some general questions

Hello Mammalwatchers

Let me quickly introduce myself!
I am Valentin from Switzerland and I started studying Biology in university. I am pretty much interested in all moving things, but especially in birds, crickets and mammals. Mammals seem to be the most difficult though… But who can resist beauties like Ribbon Seal, snow leopard, white bats and solenodons.
I have had some basic success, especially while travelling (wild Orang Utan, Long-nosed monkey and some others while in Indonesia, Potto, Small sun squirrel, Common kusimanse, Western tree hyrax and heard-only chimpanzee in Cote d’Ivoire), but I still have a lot to learn. Spotlighting by foot was quite successful, but so far I have no experience with trapping or spotlighting by car. And this is where you come in! I have some questions where so far I have not found a really satisfying answer.

  1. Is there books or something else with tips and tricks?
  2. For car spotlighting: Is a strong handheld torch enough or is a (big) spotlight connected to the car the better option?
  3. Have you ever had trouble entering a country with the traps (or nets) or with the trapping itself (some officials demanding licences and so on)?

My next (big) goal in Switzerland is Wild cat, my next trip will be to Cuba, where besides many birds and culture I hope to see some hutias.
Depending on my success, you will eventually read trip reports from me.
If you want to contact me, my e-mail is

Many Greetings



  • Jon Hall

    Hello Valentin, great to see you here.

    For tips etc then here is a brief summary that might be useful

    In particular, on spotlighting, then in open country a big spotlight connected to the car battery is better I think because you need the extra power to see a long way. In forest it doesn’t matter quite so much (because typically you cannot see very far .. too many trees) though I would always go with a connected light in a car and save my handheld torch for when I am on foot (and keep it in my pocket in case something crosses the road when you are driving and you need to get out of the car and chase it).

    Trapping. First off, I think it is important to get enough experience trapping small mammals with experts before you go off and do it yourself because it can hurt or kill the animals if it isn’t done properly. Even more so with catching bats…. which is really quite difficult. You can take courses in many countries or volunteer to help academics, national park people, or local natural history societies. You could put up a request here on how to do this in a particular country (eg Switzerland) if you are interested.

    I have never had any problems taking traps into a country (sometimes people ask questions but it has never been an issue for me). But trapping in many places is not legal without a licence and you can (potentially) get into a lot of trouble if you break the rules, The rules vary from country to country considerably: it is very strictly prohibited in all of Australia for example, and in nearly every National Park in every country there are rules preventing it. In most of Europe it is OK I think if you are not trying to catch certain endangered species but attitudes vary (there are reports of people calling the police in Spain I think on this site). My advice would be to stick to privately owned land and check with the landowner first, make sure you aren’t going to have the animals getting too cold, too wet or too hot. It is very interesting to do, and can potentially contribute to scientific knowledge, but it does need to be done properly. The best way is to meet up with local researchers and help them: they nearly always appreciate the extra help and the interest. If you are going to Cuba then there is an active bat society there and perhaps you could arrange to meet up with them to help them study the local bats.

    Look forward to your first report!


  • vmoser

    Hello Jon

    Very helpful, thanks a lot!
    Concerning trapping: I have talked to some biologists here in Switzerland about trapping small mammals and I am aware of the dangers and how to avoid it, especially with less robust species like shrews. I will (hopefully) join them as well in the next field season, when they will trap again for the red list of Switzerland. If anyone in this forum is willing to take me out, it would be very appreciated as well. The tip with the landowner is certainly very helpful and important to consider!
    For the bats I do not know enough yet to trap myself. I have extracted quite a few bats while on a ringing station for birds (with the nets open in the night as well), but I lack routine. For the bats of Switzerland, I did a course this spring, so at least I should be able to identify them.
    The bats will be a project of the future, but I thought I would ask anyway.
    As with basically everything I can safely identify, I report my sightings whenever possible and I absolutely agree that citicien science like can provide very valuable data to help protect biodiversity and certain species.
    I will have a look if I find a contact for the bat people in Cuba, thanks!


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