First Catch your Animal!
click on thumbnail pictures to enlarge
those of you with a creature of any description,
from the humble goldfish to a boisterous wombat,
you will all know that it is not always easy to
transport them, even with the shortest of trips;
in fact, more often than not, it is just the
opposite and will require some serious
consideration and planning. We all have our own
methodology of catching, handling and holding of
our beloved “pets” and some of you may even have
this down to such a fine art that it becomes
second nature when the need arises.
It sounds a very basic
issue but before an animal is transported it has
to be caught. Most of us at some time will
have to catch
an animal for one
reason or another and some thought should be
given to the methods you are going to adopt.
This series of articles is based on the
knowledge of our members who have had many years
of experience when it comes to moving animals
from one place to another. We
hope to be able to pass on some of our ‘tricks
of the trade’ that may ease the burden and the
stresses applied to any animal, no matter how
big or small. We don’t intend to begin to
tell you what to do, just impart our ideas and
suggestions - they are neither right or wrong.
As the transportation of native animals is a
very broad subject it is necessary to separate
the different groups of animals and discuss each
separately but before we get to that stage, as
we said the animal or animals have to be caught,
so we will really start with the various methods
of catching the animal prior to transportation.
Submitted by Sharon & Scott Butler
All references during this section are based on
two people being present at the time – after all
four hands are better than two (sometimes)!
In our block of marsupial aviaries we keep a
tapered calico net which is approximately 500mm
(about 20”) in diameter at the opening by about
1m (3’3”) in length and it is attached to a long
broom handle. This type of net is used for
Calico is an ideal material as it is
extremely lightweight. If you have to chase a
possum around your cage waving the net above
your head, you don’t want the net to be too
We tried using conventional open netting
but found that not only did the animal get
tangled up in the open weave, but could see us
and could be one step ahead of us and pre-empt
our next move. Calico offers a good screen
between you and the animal without interfering
on the way you handle the animal.
Calico is user friendly, in as much as
you still have good control over your animal by
being able to feel it through the material
without causing too much stress, or letting the
animal slip through your fingers! Some of the
heavier, thicker materials (i.e. hessian)
restrict that flexibility and sensitivity and
could cause you to unwittingly injure your
animal due to excessive gripping.
We prefer to use long calico sack so the
animal can run to the back of the sack and then
you can then fold over the opening and restrain
the detainee until you relocate to an awaiting
The long broom handle enables you to
reach those high places that possums etc will
get to in the cage, or alternatively to reach
those fast critters running by you on the floor
of the cage (i.e. small macropods etc).
We would not suggest the use of gloves if
you are using a net. Whilst you may be trying
to protect your digits from sharp teeth or beak,
spare a thought for the animal. Gloves are too
clumsy, can get caught on any number of things,
and can reduce the feeling to your fingers/hands
and therefore greatly increasing your chances of
an injury to the animal. If you learn to
handle your critters correctly gloves will be
working with any small animal, say up to wallaby
size, once you have it securely in the sack or
net, restrain it by holding with a firm grip
around the neck, at the base of the skull, with
one hand, and the base of the tail with the
other, while it is still in the net. Then
gently carry the animal to its new enclosure or
to the pet-pack, where your partner can then
remove the net and reveal the animal again for
inspection. Use this opportunity to check the
animal over for any pouch young or just for
general health. Once you are happy, slowly
release your grip and allow the animal to free
itself into its new enclosure/pet-pack. Quickly
shut the door ensuring that all tails & toes are
safely inside! Leave the animal alone for an
hour or so to enable it to familiarise itself
with its new environment. If the animal is just
to be relocated to a new cage, supply it with a
varied selection of food for the first week.
Ensure it has drinking water available.
This will give you a good idea of what
particular foods that animal prefers and will
help monitor its habits etc. Don’t be surprised
if there is a change to the scats. We all know
what stress can do in us – the same principal
can be applied to an animal. Of course, if this
change persists after 24 hours then perhaps
veterinarian help should be sort.
