November 6, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)

Outsmarting Mice

Any trap can catch a mouse. When the mouse knows its way around the house better than you do, it takes skill and intelligence to catch it.

I have been told that it is impossible to build a mouse-proof house. Nonsense! I built one, and for over 10 years there wasn't a trace of a mouse. The secret is simple. Build it tight and strong and make sure that doors and windows have no large cracks in them. However, as Robert Burns said "The best laid schemes o mice an' men Gang aft a-gley" (go oft amiss); hence this column about how to get rid of mice.

It all started when the cap on the clothes dryer vent fell off. I thought nothing of it until we began seeing signs of mice. The clincher was a dead mouse inside of the dryer. Mice had walked up the 8 foot high wall and into the house via the dryer.

It was a simple matter to fix the dryer vent. Getting rid of the mice was quite a bit harder. I wrote about it in an earlier column ( ).

After much frustration, including finding mouse nests in the strangest places and finding food in our pantry eaten, and mouse droppings all over the place, I decided to declare total war on the mice that had made their home in my house.

First I tried all kinds of traps, until the mice got wise to it and wouldn't touch peanut butter. Almost every trap worked once or twice; and only once or twice. The mice seemed to be able to distinguish between bait and other kinds of food. Their favorite food seemed to be pistachio nuts. One even nibbled at a Snickers bar, and every kind of nut was a free meal. It seemed obvious that a mouse wouldn't mess with a trap if any other food was available, so I decided to have no food available to the mice. Everything edible was put into jars or plastic containers. The cat's food was covered at night.

I bought almost every kind of trap available. My aim was to get every single mouse in the house.

One trap proved to be outstanding. It is called Raquel's mouse and rat trap and I bought it on Ebay. It is the best small animal live trap that I have ever used. A close second was a live trap used by a zoologist at the University of California to catch voles. However, some mice (or maybe just one) figured out how to get out of it until I placed some magnets to secure the door when the trap was sprung. It is not commercially available.

The last mice that I caught were: 1. A mature male deer mouse. 2. A lactating female. 3.A juvenile mouse. I assume from the fact that there was a stink for a few weeks after I caught them, that the female's litter had died and decomposed.

It has been long enough so that I am fairly certain that the mice in my house are gone. I am as proud of that accomplishment as I would have been had I, single handed, captured a family of wild tigers.

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