Furbearer Trapping & Hunting
State Wildlife Areas
Each year the Division accepts sealed bids for persons to trap on its wildlife areas. Bidding information is published in early August and bids are opened in early October. Bid information can be obtained through the Office of Management and Budget Bid Solicitation website at http://bids.delaware.gov or by calling the Division at (302) 739-9912. No trapping is permitted on any Division lands without a permit.
- Use traps to take wildlife except muskrats, mink, otter, beaver, raccoons, opossum, groundhogs, nutria, red foxes, and coyotes. Rabbits may be trapped by landowners, their tenants, or their respective children during the open season.
- Use any type of trap, except for muskrats, without marking the trap with a metal tag stating the trapper’s license number and year or the trapper’s name and address.
- Set traps on public or private land without first acquiring written permission from the landowner.
- Fail to visit traps at least once every 24 hours.
- Set traps any time before the opening day of a season or any time after the last day of a season. (There is no provision in Delaware’s laws to set up traps the day before a season opens or to allow the removal of traps for several days after a season closes.)
- Set foothold traps with a jaw spread in excess of 6 ½” above the waterline or 7 ¾” beneath the waterline. “Waterline” shall refer to beneath the surface of the water or below the mean high tide line in an area ordinarily subject to the rise and fall of the tide. Jaw spread is measured as the widest distance from this inside of both jaws on a line drawn perpendicular through the jaw pivot points when the trap is in the set position.
- Set foothold traps in areas above the waterline without them having offset, laminated, or padded jaws, with the exception being that coil-spring traps with a jaw spread of 4 inches or less and long-spring traps with a jaw spread of 4 ½ inches or less do not need to be padded, laminated or have offset jaws.
- Set foothold traps with toothed or serrated jaws.
- Set snares, now referred to as cable restraints, without the following criteria being met: comprised of stranded steel cable with a minimum diameter of 5/64 inches. Cable restraints must be equipped with a relaxing-type lock. The cable may not exceed 7 feet in length from the anchor point to the relaxing lock and must be equipped with at least one swivel device, which allows for 360° rotation, between the loop and the anchor. The cable restraint must have stops affixed to the cable to ensure that the cable that makes up the loop may not have a circumference greater than 38 inches when fully open, or a circumference less than 6 ¼ inches when fully closed. Cable restraints with a maximum loop circumference of 12 ½ inches do not require cable stops. Cable restraints must be maintained in good condition so that all components operate properly.
- Move, take, or damage any trap, or take, or attempt to take, wildlife from any trap without first acquiring specific advance permission.
- Use killer or conibear traps with a jaw spread in excess of 5 inches.
- Use diving or box traps for muskrats.
- Set traps (except box/cage traps) within 10’ of exposed meat used as bait. The use of animal fur or feathers without any attached animal tissue is not restricted.
- Trap within 100 yards of an occupied structure (unless trapper is the owner or occupant, or has permission from the owner or occupant).
TRAPPING FROM BOATS
An individual may use a boat to tend lawfully set traps for fur-bearing wildlife
Raccoons may be trapped in season statewide with foothold traps, including foot encapsulating style traps, cable restraints, or box traps operated to confine but not harm the entrapped animal. The trap opening of box/cage traps may not exceed 195 square inches. At any time of the year (except on Sundays).
Raccoons may be hunted and trapped any time of the year on private land in New Castle and Kent Counties east of Rte. 13 from Federal School Lane (near the Ommelanden Range in New Castle County) south to the St. Jones River in Kent County. Where Rte. 13 and Rte. 1 split in Dover, the westerly boundary follows Rte. 1 until it meets the St. Jones River with permission from the landowner. In all other areas of the state, the regular season applies.
Anyone that shoots or traps a coyote must report the harvest by contacting the Division of Fish & Wildlife at (302) 735-3600 by the close of business on the day following the harvest. Harvest reports are an important way for Division biologists to track coyote distribution and abundance across the state. During any deer firearms season, it will be unlawful to hunt coyotes with any firearm that is not also legal for deer hunting except coyotes may never be harvested with a straight-walled pistol-caliber rifle or handgun. Hides of coyotes legally taken may be sold.
Otters must be tagged by an authorized representative of the Division of Fish & Wildlife in accordance with CITES requirements. Please contact the Division at (302) 735-3600 to make arrangements to have your otter tagged once the pelt has been stretched and dried but before it is sold or shipped out of state. Tags will not be distributed to trappers but instead must be affixed to otter pelts by a representative from the Division so bring your pelts with you for tagging.
Landowners with damage caused by beavers may take up to 8 per season without a permit from December 1 through March 20 provided they report their catch by April 1. Beavers may not be taken at any other time. More than 8 may be taken with a permit from the Division. Beaver hides and the meat of lawfully taken beaver harvested anywhere within or outside of Delaware may be sold.
It is unlawful to kill a red fox that is being pursued by dogs. During any deer firearms season, it will be unlawful to hunt red fox with any firearm that is not also legal for deer hunting except red fox may never be harvested with a straight-walled pistol-caliber rifle or handgun. It is unlawful to hunt red fox with the aid of a light.
The collateral take of gray fox shall not be unlawful south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal during the established hunting and trapping seasons for red fox. No take is permitted north of the canal. Anyone that shoots or traps a gray fox must report the take to the Division within 7 days of the harvest by calling (302) 735-3600.
Anyone that traps a nutria must report the harvest by contacting the Division of Fish & Wildlife at (302) 735-3600 by the close of business on the day following the harvest. Harvest reports are an important way for Division biologists to track nutria distribution and abundance across the state. Captured nutria may not be released back into the wild alive and must be killed. Hides of nutria legally taken may be sold.
While coyotes have been in Delaware for at least 20 years, many reported coyote sightings are misidentified dogs and red foxes. Adult coyotes generally weigh from 20 to 45 pounds. Coyotes look somewhat like small collie dogs. They have erect pointed ears, a slender muzzle, and a bushy tail usually held low to the ground. Most coyotes are brownish gray in color with a light gray to cream-colored belly although they can vary in color from reddish to even black. Coyote tracks are often confused with those made by a red fox or domestic dog likely due to the variation in size and shape of domestic dog breeds, some of which are similar to coyotes. Coyote tracks are smaller than many people think and are oval in shape, whereas dog tracks are generally more round. Additionally, the middle toe pads of a coyote track generally point inward whereas the toe pads of a domestic dog generally do not (see inset image for comparison, size, and shape).
For more information on coyotes in Delaware, please visit the Division’s webpage on Coyotes at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/Coyotes.aspx.