Double Entry Fox Trap

Where the Double Entry Fox Trap Comes into its Own by John Cowan

John Cowan looks at the effectiveness of a double entry trap for catching foxes that are targeting his gamebirds.

In my book, Advice from a Gamekeeper, I suggest, in the chapter on trapping, that a fox cage should ideally be over six feet long and open at both ends – a double entry trap as they are called. No such trap was on the market, although I did hear anecdotal reports of homemade ones accounting for an impressive tally of foxes in a variety of locations up and down the country.

One of these traps was set by a farmer who chased a fox down the main road near his farm on several occasions, the fox escaping through a thick hedge at a sharp corner every time.

The farmer checked the spot and found that there was a hole in the hedge, obviously well used, and decided to build a double entry cage and fit it into the gap. This he did, cutting the hedge where needed, so that the cage fitted snugly and firmly in place.

The trap doors were tied open for a month and the floor of the trap was covered with soil and padded flat so as not to deter the fox. After a month the weather was due to turn wet and wild and the farmer set the trap.

The fox would surely now be his, and so it as two nights later. However, he reset the trap and caught over a dozen in the ensuing winter months.

Earth bank

Another trap was used in the Scottish Highlands. It was buried in a trench through an earth bank and again tied open for a period of time until the resident foxes came to accept its presence. This trap accounted for many foxes in the hard winters of 2009 and 2010.

A lady poultry keeper was driven to distraction by foxes that preyed on her birds in daylight hours when the birds were ranging free. Finally she asked the local blacksmith to build her a double entry which fitted exactly between her two henhouses. Again, it was remarkably successful. 

I had always wanted to try such a trap but I have never got round to building one. And, as no manufacturer made one (or at least as far as I knew), the idea lay dormant for years. This all changed recently when I was visiting Solway Feeders’ premises.

Talking to Colin Maxwell, who is head of their product development team, the subject got round to fox cages. Colin told me that they had a new trap available – a fox double entry – and asked if I would like to try it! Would I? Of course I would! 

Colin showed me one of the traps – they are two metres long by 60cm by 40cm. The trap is extremely robust and built to last a lifetime. The treadle plate is designed to operate both doors simultaneously, using an ingenious design which I have not encountered before. All in all I am extremely impressed by the quality and design of this trap and could hardly wait to put it to good use. 

The first requirement of any trap is to decide where to locate it. Obviously an area where you know your quarry visits regularly is the favourite, but the double entry fox cage allows me to try completely new tactics. 

To my cost, over 40 years of trying to outwit Reynard and protect my game, I have found that foxes will locate your pen full of gamebirds within a few days of you putting them there. If you are not visited by foxes you do not have any, and this happy situation has occurred frequently over the years. But, in ‘foxy’ country, it is almost impossible to clear the ground of every fox and a system which both attracted and caught foxes at release points has been my aim for many years.

My idea is to fit the double entry cage across the corner of one of my 30ft by 30ft partridge release pens. This will be done in a way that does not allow the fox any access to the birds, an obvious consideration. The ends of the cage will protrude slightly and be aided by wire netting wings, which hopefully will help to guide the fox into the trap. If the set-up is done correctly the fox will assume that it is merely walking round the perimeter of the pen (as they love to do).

This is where the double entry cage comes into its own as Reynard will see right through the trap and feel safe to enter. A handful of pheasant or partridge poults would be put in the pen as early in the year as was possible, bearing in mind that in high summer the hours of darkness are very short and a keeper with a heavy rearing programme may not be able to go lamping on a regular basis, especially when the cover is at its heaviest and highest.

Single trap

A network of pens could be built over the shoot and a single trap could be moved around, mopping up cubs before the majority of birds are released. Similarly the trap could be fitted into the corner of a crow cage, giving the trap a double function and making checking more interesting, especially in hard weather.

Baits should not be ignored – the treadle plate of the double entry has a fair amount of space below it to allow the usual attractions, not forgetting the 'Collarum' paste and the addition of a set of pigeon, hen or gamebird wings attached to a swivel so that they spin around in the wind enticingly.

Many people will mock the idea of catching a truly wild fox in a cage. But remember that until the Larsen trap was developed no-one thought that a woodie would enter a small cage. All that was needed was the trigger and the incentive for the bird to forget his natural wariness; I believe the same is true for the fox and the cage.

This does not mean that I think the cage will replace lamping or snaring. But I do think that in the present political climate we should look to as many legal methods of fox control as possible and develop them, because we cannot look into the future and do not know which ones we may lose.

To this end the double entry fox cage from Solway Feeders is a step forward and I hope that trappers and keepers up and down the country try this trap and perfect its use.

In weeks to come I will look at new developments in snaring, discussing their relevance to new legislation. I have been snaring under these new regulations in Scotland and have come up with some new ideas, which I wish to share with readers of The Countryman’s Weekly. In the meantime, good trapping.