Another good idea is to put the animal inside a
calico bag, such as the ones that you get bread
machine mix in, before placing it in the pet
pack. Supply the animal with plenty of
clean straw or bedding material (clean of
course!) to help make the transportation more
comfortable for the animal and to give it some
privacy. Animals like to hide and try to
feel secure even though they will be petrified!
Resist the temptation to supply food during
transit. Firstly, if the journey is long
the food may become spoiled and could cause gut
problems when eaten. Secondly, if food is
supplied when an animal is going to a new home,
its appetite will not be reflected accurately
and could cause some stress for the new owner
when it does not eat when it arrives! If
you are sending your animal to a new home,
always supply some form of diet sheet which
outlines your feeding regime whilst it was in
your care. It will serve as a good
starting point for the new owner in trying to
settle the animal into its new home.
If travelling in a car,
be sure to remember not to leave the vehicle
unattended for any prolonged periods of time
especially if you are travelling through the
day. Also whilst on the move, try to place the
pet pack in such a position so that the sun will
not shine directly on to it through the vehicle
windows (even if you do have air
conditioning). This will sometimes be
difficult (if not impossible) and in such cases
cover the pet pack with a blanket or some other
heavy material in an attempt to reduce radiated
heat and stop and check on the creature
Bear in mind that the sun’s position, relative
to your vehicle, will change as you move and
change direction, so it may be necessary to move
the pet pack accordingly.
it will fit, it is best to place the pet-pack on
the floor of your vehicle behind the front
If you have to put it on the seat then secure it
with the seatbelt. If you have a station wagon
then try to wedge it with a rug or some old
towels to reduce slippage around the car. Using
a cargo barrier is by far the best method for
station wagon owners. The animals transport
container can be strapped to the barrier in the
centre of the vehicle making it stable and
avoiding most of the sun light. It has the
added bonus of being a safeguard for the front
seat occupants and particularly the driver!
your animal has been safely delivered to its new
location, don’t try to forcibly remove the
animal from the pet pack. Instead, open the
door, remove some (but not all) the bedding and
leave it well alone to come out by itself, when
it feels ready to do so. Place some food
outside the pet pack, in the new enclosure and
wait. There will be new noises, smells, a new
habitat and environment, and perhaps new
“roommates”, all of which it will need to be
adjusted to, to some degree, before it will even
consider “stepping out”. If it is possible,
leave the travel pack in the cage overnight as
somewhere familiar for the animal to sleep.
The safe transportation of animals is essential
for their longevity and well-being. Don’t
be hasty in your actions – take time to think
things through and you will find that there is
nothing complex involved. All it needs is
a little practice and patience and forethought
Submitted by Bob Cleaver
I would like to deal with my methods of catching
animals by species, and will start with the
obvious - kangaroos
Kangaroos and wallabies.
With kangaroo joeys it is a non event as they
will already be pouch bound and catching them is
not an issue, but not so with adult animals.
If an adult kangaroo is tame, catching it is
not too much of a problem but if it is not, and
then other methods need to be employed. I have
seen fully grown tame kangaroos picked up bodily
and placed into the back of a station wagon and
driven for several hours to a new home.
Unfortunately we cannot always be this lucky and
other methods of entrapment must be employed
that have varying degrees of success. Most,
if not all, need to employ some form of tranquilisation of the animal concerned.
One method is to use a dart gun which
necessitates the intervention of a professional,
like your vet or some other person that is
qualified to handle such a weapon.
The animal can then be restrained and
transported (to be discussed in detail later).
Another method is to set up a funnel net into
which the animal(s) can be herded. Once the
animal is in the net it can be jumped upon,
restrained and given a sedative. I must be
honest and say that I am not entirely happy with
this method as the animal(s) concerned are put
under some considerable stress and would suffer
a high probability of succumbing to capture
myopathy. Another drawback with this method
is that most macropods do not herd well. They
will, more often than not, run off in any
This is the series of nets that I use.
