The Dangers of Glue Traps

You can help wildlife avoid a sticky situation.

a fledgling bird is stuck to a glue trapEach year, countless animals are unintentionally caught in glue traps or “glue boards”. Glue traps are typically sheets or tubes covered in extremely sticky glue; the traps are traditionally meant to capture flying insects, like wasps or flies (when hung) or rodents (when placed on the ground).

Sticky traps are indiscriminate and often catch animals that are the unintended victims of the trap – typically birds, snakes, lizards, and small mammals. In the cases of wide glue boards, even larger mammals have been stuck to traps and suffer injuries or fur loss when pulling free.

Whether the victim is intended or not, insects and animals caught in these traps do not have a quick or painless death.  Often, the animal struggles against the glue in an attempt to free itself and eventually succumbs to injuries, exhaustion, starvation, or dehydration during a period of a few hours or several days.

What Kind of Animals Are Caught in Glue Traps?

Because glue boards and traps are designed to catch insects and rodents—all prey species—they often catch small wild predators. Hanging glue traps and sticky paper often entrap songbirds, bats, and flying squirrels who are in pursuit of insects that are stuck to the glue. Snakes often become stuck to glue boards on the ground that trap insects and rodents.

Every year, the Wildlife Center admits a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles that are stuck to glue traps; the most common species include Carolina Wrens, Eastern Ratsnakes, and Northern Ring-necked Snakes. Other stuck species in the past decade have included Big Brown Bats, Barn Swallows, chipmunks, Catbirds, and nuthatches.  In nearly all of these cases, these wild animals are providing natural pest control and are unintended victims.

What Kind of Injuries Do These Animals Sustain?

Animals stuck in glue traps can succumb to dehydration and starvation; they also sustain injuries to delicate wings, skin, body, or legs as they struggle to free themselves.

Birds may suffer from wing or leg dislocations; even if they do not have skeletal or muscle injuries, their feathers are often damaged and mangled from the glue, which can impact their flight capabilities. Sadly, many birds who are stuck on these traps do not survive, or have such grave injuries when they are admitted, they must be humanely euthanized.

Reptiles may sustain damage to their scales in their prolonged struggle. While snakes typically have a higher survival rate with proper removal and treatment, they can suffer from dislocated jaws or have prolonged skin damage that requires lengthier hospitalization.

If You Find an Animal Stuck to a Glue Trap

Prevent the animal from becoming further entrapped as it struggles—if you find a stuck animal, immediately place paper towels, paper, or thin cardboard over the exposed sticky areas of the trap. Once the sticky areas are covered, place the animal and the trap in a cardboard box or container and call a permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian.

Removing a stuck animal can be quite challenging; oil is often used to dissolve the sticky adhesion on the trap, but, in turn, the oil must be carefully and thoroughly removed from the animal to not cause additional issues. Once an animal is free, it should receive a medical examination from a wildlife professional to check for additional injuries and trauma.

A snake is very carefully extracted from a glue trap by trained professionals.

Alternatives to Glue Traps

  • Examine the issue. Determine what pest is entering the space and investigate how it is getting in; this foundational knowledge is key to eliminating the actual pest problem, rather than simply eliminating the symptom.
  • Find a reputable pest control company. For serious issues, professionals can create a pest-management plan that is best for the health of your family, pets, and wildlife. (Find out how to select a reputable company.)
  • Never use rodenticides. Poison-baited traps often put unintended wild animals in danger, particularly the wildlife that eat the animals that are poisoned. 
  • Get involved! More localities are enacting legislation to ban glue traps. In early 2024, Ojai, California, became the second U.S. city to pass a ban on glue traps. 

Remember, the best solution is prevention. Rodents and other pests enter homes and other buildings to find food and shelter. Eliminate the issue before it starts by keeping food securely stored and sealing all small gaps in and around your home.