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rated which holds down the two levers, and the doors at once fall by their own gravity. The construction of this box is the same in principle as the common box-trap, the only difference being that the plate in the ordinary plan is supported at one end on a strip of wood, and there is only one E-shaped piece. But in the mode which I have here indicated the plate is much more ticklish, and the foot of a weasel or rat placed on any part of it will be sure to disengage the cord and to cause the doors to fall. To set it, proceed as follows:- Have two small wedges which fit loosely into the openings beneath the arms of the plate at a, insert them, and so prop it up, depress the two levers, and drop the F's into their places, as shown in fig. 98; then simply lay the baits without any fastening, one on each side, and about two inches from the plate, as at cc, fig. 99, which is a ground-plan of
the box; and lastly set the F's ticklishly, withdrawing the two props one at a time, and leaving only just sufficient of the two surfaces in contact to keep down the levers and support the plate. The hooks at the end of the plates should be pointed so that even if the plate is only depressed at one edge, they will slip from the F, and so disengage themselves from it. The baits should be small, and are placed one on each side the plate, so that a weasel or polecat will devour one, and then be tempted fearlessly to cross the plate to the other, in doing which it is caught by the doors falling. The great advantage of this trap is that it does not kill or even injure in the slightest degree the animals which it captures, so that if a rabbit or hare enters it, no harm is done, for the door is at once raised, and it escapes. These box-traps are set either in the natural runs frequented by the stoat or weasel, &c., or else in others purposely made, concealing the entrances by placing small branches of thorn, privet, &c., round the box, and leading the animals up to it by gradually narrowing the distance between them. A dead rabbit may be dragged for some distance along the ground up to the end of the trap, and then leaving a little of its blood on the ground and sprinkling more just inside the box, the rabbit may be removed, unless a part is used for the bait; but if a weasel is to be taken, barely an ounce of the flesh or of the liver should be placed on each side the plate of the trap, or the animal's hunger will be sufficiently satisfied to make it suspicious, and the fatal drop will not be passed.
The figure of 4 trap is composed of a large square piece of stone or slate, propped up in a peculiar manner with three pieces of wood, which are arranged in the shape of a 4. In examining this figure it will be seen to consist of a perpendicular limb or “upright,” of a horizontal one or "stretcher," and of a short “ slanting stick," as the third is called. The upright is usually cut about half an inch wide, shaved to a thin edge at top, but “ High Elms” recommends it to have a forked foot to keep it from twisting, and a notch in it to prevent the stretcher slipping down. The slanting stick has a notch cut in it half an inch from its upper end, to receive the top of the upright, while its lower end is shaved off to fit into a notch in the upper surface of the front of the stretcher. Lastly, the stretcher has this notch in front and another notch cut in its side, by which it is caught by the upright and held in its place. A bait being tied to the external end of the stretcher, and a stone placed so that it will lie flat on the ground, the whole is ready for setting, which is effected as follows:-Raise the stone and support it by the notched end of the slanting stick held in the left hand, the notch itself looking downwards, then place the upright with one end on the ground and the other in this notch, and let it carry the weight of the stone, which will have a tendency to tilt up tho “slanting stick,” still held down by the left hand; finally, hitch the middle notch of the “stretcher" in the “upright," with its front notch facing upwards, then bring the lower end of the “slanting stick” down to this front notch, drop it in, and the trap is set. Of course it
requires that each part shall be carefully adapted to the others, but when the trap is seen set, it will be readily understood, practice being, however, required to set it properly. I quite agree with “ High Elms” that the footed upright is an improvement, but I am inclined to doubt the advantage of the double notch between the upright and stretcher. I have tried both, and I cannot find that there is any great superiority in his plan, but perhaps, though I have exactly followed his directions as given in the Field, I may have omitted some point of practical importance. In setting the figure of 4 trap, the height of the upright and the size and weight of the stone will be proportioned to the animal for which it is set. I do not like the trap myself, as it cannot be concealed so well as the steel trap, and indeed has no advantage except its cheapness. Dozens of them may be set in the woods, and if stolen, little harm is done, as the cost is barely a penny a piece, if made in large numbers. I have also known pheasants caught by the head and killed in them, the flesh with which they are baited being often attractive to tamebred birds, which usually are fed with more or less of it in their rearing.
