small mammal trapping: the law

Hi all

It’s simple to find the law about small mammal trapping in the UK, but I’m not doing at all well at finding out the situation in other countries. 

I discovered – by nearly being arrested – that it’s illegal in Spain, without a permit. I’ve heard it’s the same in Australia. I’m wondering if anyone knows the situation in other countries? I’m particularly interested in Finland and France at the moment, as I’ll be in both these countries this year but I would like to know about other countries for future reference.

I don’t know if it’d be possible to start some kind of list here, or if it’s already been done somewhere?




  • Curtis Hart

    Wildlife laws are different in every state in the US. It is illegal without a permit in MI, unless within so many feet of an occupied dwelling. It is even illegal to have traps in your vehicle while in the field unless they are marked with your name and address.

  • Morgan Churchill

    I was told it was illegal in Wyoming as well. Given the the permissiveness of the law otherwise here, I imagine pretty much all states require some sort of permit for live trapping.

  • Coke Smith

    I basically assume it is illegal in most places in the USA that are officially protected, such as state, national parks. BLM is generally ok from what I understand. When traveling abroad, I always ask if is ok and I would say about 75% of the time it is. I’ve even had rangers help me on a number of occassions – especially in Asia.

  • John Fox

    The official word in Virginia is that it’s illegal, except for a few “nuisance” species. But I’ve read every law, regulation, and rule on the books and can’t figure out the basis for it; everything is circular and self-referential.

    Plead confusion is my best advice in Virginia.

    I’m more for putting out bait, without the trap, and watching it. In the best conditions, a six-pack of beer and some other comforts makes for a good night of mammal watching.

  • Jon Hall

    Its not an area of law making that has been given much thought I imagine because there are very few people who want to go out and catch small mammals for anything other than pure research. As a result laws vary without good reason. Its patently daft that you can go and catch fish in Australia for example but cannot catch and release a mouse. And in Spain I’m amazed that whoever tried to arrest you happens to know the law when it comes to catching rodents.. I wonder if it really is the law or he or she was just guessing…

    I’ve set traps with the rangers help in Canada inside protected areas (but not national parks). I’d advise against it in Africa and parts of Asia unless you get permission (though I’ve had informal permission in many parts of Asia, and only had a problem in Malaysia). In France its fine so far as I know… in Australia totally forbidden.

    So in most places I’d seek forgiveness rather than permission so long as you aren’t trying to catch something endangered.

  • vdinets

    The problem here is that seldom-used laws in the US are very complicated and nobody remembers them, so there’s often nobody to ask. In Yellowstone I’ve been once told by a ranger to set Sherman traps close to some pond or stream, so that it could be considered catch-and-release fishing! Later I learned that mammal trapping (as well as using sound playbacks and feeding wildlife, which includes baiting) is illegal in all national parks.

  • Matt Strimas-Mackey

    I’ve often wondered this myself and, as a result of not being sure, haven’t done as much trapping as I’d like.

    Jon-I’ve noticed in a bunch of your trip reports you mention using traps while travelling. What has your experience been trying to get traps through customs? I’m more worried about that then actually getting caught in the act of trapping.

  • Jon Hall

    Hi Matt, though from time to time the traps get customs people excited (mainly at those airports where you need to xray your hold baggage) I just tell them I am a biologist and there is no problem (they are only interested because these weird metal boxes show up on the xray). In countries with strict quarantine laws – like Australia – you need to be careful to make sure they are clean.

  • Jon Hall

    Some comments from Jean Michel Bompar (who doesn’t comment himself because he prefers me to correct his English which in fact never needs any correction!)

    In France there is no law about non-lethal trapping out of National Parks and private properties. There is just a list of mammals who are protected (up-to-date list available on ) and who cannot be trapped, nor disturbed, nor transported alive or dead (even a piece of carcass), whatewer the matter. Regarding usual trapping of small mammals, it concerns only water-shrews (2 species of Neomys), Galemys, 2 rodents (Muscardinus, Cricetus) and all species of bats (at the moment bats are not protected in French Guyana… there are 3 companies for extermination in this country !!!). Hedgehogs, Squirrels, Mustelids are also protected but usualy not trapped. The main problem is because of non-selective trapping. If a Neomys enter your trap disposed for water vole, you can be blamed ! So there is usually no problem to trap. Just ask the farmer or the land-owner

  • Steve Babbs


    It seems that wildlife protection laws are very strict in Spain, e.g. apparently butterfly netting is not allowed. I was in the lynx area, although not in the reserve and it was actually the rangers who called the police. The officer did give us a contact address to apply for permission.

    It does sound like France is relatively OK. Does anyone know about Finland?

  • John Fox

    Somewhat off topic but I found a page with directions for making two small live traps. Not particularly clear directions, but if you’re the kind of person who likes making your own gear for a fraction of the cost of commercial gear it might be worth a try.


    • Jon Hall

      John, Jean-Michel Bompar has made traps and modified some of my elliot traps (like sherman traps) to give them wire mesh sides and roof. My completely unscientific opinion (based on a few times we have trapped together) is that the mesh traps work much better. Its widely accepted that small mammals aren’t always that happy with entering enclosed boxes (which is why pitfall traps can be the only way to catch some species) and maybe the mesh traps get around this. In any case there are reasons to build your own other than just for saving money!

  • cmh78

    This is a very late reply, but I recently learned it is legal to small mammal trap in Michigan. If you read the Scientific Collector’s Permit, it says at the bottom that small mammals may be trapped at any time, by any method, for any reason with no permit.

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