Ermines are one of the smallest types of weasels and are known for their cute, slight size, and pure white winter coats. But what they lack in ferocious looks, they make up for with their at times vicious behavior. Invasive ermines are an issue in several states, particularly for poultry farmers and some homeowners when local populations encroach on human-inhabited areas. In this article, we’ll talk about how to catch and release ermines, and how to build your own DIY trap.
What You'll Learn Today
How Do You Lure an Ermine?
Ermines, also known as short-tailed weasels and stoats, are suckers for fresh meat. In the wild, they hunt for small rodents, rabbits, and sometimes chickens.
Since they are opportunistic hunters, stoats will look for food even when they’re not hungry. They tuck meat away near their dens to make sure they have enough to eat when food is scarce.
To lure an ermine into a trap, you will need unfrozen meat that is as fresh as possible, preferably. Pet stores often sell freshly killed mice, but you will likely also have success with liver, fish, or chicken entrails.
What Kind of Trap Do You Use for an Ermine?
Before you plan to set a trap of any kind, it’s important to note that laws about trapping can vary depending on your location. For example, it’s illegal to relocate a wild animal off of your property in New York. Make sure you’re following local ordinances and taking every precaution to avoid trapping unintended targets.
If you’re simply trying to get rid of a nuisance weasel near your property, calling a pest control professional or your local wildlife agency is a good option as well.
The type of trap you use depends on your purpose for catching an ermine. If you want to trap and release, you’ll have to use a different trap than if you were harvesting stoat fur.
To catch a live ermine, you can use a live trap, such as the commonly used “Havahart” traps. These are made out of metal and contain spring-loaded doors on either side that will humanely capture the animal once the trap is triggered.
If you intend to kill the ermine, a regular rat trap of your choice would probably work well. Alternatively, you can build a weasel box to catch the creature.
How Do You Catch an Ermine in a Live Trap?
Once you figure out which kind of trap you want to use and how to use it, the trapping portion is easy. The hardest part is waiting for your creature to take the bait. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Choose the Right Sized Trap
Weasels come in many different sizes. A short-tailed weasel is bigger than the least weasel, for example, and thus needs a bigger trap.
Step 2: Pick Your Location
Set the trap up wherever the ermine tends to spend most of its time. This could be in your henhouse, near the rabbit hutch, etc. Make sure you put it on a flat surface so that the trigger function works properly.
Step 3: Place the Bait
Put the bait in the trap as close to the time you believe the weasel is causing trouble. Since ermines feed every few hours and don’t have a normal hunting time, there is no correct way to do it.
Step 4: Wait
Check the trap at least once per day. Avoid lingering in the area so that you won’t scare your target. If it’s been a couple of days, you may want to consider switching out the bait for fresher meat.
Step 5: Release
Once you’ve trapped the weasel, remove it from the trap as soon as possible to minimize stress for the creature. If a professional will relocate the ermine, let them know that you’ve caught it.
If you will be relocating the creature, take the trap to a similar type of environment at least 10 miles away from your home. Use heavy gloves to remove the stoat from the trap since it will likely try to bite.
How To Make a Homemade Ermine Trap
A weasel box is the best choice if your intention is to destroy an ermine who is wreaking havoc on your property. To make one, you can either fashion a spring-loaded trap with tripping wire or simply put a rat trap inside of a homemade box.
To make a weasel box with a rat trap:
- Start with some old wood you have lying around the yard or take a trip to the lumberyard. To make sure your trap will be sturdy enough to reuse or pass on to someone else who needs it, use wood that’s at least an inch thick.
- Before you cut the wood, place the trap on a piece of wood to visualize the size you’ll need. The base of the trap should be about twice as long as the trap, and you can leave about an inch of width on either side of the trap.
- Next, use a jigsaw to cut the wood. After you cut the base, measure the side boards. These should be as tall as the trap once the strike bale is raised.
- Cut a piece of wood for the top. The top of the box should hang over the front to keep snow and rain out of the trap. Lightly nail all four pieces together.
- Now you can prop up the trap and set it inside of the box. Be careful not to trip the trap, as they are more powerful than you would expect.
- Next, cut out the front and back pieces of the box and nail them in place. Once you have a tight, closed box, you can drill the entrance hole – this should be about 2 inches wide.
- Finally, nail the sides and ends to the base, but lay the top board in place for now. Then drill a hole through the top base into the end boards on both sides.
- Nail the top board lightly on one end so that you can still open the box, and nail the other end closed tightly.
If you’re a visual learner, watch this YouTube video to see how to make a similar style of weasel box:
Having an invasive creature on your property can be frustrating – especially when they are threatening your animals. But remember that ermines are simply doing what nature intended for them. So make sure to follow the local laws, trap humanely, and responsibly.