A very complicated weasel-trap was described in the Field of the 29th of May, 1858, by “ High Elms,” as having been recently invented by him. Like the last, it acts by suffocation, but instead of the force of gravity a spring is used. As, however, the inventor is about to publish a little brochure on vermin trapping, I will not poach on his manor by minutely describing it here.
The various kinds of vermin are best trapped as follows :Cats and martens are readily caught in the steel-trap set as follows: get soine thorns and plant them so as to leave a vacant space of about a yard in diameter, with two entrances to it just wide enough to admit the vermin. In these set the steel trap in the mode described at page 404, so as to be made perfectly invisible either by grass or leaves. Then, in the centre of the open space fasten a live pigeon, chicken, or any other bird, by tying it to a peg with a short string, or if a live bird is not procurable use a dead rabbit, but in the latter case a trail must be laid up to it. The living bait will struggle or move sufficiently to attract the notice of the
vermin whose sensitive ears are always on the look-out for sounds. The two openings are made because all animals are more afraid of a cul de sac than of entering a clear passage, their instinct or reason telling them that they are more safe with two modes of escape than one. Hares and rabbits may possibly be caught in these traps so set, but a living animal will scare them, and if a dead one is used and any putrid flesh which would attract the vermin is rubbed against the thorns at the entrances to the central space, the hares and rabbits, as well as pheasants, will be deterred from entering it. If it is particularly necessary to avoid all risk of catching any kind of game, the box-trap may be used, but for a cat it should be fully four feet long and nine inches square. If set it is well to conceal it by planting thorns all round it, and spreading them out from the mouths also to make the openings look less suspicious. The figure of 4 trap is useless for these animals, which are strong enough to throw the stone off unless it is of very unwieldy size.
If the fox is to be trapped, which is necessary in some countries where fox-hunting is quite impracticable, two or three large steel traps are set in the same way as for the cat, but with a central opening of at least five or six feet diameter. A live fowl or duck makes the best bait, particularly the latter, which will keep up an incessant quacking and attract the fox from a long distance. Next to these is a halfburied, dead rabbit or hare in a half-putrid state, which will by its scent attract the fox, especially if a trail is laid up to it.
Polecats, stoats, and weasels may be readily taken in the box-trap if it is nicely set and carefully concealed. In thick hedges it may be placed in the meuses made by the hares, which are sure to be used also by these vermin, and even without any bait it will often take them. But by fixing one in a dry ditch and concealing its mouth with thorns in such a way as to keep out hares, while the opening is large enough to admit the stoat or weasel, the former are allowed to escape. Some keepers raise the trap-door only half or three-quarters of the way, but this plan is not so good as reducing the opening by thorns. The polecat is said to raise this door himself, but if it is made of wire, as shown in the plan at
page 406, he will never make the attempt, but will work away
The rat is the most difficult of all the four-footed vermin to trap, but when it takes to the field it is not so cunning as in the house. A couple of gins set at the entrances to a space constructed of thorps, and containing a live animal tied to a peg, will be more likely to take the rat than if baited with a dead bait, for the presence of a living being other than his natural enemies, gives confidence, and he will enter boldly a space constructed for his capture, from which he would otherwise carefully keep away.
When rats occur in situations where they are likely to take game, they may generally be ferreted, which is the most fatal method of destroying them, or they may be poisoned in their holes when there is no danger of injuring anything else. If, however, they are in any numbers the assistance of a really useful professed ratcatcher will always be desirable, as he will do more in two or three nights than an ordinary keeper will effect in a month,
Compared with four-footed vermin, the birds are ten times more difficult to trap, and their habits must be minutely studied in order to obtain their presence at the keeper's grand show. Two or three leading features must be well noted. Thus, some feathered vermin strike their game on the ground; others will not touch it there. Some will take a dead bait; others will not go near it. Again, the egg of a barn-door fowl is very attractive to all egg-destroyers, while to the Falconidæ it is perfectly innocent of all temptation. There are certain birds which habitually perch on high posts,