The Friendly Rabbit Trap
(by Geoff Smith)
Some time ago, I was asked quite suddenly by several different people, if I had seen the new 'Friendly Rabbit Traps' being made by Rudi Paoletti of the The Rabbit Trap Company from Langwarrin in Victoria. These traps had been advertised widely in the local press and several small articles had appeared in the rural papers. As well, a segment or two appeared on daytime TV shows about them. Following a request by the Secretary, some samples were sent over for possible sale through the SA Ferret Association, and after seeing them at a meeting of this group, I asked the editor of the ASJ if he would be prepared to publish a review of the trap in these pages. Following his agreement, I contacted Rudi, who promptly sent some traps over for this review.
We had several phone conversations about the traps, and he advised me that they were very good for use with ferrets, but that they would also work when used on their own. He said the traps could be placed, one per hole, and any extra holes could then be blocked with newspaper to force the rabbits into the trapped entrances. Rudi says that blocking the extra holes with newspaper is better than using earth or rocks, because the rabbits do not seem to like scratching at it, whereas they will readily burrow around a rock or through dirt filling. I had been used to rabbiting with string nets for years, and although some of the other ferreters I know use wire traps of various sorts, I had never used them previously.
A friend of mine who has been a keen rabbiter for many years told me that he had used traps of his own manufacture which are virtually the same as the friendly rabbit trap since back in the days of the great depression of the 1930s. The idea, therefore, is not exactly new, but the materials, the exact design, the manufacturing process and the patent all are !
This new trap is quite simple in operation. It consists of rolled, heavy-duty chicken wire tube, with a moulded plastic door on one end and an entrance 'funnel' and swing gate on the other. The funnel end is simply inserted into the rabbit hole and left in such a way that the word 'top' (moulded into the outer door end) is actually at the top. Any rabbits which run out of the burrow run past the swing door which closes behind them, leaving them trapped in the wire cylinder. Being slightly conical, the entry end of the trap plugs neatly in to the mouth of the 'average' rabbit burrow, although very large or small burrows might need some minor modifications to enable their use.
Even nearly vertical burrows may be netted with these traps, since the swing door is very light in weight and is readily pushed aside by the rabbit making his exit. The swing door is made as a grid, so light can be seen by the rabbit as it approaches the burrow exit. In very large burrows, the trap may be inserted right into the hole. I found that it is important not to leave the trap protruding too far out in such holes, as rabbits will readily slither through an incredibly small gap to dodge past the trap entrance and escape. I also found that when pushing the trap into a burrow mouth it is very important not to allow the earth inside the burrow, which is usually soft, loose and dry, to accumulate inside the netting to prevent the door from swinging inwards. Obviously, a little care is needed, just as it is with any such idea. String nets will readily lose rabbits when they are not properly set, and rabbits will often run off net and all if it is not properly anchored down. With these traps, the rabbits can't run away !
Another very big advantage of the 'Friendly Rabbit Trap' is that the urgency of getting to the rabbit is now much less. As mentioned above, in a string net, a rabbit can wriggle free or take off net and all, if one is not very fast in getting to it. This causes some problems of noise, since rabbits are very alert to thumping sounds, and the noises may cause remaining underground rabbits to stay put rather than make a break for freedom to avoid the ferrets. As well, of course, when two or more rabbits strike the net simultaneously, one can only be in one place at a time.
With the Friendly Traps, the rabbits can simply stay put.Two, three, or even four rabbits can rush into the trap and there is no great urgency to remove them until one is good and ready. If the ferret enters the trap as well, of course, that is an entirely different story! Apart from the animal welfare side of the cruelty to the rabbits, there is also a fair risk of the ferret being injured as well, since rabbits have very sharp claws.
The traps are supplied in boxes of five or ten, in an unassembled state. The directions for assembly are printed on the side of the box, and are very easily understood. No extra parts are required. I found after putting the first one together, that they can be fully assembled in about two or three minutes each. The doors are clipped into the end pieces, then the shorter end piece is attached to the wire tube using four nylon cable ties, such that the join in the wire is at the top. The seam in the wire tube is closed with a pair of inner and outer joining plates which snap together. The longer end piece is then attached to the tube with the remaining four cable ties and the assembly is complete.
To test the traps, I went on a ferreting excursion to a property near the Murray River, where the burrows ranged from very large deep systems in sandy mallee scrub, through to stony limestone burrows near the Murray River Valley clifftops. The traps worked extremely well, despite there being lots of very small rabbit kittens about. One burrow yielded about four rabbits which were so small they wobbled through the mesh of the wire. I suspect they were only hours past opening their eyes. Bigger rabbits though were very convincingly trapped, sometimes in ones, sometimes in twos. At one stage there were three rabbits in the one trap and, although one was quite small, there was still room for more should they have come out.
To summarise then, the Friendly Rabbit Traps made by The Rabbit Trap Company of Langwarrin in Victoria, are a new and reasonably priced version of an old idea. They work exceptionally well with ferrets and, although I didn't have time to test the idea, I'm told they work even without ferrets to drive the bunnies into them.
(This article appeared in the
December 1992 edition of the "Australian Shooters Journal")
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