How to Trap Turtles

Snapping Turtle

This is an excerpt from the article “Summer Serpentinas” which appeared in the June-July 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue.

Turtle trappers rely on luring the animals to food, so to catch them you need to know where they feed and what they eat.

“I know that a snapping turtle is going to be feeding around the perimeter of a pond,” Wisconsin turtle trapper Scott Peterson said. “Critters like frogs and crayfish are along the edges. That’s where the food source is, so that’s where the turtle is going to be.”

Turtles also eat small fish, so Peterson looks for areas of brush or weed cover in deeper water that will hold prey.

“When I set my traps, I try to get my net down on the bottom of the pond,” he said. “I want to make sure I have the ramp of the lower throat completely submerged. The upper throat doesn’t have to be, but the lower throat does, because the snapping turtle is more at ease swimming than it is trying to walk. If I can get that throat under water, instead of the turtle having to walk up a rope-net ladder, the turtle can just swim right in.”

Peterson looks for the same structure on rivers — brush or weeds that will hold natural food for turtles.

“On rivers, I set close to the bank,” he said. “I don’t like to work out of a boat, so I’ll beach my boat and walk on the shore.”

However, when trapping on a river, the orientation of the trap is crucial.

“Always make sure the throat of the trap is facing down current,” Peterson said. “That’s very important, because when the turtle, be it a softshell or a snapping turtle, works that trap, they have more control swimming into the current than they do swimming with the current. It’s just like a beaver working your set. A beaver isn’t going to smell your set. He’s going to come by with the current. He knows it’s there, but he can’t work it, so he’s going to go down and turn around and work into the current so he has more control of his body. It’s the same with a turtle.”

TR_20140701This story appeared in the June-July 2014 Trapper & Predator Caller issue.

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