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Despite precautions, pets or other non-target animals are sometimes caught in traps.

  • If this happens, remove the animal from the trap.
  • If the animal is a pet, return it to its owner. Do not allow it to run home injured.
  • If a dog is not licensed and the owner cannot be found, call the local animal enforcement officer.

Remember that pets and hunting dogs can be extremely valuable. Care must be taken to release them unharmed.

It is best to learn how to release an animal from an instructor or an experienced trapper.


The basic steps to release non-target species are explained below. Your top priority is your safety. Your second priority is to release the animal unharmed. If you cannot do this by yourself, get help.

  • Slip the noose of a catchpole over the animal's head.
  • Use the catchpole to pin the animal's head to the ground, away from the trap.
  • Cover the head with your coat or a tarp to calm the animal.
  • Use a shield (plywood barrier or similar material). If you unintentionally catch an otter in a foothold trap, hold a notched board over the trapped limb.
  • In one swift motion, open the trap (use your feet to depress the levers or springs) and release the animal from the noose.
  • Keep the barrier between the animal and you.

If you cover flesh baits, you should not have problems with birds. If you do catch a bird of prey, check for injuries. If the bird is injured, contact a wildlife officer for help in getting the bird to a rehabilitator. If the bird is unharmed:

  • Cover it with a blanket or coat while opening the trap.
  • After opening the trap, remove the blanket or coat and let the bird fly away.
  • Be very careful. Birds of prey have strong talons and beaks.