U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in: N.J. Silvy (Ed.), The wildlife techniques manual. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD: 232-269.


The art of capturing wild animals for food and clothing is as old as human existence on earth. However, in today’s world, reasons for catching wild species are more diverse. Millions of wild animals are captured each year as part of damage and disease control programs, population regulation activities, wildlife management efforts, and research studies. Many aspects of animal capture, especially those associated with protected wildlife species, are highly regulated by both state and federal governmental agencies. Animal welfare concerns are important regardless of the reason for capture. In addition, efficiency (the rate at which a device or system catches (he intended species) is a critical aspect of wild animal capture systems.

Successful capture programs result from the efforts of experienced wildlife biologists and technicians who have planned, studied, and tested methods prior to starting any new program. State regulations related to animal capture vary widely and licenses or permits, as well as specialized training may be required by state wildlife agencies for scientists, managers, and others engaging in animal capture for research, damage management, or fur harvest. Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, required at universities and research institutions by the Animal Welfare Act (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2002), often question whether scientists capturing animals for research have ensured that pain and distress are minimized by the techniques used. The information in this chapter will assist wildlife management practitioners to identify appropriate equipment and obtain the necessary approvals for its use. Researchers are encouraged to consult Littell (1993) and Gaunt et al. (1997) concerning guidelines and procedures relating to capture and handling permits.

Major reviews of bird capture techniques include Canadian Wildlife Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1977), Day et al. (1980), Davis (1981), Keyes and Grue (1982), Bloom (1987), Bub (1991 ), Schemnitz (1994), and Gaunt et al. (1997). Detailed coverage of mammal capture methods include Day et al. (1980). Novak et al. (1987), Schemnitz (1994), Wilson et al. (1996), American Society of Mammalogists (1998), and Proulx (1999a). Mammal capture usually becomes more difficult as animal size increases. Thus, observational techniques and mammalian sign are often more efficient for obtaining both inventory and density information (jones et al. 1996). Several new techniques to capture mammals ranging in size from small rodents to large carnivores have been developed in recent years.