It’s another idyllic evening on your patch of rural heaven. Tired from a long day, you drop off to the Land of Nod. Not all is not peaceful in the kingdom this night, though. A feathered commotion shatters your slumber. What could it be? Grabbing the flashlight, and perhaps your trusty scattergun, you plunge into the inky darkness to defend your livestock. Needless to say, mayhem ensues and your flashlight reveals your worst fears. A weasel has been on a murderous rampage. What do you do when nature invades the coop? Bite back!
What Is a Weasel?
Few wild creatures have the reputation for barnyard mayhem that the tiny weasel does. A member of the mustelid family, it shares the same bloodlust as its cousins the mink and wolverine. Tipping the scales at just a few ounces and barely a foot long, this tiny hunter is well-equipped for relentless pursuit of a meal. Slim and slinky, it is astounding the cracks they can crawl through to get into a rabbit hutch. Poultry fencing is no barrier either, and they can find a way into any building.
Weasels must feed every few hours, and even the tiniest member of this tribe – those no longer than a well-fed field mouse – is a fearsome foe. The signs of a weasel attack can be bites to the back of the head or base of the neck. Blood and occasionally brains are consumed but little else. Victims are also sometimes arranged in rows — a real shocker the first time you see it. All weasels are lightning-quick, equipped with razor-sharp teeth, and fearless. Weasels have reddish-brown upper bodies, a white underbelly, and a coal-black tip of the tail. In snow, country weasels put on a white coat to blend in.
It’s easy to demonize the weasel’s poultry attacks, but you must understand that in nature such behavior is a reaction to encountering a major food source. So it’s really just nature at work, unless it’s your turkeys, rabbits or Rhode Islands getting picked off. Then it’s war!
Most wild critters are fine neighbors, and a wise land owner will encourage their presence. The numbers of rodents and other crop-destroying pests weasels capture far outweigh the occasional attack against your livestock. Most of these hunters will never be a problem, but if an incursion happens it will always be the first of many unless you act quickly. Here’s where a simple homemade device, the enclosed weasel trap – a box with a rat trap – can provide both security and safety in the coop.
This is intended as a killing device, and if you are squeamish about administering a lethal end to things I respect your choice. Some folks will try using deterrents, but often this is unsuccessful. Even if driven off, the killer will search out a neighbor’s livestock.
Weasel Trap Dimensions & Design
Scrap lumber is fine, so don’t fret over mismatched pieces. Even plywood will suffice. Once you gather up a few old boards, lay the spring rat trap on a board and mark the width about an inch wider. Then outline a section 15 inches long (you need to have a box that fits the trap closely so the weasel is forced over the trap with no way around). Cut out two 15-inch-long boards for the top and bottom.
Next work on the sides. Lay your spring trap on one of the pieces you have cut out, raise the strike bar (the wire square that hits the rat) up to its height, and measure. A weasel box must have enough inside clearance that the striker bar can smoothly come up without interference.
Outline your dimensions and cut out two more 15-inch pieces. Next work on the ends; tack the bottom and two sides together with whatever old nails you have. Set the three-sided piece up on the bench and lay the top on. Use another scrap board to outline the ends so they’re closed tight. Make sure to not give the weasel any access except where you want him to go. Cut out two pieces — one for each end. Tack one in place and make the other your “door.” Grab a power drill and a hole saw attachment and drill a 2-inch round hole slightly below center (a large wood bit will also work).
After you tack the door in place, set the lid on and switch the drill to a slim 1/8-inch bit. Drill a hole in one of the lid corners and do the same opposite in the back. Drive a nail loosely in the rear hole so the lid will swing open. The front drill hole gets a nail to keep things shut tight. To access the box, remove the front nail and swing the lid. There’s your weasel trap. Now how do you get the bugger inside?
Setting Up the Weasel Trap
If not needed right away, I like to season weasel traps. Set them in the grass and toss some grain inside to get the mice interested. After a few mouse visits, the box will smell like a weasel’s buffet fantasy. Baiting up a rat trap is just like a mouse trap, but in this case we are after bigger quarry. Bait the trap with bloody liver or thick white fat from pork or beef (don’t use the remains of any previous attack, as this encourages more trouble). Offer the weasel an interesting scent, and his natural reaction will be to investigate the tasty-smelling box. Place boxes on the inside of the livestock area along the wall. You can also set weasel traps up near the roost or beside individual cages in the barn.
Make sure the bait pan is set up to work with nothing under it that might interfere. Another method is to place a billiard ball-sized piece of fat at the rear of the wooden box and set the trap pan right next to it. As the weasel approaches, he naturally jumps onto the pan or will fire it as he eats the fat bait. Either method will work. A few drops of inexpensive ladies’ cologne is a sure-fire attracter. Lastly, set a brick or block of wood on the box.
A weasel trap can be left in place and ready for days. I generally check once a day if combating an intruder, but keeping it set for weeks is no problem — just freshen up the bait often. The spring bar traps keep its tension fine, and if you let them down occasionally they will last for years. Weasels seem more inclined to cause problems in the late summer or early fall. I’ve never had winter attacks. The beauty of this device is that it is enclosed and poses no danger to people or other animals like an exposed trap does. Weasels explore tiny caves all the time, so they are not scared to enter a hole in a box.
Simple, non-toxic and effective, the enclosed weasel trap is a tool that is on guard no matter the hour or weather. Put out a few and rest easy, knowing they will be ready to snap at a moment’s notice.
This article appeared in the March 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.