Trapping Regulations and Education
In Tennessee, Trapper Education is a voluntary program. The course is available to those interested in learning how to trap or improving their trapping skills. A trapper education course teaches participants how to responsibly trap fur-bearing animals and provides a foundation of knowledge upon which to build.
Topics include proper trapping equipment and use, responsible trap setting, the importance of good wildlife management practices, and habits and traits of furbearers.
Legal Trapping Devices and Definitions
All traps shall be attached to a stake, drag or anchor, with chain, wire at 16 gauge or larger or cable of 1/16 inch size or larger.
Trappers shall mark all traps and snares with their name or TWRA ID number.
For trapping purposes, "water set" is defined to mean traps set in water adjacent to and part of streams, ponds, lakes, wetlands, or other water courses and includes floating sets.
For water sets, a trapper may use cushion-hold traps, laminated jaw traps, offset wide jaw traps, offset laminated jaw traps, and wide jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of nine (9) inches or less measured at the hinge point. For water sets, a trapper may also use double-jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of nine (9) inches or less of the upper and lower jaws combined.
Steel foothold traps used for water sets must have an exterior jaw measurement of nine (9) inches or less measured at the hinge of the trap. Steel foothold traps used for ground sets must have an exterior jaw measurement of seven (7) inches or less measured at the hinge of the trap. Steel square instant-kill traps must have an exterior jaw measurement of sixteen (16) inches or less measured at the widest point, and steel circular instant-kill traps must have an exterior measurement of twelve (12) inches or less measured at the widest point.
Lethal sets such as instant kill traps and water set (“drowning”) traps must be inspected every seventy-two (72) hours. All other traps must be inspected every thirty-six (36) hours and any wildlife caught in the traps shall be removed.
Live traps are legal for taking any species of wildlife listed as having a trapping season. Live traps are defined as those traps that act as a cage after capture.
Steel Cable Sets
Steel cable snares having a minimum cable diameter of five sixty-fourths (5/64) of an inch and a maximum cable diameter of three thirty-seconds (3/32) of an inch are legal for all legal furbearer species during the legal trapping season. Spring activated snares other than Collarum snares are prohibited.
Dog Proof Sets
Commercially available dog-proof traps, also known as species-specific traps, are legal for trapping.
For ground sets, a trapper may use cushion-hold traps, laminated jaw traps, offset wide jaw traps, offset laminated jaw traps, and wide jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of seven (7) inches or less measured at the hinge point and with a minimum jaw thickness of one-fourth (1/4) of an inch. For ground sets, a trapper may also use double-jaw traps with an exterior jaw measurement of seven (7) inches or less of the upper and lower jaws combined and a minimum jaw thickness of one-fourth (1/4) of an inch.
For ground sets adjacent to waterways and no more than fifty (50) feet from the shoreline, a trapper may use a 110 body grip trap, or its equivalent, with a maximum exterior jaw measurement of six (6) inches wide by six (6) inches tall. Such a trap shall be a single-spring trap with a factory spring designated for that trap. The lowest point of the trap closest to the ground shall be no more than one-half (1/2) inch above the surface of the ground. The trap shall be used as a non-baited or lured set unless it is set at a minimum of twelve (12) inches inside a hole, den, or cubby. For trapping seasons, see below.
Steel Trap Sets
Steel traps placed inside a hole, cave, den, hollow log, hollow stump, or any like place shall be placed at least twelve (12) inches inside the entrance of such place, and it is unlawful to place steel traps in the open, except for water sets and trap types listed in paragraph five (5) above.
When trapping on another's property, the trapper must carry on his or her person written permission from the landowner, and make a written report to the owner of any domestic animal caught and pay damages for those animals.
Furbearer species in Tennessee include:
Beaver, Coyote, Groundhog, Bobcat*, Fox**, Mink, Muskrat, Opossum, Otter***, Raccoon, Spotted Skunk, Striped Skunk, and Weasel.
*Bobcat pelts must be tagged with Tennessee U.S. CITES tags in order to be exported from the U.S. Contact your TWRA regional office for instructions.
**Exceptions to the statewide fox season are:
Benton - unlawful to take or kill red foxes
Dyer, Lauderdale, Smith, and Wildon - open year-round to hunting and trapping red and gray foxes
***All river otters harvested must be tagged by harvester with Tennessee US CITES tags. Contact your TWRA regional office for instructions.