Humane traps? Not always…

By Jennifer Taylor, Animal Care Coordinator

A couple of weeks ago Wild Care received a call about a snake they had unintentionally caught in a Hav A Heart trap. It was stuck between the bars and could not get out.

To get an idea of the trap’s size we asked what they were hoping to catch. The answer was “Chipmunks”. The next question was why were they trapping chipmunks.

“Because there were too many”.

Hmmmm…we decided to stick to the problem of the distressed snake for the moment. We asked if they could put the whole cage into a pillow case and drive it to us. It was then that we were told it was a ten foot long snake and they would not be comfortable doing that. (I have noticed that the size of animals increases in your mind when you are afraid of them!)

Peter Kosewski, our ever ready volunteer had just left Wild Care after his three hour clinic shift and was on his way to Provincetown to release a pair of gulls for us. He happened to call at the precise moment I was pondering which volunteer to ask to help with the ‘ten foot long snake.’ I sheepishly asked if it was possible for him to do it because it was on his way home. Peter was willing thank goodness! He is a seasoned rescuer and I had confidence he would approach the giant snake in the chipmunk trap with common sense.

He arrived soon after and although the Black Racer Snake was only about 5 feet long it was frightened and angry and not convinced we were trying to help it.

The way the snake had caught itself was cause for immediate removal. The bars of the cage were tightly squeezing its organs and it was not able to breathe well. My plan was…I hold its head, Peter holds the end of its body coming out of the trap, one of our interns Sophia cuts the designated wire bars and Karen, our Seasonal Rehab Assistant, bends the bars back and we slide the trap off- all without hurting the snake. 

The plan was executed perfectly until Karen gently bent the bars away. The animal got a surge power and pulled backwards out of my grip then thrust the cage back and forth lunging at Karen and me! Peter managed to keep a tight hold on its back end and after a few long seconds we gained control again and pulled the snake from the trap. 


Phew – Better than coffee to wake you up!

In this case the Racer was very lucky. He had no wounds and was in perfect shape to be taken back to its home. He was returned about an hour later.

Please remember “humane” traps can easily be lethal and must be checked often. Even the Website for these traps mentions some of their dangers. 

This snake was lucky to be found when it was and brought to us quickly.

Trapping and relocating wildlife in the state of Massachusetts is illegal. It often leaves babies behind, and does not fare well for the animal that has been relocated. If you trap an animal, they must be released back onto your property. Tips for deterring rodents can be found here.

If you find an animal in
distress, please call us at:


Our helpline and our facility
are open EVERY DAY from
9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
We are located at the
Orleans rotary (on the Eastham side).

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