The small one is the most valuable and is used for all manner of birds,
gliders and possums.
The lighter one on the right is used for Bettongs, Potoroos and possums in
very high aviaries.
The heavy one on the left is used for wallabies
better method would be by using a permanent
funnel fence or net as described in my article
on macropod enclosures although even with this
you still will have the herding problem, but I
have seen it used with some success.
Once you have the animal netted and/or
tranquilised it can be safely ‘walked’ to
wherever you want it go by grabbing the tail as
close to the base as you can and as tightly as
you can, then lifting it gently. In this way
you are tilting the animal forward and its
natural instinct is to rest its front paws on
the ground and move forward; you can
then use the tail to steer it. I have used
this method with a number of animals very
successfully when in a sedated state (the animal
not me – I was most probably
hypertensive at the
time). I have even used this method with non
sedated animals, also with a lot of success, but
it’s a lot harder to hang on as their natural
reaction is to hop away. In either event the
secret is to not let go. Hang as if you life
depended on it. Whilst you are hanging on the
animal cannot go anywhere and it will probably
end up just hopping up and down on the spot (as
long as you have enough strength in your hands
and arms to hang on).
With wallabies the procedure would be much the
same except that I would tend to favour using a
large hoop net (see figure 1). You will
also probably need a number of people to
assist. Someone would position themselves
with the net at the narrow end of a funnel (if
possible out of sight) and others would persuade
the animal through the funnel. As the animal
flies out of the narrow end the catcher scoops
it up with the net. I have found the best way
to do this is to attempt to catch the animal in
mid hop. If you are too quick, or too slow,
it will fly over the top of the net like you
wouldn’t believe as well as under it.
Possums and Small Macropods.
My method of catching these animals is much the
same as the previous writer except that I use a
net net rather than a calico net.
(See Figure 1.)
However, I do use another method, which is a
favourite of mine that is basically an extension
of the net method but with a twist.
I believe it puts the animal under the very
least amount of stress possible although it does
have some disadvantages.
you are going to have to be prepared to part
with a nesting log or box and unless you have
only one animal per aviary, or, unless the
animals within that aviary sleep in separate
boxes, it will not work. Secondly, if this
is not the case you will need to move the wanted
animal to an ‘isolation’ aviary, preferably some
time (and I mean days or even weeks) before it
is transported to its new home. This may
seem a bit like double handling, but just think
about it for a moment. Under the conventional
method you would catch the animal, put it in a
strange bag or box, and send it to its intended
destination. Then it would be taken out the
bag or box and placed in another strange place
and then hopefully allowed to settle down.
Using my method, you catch
the animal to be moved with whatever method you
would normally use. In my case this would be
a net (see
figure 4). Then that animal is taken
immediately, in the
net, to the isolation aviary and released.
From catch to release possible only a few
minutes – in some cases when the isolation
aviary has been next door to where the animal
came from – only a few seconds. You then let
this animal settle down in it’s new home for
some days (or even weeks) and provide it with a
sleeping box in which the animal can be trapped
(see figures 2,3,).
Typical possum or cat trap.
This particular trap has been responsible for the demise of 19 feral cats
over a five year period
When the time comes to
relocate the animal, this box can simply be
closed off and lifted out of the aviary complete
with animal and transported elsewhere. The
box stays with animal, which means it
have something familiar to sleep in for the
foreseeable future and the new owner can install
the animal and its box in its new aviary
in its new location with absolutely no
disturbance to the animal at all.
I have used this method with a great deal of
success on numerous occasions but admittedly
only for short overland journeys. I don’t
think the airlines would approve of this method
because the boxes would not fit into their
‘pigeon hole’ of acceptable animal transport.
However you could probably take this idea one
step further and put the box into a pet pack and
then fly the animal almost anywhere.
