Home Family Law Is It Legal to Have Animal Traps on Your Property in Massachusetts?

Is It Legal to Have Animal Traps on Your Property in Massachusetts?

muccilegal February 5, 2020

You may have heard that Massachusetts law prohibits the use and installment of certain types of traps on one’s property, but does it mean that it is illegal to have any animal traps on your property?

Not necessarily. Although Massachusetts law is rather strict about the use of traps to capture or kill animals, the state law allows the use of certain types of animal traps in your front yard or other parts of your property.

If you found yourself in the middle of landlord-tenant or any other legal dispute regarding the use of animal traps on your property, contact a Massachusetts real estate attorney from The Law Offices of Richard Mucci to discuss your case.

Can You Use Animal Traps as a Property Owner or Tenant of Land in Massachusetts?

Under Massachusetts General Law 131, Section 37, a property owner or tenant is prohibited from hunting and killing any mammal by poison or snare. Hunting or killing of any mammal is allowed by other means if the animal is seen damaging the property unless such killing would violate any federal law or regulation.

Animals killed by property owners or tenants with the use of animal traps under this law must be reported to authorities within 24 hours.

What Types of Animal Traps Are Illegal in Massachusetts?

As a property owner or tenant, it is illegal to use, install, maintain, manufacture, place, or possess any animal traps to capture fur-bearing mammals. The only expectations are ordinary type mouse and rat traps, box or cage traps, and nets, all of which are permitted by Massachusetts law.

If you are considering other types of traps to hunt, capture, or kill animals on your property, consult with a Massachusetts real estate attorney. For example, traps designed to capture and hold fur-bearing mammals by gripping their entire body or body parts are against the law.

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The traps that are prohibited by Massachusetts law include padded leghold traps, steel-jaw leghold traps, and snares. Any box and cage type traps that confine the whole animal without grasping any part of the mammal are legal to use and place in your front yard or other parts of your property.

Furthermore, Massachusetts law encourages the use of legal and regulated traps by licensed trappers in the state to reduce local wildlife populations, nuisance problems, and the extent of damage caused by rats, mice, beavers, raccoons, and other animals.

Animals That Property Owners and Tenants Are Allowed to Trap and Kill in Massachusetts

Massachusetts law also specifically allows an owner or tenant of land – or any authorized employee or family member of the property owner or tenant – to kill or attempt to kill the following types of animals when they cause to damage to the property:

  • Wild bird
  • Domesticated animals
  • Poultry
  • Game on game-rearing farms
  • Any mammal damaging the property except grass growing on uncultivated land

A property owner or tenant is allowed to hunt, take, or kill the above-mentioned animals only if such killing is not contrary to any federal rule, law, or regulation.

Interestingly, Massachusetts law prohibits property owners and tenants from authorizing any person other than their immediate family member or employee to install and set animal traps on the property other than during the open season. The only exception is if the property owner or tenant obtained a permit authorizing to do so from the director of law enforcement.

However, if the authorized person has a valid trapping license, he or she can be authorized by the property owner or tenant to hunt or take any mammal for the protection of said property.

How to Report a Killed or Taken Animal On Your Property in Massachusetts?

When an animal is killed on your property, you must turn it over to an environmental police officer within 24 hours. The animal will be disposed of by the director of law enforcement.

The written report must be submitted to the director upon the wounding or killing of a deer or the taking of:

  • Pheasant
  • Ruffed grouse
  • Hares
  • Rabbits

The report must be submitted within 24 hours of such taking, wounding, or killing. You must provide the written report upon the taking of any other birds or mammals on or before January 31 of each year. In that case, the report must state the number and kinds of mammals and birds taken or killed during the previous 12 months.

Traps That Are Prohibited by Massachusetts Law

Massachusetts law prohibits the following types of animal traps:

  • Padded jaw traps
  • Steel-jaw foothold traps
  • Conibear traps (body-gripping)
  • Snares
  • Deadfalls
  • Colony traps (for multiple mammals at a time)


These and other traps other than a cage or box-type trap cannot be used, possessed, set, manufactured, or installed in Massachusetts. The only exception is that the use of Conibear traps is permitted to trap beaver and muskrat for the purpose of eliminating immediate threats to human health and safety but only as long as there is a valid emergency permit.

If you have a trap on your property that was stolen, you must report the loss or theft of the trap. The report should be submitted in writing to the Office of Law Enforcement within 48 hours of the loss of theft. Failure to do so means that you may remain responsible for its subsequent use.

In the report, the trapper must state the type and number of traps, the date, time, and place of the loss or theft and any other relevant information. If you are considering using and placing animal traps in your front or back yard or any other parts of your property, consult with a Massachusetts real estate attorney to discuss the legality of those traps.

Contact Law Offices of Richard Mucci to order a free case evaluation. Call at 781-729-3999 to talk about your circumstances.

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