Best bait I’ve found is unshelled, unsalted peanuts.
You can buy them in bulk at Costco.
How to scatter bait?
First things first: Wear gloves! Squirrels, especially in more rural and wild areas, are very wary of human scent and can detect the smallest amount of sweat from your hands.
Scatter the bait in the center of the trap, on the left and right sides of the entry doors. This forces the squirrel into the trap and ensures that it cannot back out through the doors it entered.
Next you want to place just one or two peanuts just outside the entry door, and just one
Some websites will tell you to dump the bait in the CENTER of the trap. This is less effective as the squirrels can simply reach in, stretch their body, and grab a nut without their entire body being trapped.
Here’s what will generally happen:
- Squirrel sees trap
- Squirrel climbs over the trap in an attempt to grab the peanuts from above (it can’t)
- Squirrel finds the entrance and takes the peanut right outside the entrance
- Squirrel sits down outside the trap and eats the peanut
- Squirrel pokes its head into the trap and grabs the nearest peanut
- Steps 4-5 repeat (depending on the squirrel), and then…
- Squirrel crawls all the way in, to reach the big pile of peanuts, and is subsequently trapped
A note on pre-baiting
Sometimes if you haven’t caught squirrels for several days despite the trap being baited, it is possible that squirrels have become wary of being trapped in your cage. In this case:
- Open the top cage door
- Leave the bait as is
Let the trap sit like this for a few days until you notice bait starting to disappear. This is a technique called pre-baiting and it is used to lull animals into a sense of security and not being afraid of the trap.
For watching the squirrels behavior around your trap, I recommend getting a motion camera to monitor the trap, see my recommendations in Monitoring your traps!