal presence

    • Trap Status: Is the trap open or closed when you arrive?- a closed trap has expanded springs, while a live trap has compressed springs (Photo 7)

    • Approach a live trap with extreme caution

  • Test-Firing

    • Re-attach spring safeties, making sure to keep hands and fingers away from the Conibear trapping zone (Photo 1)

    • Using a long stick, push the whiskers until the trap fires

    • Note the pressure required to fire the trap and adjust the dog as needed

    • A properly set Conibear will fire with light pressure on the whiskers and the jaws of the trap will not wobble while pressure is being applied

    • Test firing of all Conibears should occur once per month

  • Re-Setting a closed Conibear

    • Compress the springs with setters or paracord and latch the safeties

    • Open the Conibear jaws, re-attach the dog, and add your safety gripper

    • Ensure the trap itself is steady and add sticks to the spring coils if needed

    • Add any additional camouflage that has worn away or degraded

    • Finally, remove safeties and ensure proper flagging is still present from both trail directions

9. Using Conibear setters to set springs (Photo Source: Auwai wind Predator Control)

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9. Using Conibear setters to set springs (Photo Source: Auwai wind Predator Control)

10. Top: Live, open Conibear, Bottom: closed Conibear

10. Top: Live, open Conibear, Bottom: closed Conibear

11. Belisle body gripper trap

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11. Belisle body gripper trap

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Purchasing

  • Brands: (the term Conibear is itself a brand name)

    • Conibear (Victor): Safeties looser

    • Belisle: stiff safeties won’t fall off, generally ready for deployment with limited modification, strong snap

    • Duke: typically lower price point

    • Bridger: similar to Victor brand

    • LDL: Canadian“Cadillac of traps”, stick-welded instead of tacked, most expensive

  • Sizes:

    •  220: double spring cat-sized Conibear

    • 280: preferred double-spring cat Conibear

    • 330: largest recommended for cats

  • Vendors and Suppliers:

    •  Minnesota Trapline Products

    • Wildlife Control Supplies

    • RAM Connection Company

Miscellaneous Details

  • Do not attach bait to whiskers, if you’re using bait, place bait behind traps. These traps are designed for animal to pass through, not pull on the trigger wires.

  • Tree sets are dangerous where Newell’s Shearwaters nest - they readily climb trees

  • Pueo walk around on the ground too – be aware of the habits of your non-target species

  • In general, if you’re unsure whether a trap could catch a seabird or not, don’t set it

    • In areas of potential limited seabird activity, small sticks (uhu’he stems work well) can be inserted into the ground around the Conibear firing-zone , inserted at a 45-degree angle away from the trap (Photo 10)

  • Make sure you test the Conibear how you’re going to set it in the field (if you adjust the trigger sensitivity with the trigger right side up, then set it upside down in the field, the trigger weight will be different)

  • Safeties, dogs, and triggers are all replaceable parts- a broken trap can usually be repurposed

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12. Bird-deterrent sticks in red

12. Bird-deterrent sticks in red

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