How to Bait a Squirrel Trap – Eight Simple Rules


Squirrels won’t step into your traps without bait, and if you don’t bait your squirrel traps right, you will never get rid of your overhead rodent infestation. Here are eight simple rules for success in catching squirrels by using the right bait in the right way.

#1 Never touch squirrel bait with bare hands

Squirrels have a superb sense of smell. They can detect minute traces of your pheromones in sweat transferred from your fingers to their food. Always wear gloves when handling the bait you put in your squirrel trap. The kinds of latex gloves used in medical procedures or rubber gloves you use for household chores will do.

#2 If the squirrel is stealing birdseed, use birdseed as the bait

This rule also applies to nuts and fruit squirrels raid from your yard and garden. Use foods you know the squirrel finds attractive. And remember, what appeals to you doesn’t necessarily appeal to the squirrel. Bacon and cheese may work in mouse traps, but they aren’t very useful for trapping squirrels. If the squirrel has been raiding your fruit trees or garden, offer these treats before you take anything from your pantry. Bait should be solid, not liquid. Peanuts and tree nuts (out of the shell) are ideal. However, sticky liquids can be used to make the squirrel work to get the bait. To learn more read this post What Is the Best Squirrel Bait?

#3 Make the squirrel work to get the bait

Traps are activated by a pressure plate. The more pressure the squirrel has to put on the plate, the more likely it is to get trapped. Mix the bait with molasses, peanut butter, syrup, or jam to force the squirrel to place more of its weight on the trigger.

Or place the bait in a segment of PVC pipe you attach to the top of the trap above the pressure plate. The squirrel will step on the plate to get to the bait.

#4 Make the squirrel an offer it cannot refuse

Bait that is so large that it cannot be dragged out of the trap forces the squirrel to stay inside and eat. A popcorn ball studded with peanuts, for example, will entice the squirrel inside to activate the pressure plate.

#5 Remember that different traps require bait in different places

If you are using a one-door trap, place the bait at the back of the trap, past the pressure plate. Don’t use so much bait that the squirrel could get a free meal without entering the trap. Place the bait away from the walls of the trap.

If you are using a two-door trap, place the bait in the middle of the trap. You can place the bait on top of the pressure plate, or in the ground directly beneath the pressure plate. Again, don’t use so much bait that the squirrel can get a fast meal without activating the pressure bar. And no matter what kind of trap you use, don’t place bait so that it keeps the pressure plate from activating.

#6 Anchor your squirrel trap

Place a stone or a brick on top of the trap or anchor the bottom of the trap so the squirrel cannot turn it over.

#7 Offer freebies before you set the trigger

Let the squirrel take the bait from your trap for a few days without getting caught. Leave bait in the trap, but don’t activate the pressure plate. This allows the squirrel to let its guard down for easier capture that is much less traumatic to the squirrel.

#8 Make a happy trail to the trap

Leave a trail of nuts or seeds that lead to the trap door, but not so many that the squirrel won’t go into the trap.

Choosing the right bait and putting it in the right place in your trap is critical to your trapping success. If you follow these simple rules, however, you should capture your well-fed squirrel alive and healthy in 24 hours or less.


Simon Mann is a "handy man" to have around the house. Although he was a trained carpenter he went on to become a VP of a construction company. Any pest or DIY problem you may have, he always seems to come up with the right solution.

View Comments

  • I'm getting so frustrated!
    The squirrels are getting out of live trap over and over!
    I've even had large rat trap baited, they are getting bait and away they go!

    • If they are getting out that means the spring in the trap door is not strong enough. I suggest you buy a better trap and place it on a slope so that it is more difficult to open the door.

  • Two baby squirrels jumped out of a boot and now are at large in my basement. Can they survive there without food?

    • Yes, you make a very good point. It could be that the human scent is overpowered by all the smelly trash, but I don't have a scientific answer for you.


  • Hi Simon
    I have 2 little squirrels that live in a blue spruce behind me. They both are scratching and biting so much that there fur is missing and they have huge bald spots. I live in Colorado and it is going to get very cold with about 5 to 8 inches of snow coming tonight and tomorrow. A friend brought a no-kill cage to trap them with and I bought some food that might entice them. I have animals that are in the backyard and these little guys are all over the place so I'm worried about my animals getting the mange. Do you have any suggestions about how to place this cage and the food? My main question is if I capture them I know of a rehab place that is offered to take them however I'm worried about them being in this cage and then putting them in my car with mange or whatever else they might have. Any suggestions. I sure would like to get these guys to rehab so that they can get the medicine and the care they need.

    • Hi Gail,

      The good news is they should be fairly easy to capture. Just place the trap where they are most active and put the bait in the trap as per instructions or hang an apple from the top of the trap with some string. You can transport them directly to the rehab with them still in the cage so you don't have to touch them. I would put large plastic bags in your trunk and put the cages on top of the plastic. Throw the plastic bags once you have accomplished the transfer.

      Keep your animals indoors until you have trapped the squirrels.


    • Hi Claudette,

      Yes ultrasonic devices do work. Make sure you read the instructions and remember that ultrasonic cannot pass through solid objects like walls and doors. You may want to consider using traps as well.


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