If you are lucky enough to have very large
enclosures that tend to make other methods of
capture difficult or unreliable, you could
always resort to the possum (or cat) trap.
I must be honest and say that I have never tried
this method but I cannot see any reason why it
should not be successful except the only
difficulty would be making sure you have caught
the correct animal. Many a
wild possum has been caught this way within roof
The simplest way to catch a friendly wombat,
but not necessarily the easiest, is to walk up
behind it and pick it up by lifting it up off
the ground with your arms around its chest but
as suggested this is not always as easy as it
sounds. It can be akin to trying to wrap
your arms around a very large, very heavy, very
slippy and uncooperative bar of soap with legs
on and is not always possible (I speak from
experience). If this is the case, or if the
animal is not friendly, then you could to use a
very heavy gauge net or a blanket and whilst the
animal is busy trying to extricate itself from
the material you can pop it into a suitable
container. We have one animal that is so
aggressive we do not go into his enclosure for
any reason, but we have moved this animal
about without too
The left-hand picture shows the method of releasing the trapped animal and
the right-hand picture shows spring loaded trap end
difficulty. The way we do this is to place a
large pet pack with the door open into his
enclosure. His curiosity gets the better of
him and he will investigate inside the pet pack
at which point he past the point of no return –
literally. He is then unceremoniously dumped
into a wheelbarrow and trundled to his new
location. We have performed this trick three
times but I have to admit that as he gets older
he is getting wiser. The last time we tried
this trick he would not go into the pet pack so
we had to resort to the blanket and then he and
the blanket went into the pet pack together.
The blanket looked a bit ‘used’ after the event
There is another way to catch a wombat and that
is with a trap specially designed for the
purpose although for captive animas this would
generally be unnecessary.
These traps would be difficult to come by and
would also be tricky to construct as well as
being heavy and cumbersome.
They work on the same principles as a possum
trap but the trick is to persuade the animal
into it which, from my experience, is a lot more
difficult than it sounds. For
some reason these animals are very wary of traps
(maybe it has something to do with their
comparatively high intelligence) and a lot of
preplanning would be necessary for them to be
successful. Having said that,
if you have an escapee or animal that refuses to
be cooperative they are worth their weight in
gold. I have used the one
pictured on a couple of occasions with very
Rats, Hopping Mice and the like
These small creatures should be handled with
some care and not only because they are able to
bite severely but because they themselves can be
quite fragile. You
should NEVER pick these animals up by the tail.
If you do, there is a high probability that the
outside sheath of the tail will come off and all
you will be left with (after you’ve dropped the
animal) is the bloody interior.
The remaining tail will eventually shrivel, die
and drop off, and not grow back (as with some
reptiles). The animal will
then be left tail-less for the rest of its life.
As these animals are usually kept in aquariums
the simplest way to catch them is with the
assistance of a jam jar or similar receptacle.
It is not too difficult to coax the animal to
one end of the aquarium and scoop it up into the
jar. This is also a good way
to confirm the sex of your animals as you will
be able to see quite clearly through the glass.
Using this method also takes away the
possibility of you being bitten.
If for some reason you cannot avoid picking them
up by the tail then make sure you hold it very
tightly as close to the base as possible and
only for very brief moments.
That having been said, it is still not
A baited Elliot trap
If your animals are in an enclosure, rather than
an aquarium, a possible method of capture could
be with the use of an Elliot trap.
These small traps are collapsible (for easy
carrying and storage) and are very useful for a
myriad of small “mouse and rat” sized creatures
including Plains Rats, Dunnarts, Potoroos,
Bandicoots and even Bettongs.
The trap is simply baited with an appropriate
food source and left in an appropriate place for
as long as it takes.
Note: An excellent bait is peanut paste.
Most animals that I know of are unable to resist
it and this includes carnivorous marsupials.
You will find that it is very commonly used as
universal bait for all manner of creatures.