How to live trap a mouse

Sheril has asked for suggestion on live trapping mice, and since this is a bit involved I thought I’d blog it. Please feel free to add your suggestions below.


First, on the bait. Mice are granivores, so attract them to grain. The ultimate grain … the orgasmically excellent purest grain-extract champaign of grain, the grain that a mouse will (literally) die for … is wheat germ.

Wheat germ does not behave well in a trap situation, so mix the wheat germ with peanut butter so you can stick it on stuff.

There are two kinds of traps that work well. One is commercial, and it is the Havahart 1020 Two Door Cage Trap for Mice and Rats 10 x 3 x 3. This is a cage with two ways in/out, a platform hooked to a trigger, and two doors that close the trap when the platform is tilted. You get the mice to tip the platform by putting the afore mentioned mixture of wheat germ and peanut butter on it.

i-0c9f972fffe66c6e3c2cd4445819a1f3-vase.jpgThe second kind of trap is home made. For this you need two things: A container and a way to get into the container. I have used two versions of this with great success.

The first is a vase, as shown. This vase has to be tall enough and have a sufficiently narrow neck that a mouse cannot jump up and out of it. Now, people will tell you that a mouse can jump ten feet and climb up vertical glass, but that is a bunch of hooey. A typical 1.5 foot high Victorian porcelain or white stoneware vase will work, if you smear Vasoline(tm) petroleum jelly around the rim.

The other type of container that has worked for me is your typical milk can. These are usually about three feet tall, and you want to use it without the top. A mouse in one of these things cant’ get out.

i-76892300594bac072a5315f037a58e61-milk_can.jpgAll you have to do with either container is put the wheat germ (with or without peanut butter) in the container, and place the container near anything the mice can climb on. A pile of newspapers, a chair, whatever. The mice just need to get in to the container. They won’t be able to get out.

Of course, at the end of all of this, you need to have a place to put the mice. If you drive the mice to a different neighborhood and dump them there, be aware that you are probably violating state law if you are in the US. Transporting wild(ish) animals and releasing them, any distance, is usually illegal. You might consider keeping them in a cage until they grow old and die of natural causes. But also, keep in mind that if these mice are deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) they could be carriers of Hanta virus.

If you have a friend with a snake, maybe just feed them to the snake. Or, if you have a back yard and live in a place where owls live, you could make an owl feeding station. For this, you just need the minimum size child’s wading pool to keep the mice from getting away (no water in the pool, please!). Put that in your back yard, toss the mice in there, and the owls will eventually come to eat them.

Unless you live in Arkansas where every 8-year old boy is issued a rifle, and therefore, there are no owls or raptors of any kind. If you do this in Arkansas, you’ll just get snakes. Lots of snakes.

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    January 4, 2009

    While the Havahart trap will work for rats as well as mice, for mice I’ve head better luck with this type, which allows catching more than one mouse at a time:
    http://www.amazon.com/Eaton-421CL-Multip-Catch-Mouse/dp/B000VXBTO2

    (and this one is cheaper than the similar one I linked to in my comment at Sheril’s blog.)

    Of course, one can also get a cat.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2009

    … or an owl

  3. #3 mark
    January 4, 2009

    The black rat snakes in my attic do an okay job, but not in the winter.

  4. #4 Tony P
    January 4, 2009

    I keep the feline variety of mouse/rat/insect catchers. I always be sure that I get a mouser when I adopt a cat.

    The only problem is, some of the mousers will track and disable said vermin, and then expect me to make the kill.

    From a long history of killing rats, I determined the best method of killing them is to drown them. Because as far as I’m concerned the only good mouse/rat is a dead one.

  5. #5 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    January 4, 2009

    Don’t fall for the sticky traps if you want to be “humane” to mice. In order to catch a mouse, you need to put the trap out of your field of vision. Mice are very watchful of the predators in their environment. IF they think you might be able to see them they will not go towards the trap. So, what this means is that you will need to hide the sticky traps in inconvenient locations.

    In order to catch a mouse before it dies on a sticky trap, you will need to monitor the hidden traps on a short interval basis. I had captured a mouse, and even though I checked them every day, the mouse had torn its jaw loose from its head while trying to escape. It was gruesome.

    Better to get a cat. It’s more humane. Or an owl, yes, but only if you live in a barn.

  6. #6 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    January 4, 2009

    Thanks to Greg and everyone for your advice! I’ll let you know how it goes…

  7. #7 ppnl
    January 4, 2009

    I just use a large metal trash can with dog food. Then I release the rat out in the yard and let the dog chase it and usually kill it. Only fair. It was eating his food.

  8. #8 Robert Jase
    January 4, 2009

    I’ve been using live capture traps for almost a year now & my non-deliberate trap (a trash pail next to the bird cages). so far the pail has worked best but its limited because of its size.

    The little critters are also suspicious of new things like traps & often set them off while trying to get the bait from the outside. They’ve even popped the backs off a few times to escape after being caught.

    They get released in local parks or wooded areas. come & get me DEP!

  9. #9 David Lee
    January 4, 2009

    Having just caught a house mouse under the sink and having a little experience with the critters I’d say there’s no use getting fancy. Mice are dumb.

    A dab of peanut butter on a regular spring trap gets ‘em every time because mice follow the same routes.

  10. #10 Romeo Vitelli
    January 4, 2009

    If you want to live-trap a mouse then you’d better keep the traps handy. Once a mouse has marked its territory it’ll always find its way back unless you release it far, far away from where you live.

  11. #11 Lilian Nattel
    January 4, 2009

    I don’t agree that mice are dumb. Or maybe they are only smart in comparison to myself! In any case, we worked our way through live traps, pb & regular traps, poison (the mice played hockey with the blocks). The mice, under our assault, got fat and bold. They started coming out during the day and playing in plain sight. Finally we called in a pest guy. I felt bad. The little buggers are cute. But the endless poop and the chewing upon of wires was not.

  12. #12 Bill Sheehan
    January 4, 2009

    As the owner of a critter who is quite fond of mice, I’d have to caution against feeding wild mice to pet snakes. Little Mus musculus may well have a gutload of parasites that can be passed along to a new host, and may not have enjoyed the most salubrious diet before discovering your tasty peanut butter and wheat germ.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    January 4, 2009

    Mice are dumb. The first several mice are dumb. But then they evolve. Culturally, anyway.

  14. #14 Doug Alder
    January 4, 2009

    There are some really cheap live traps from Victor and other companies that work very well.The ones that worked best for me when I cleared out an infestation at my wife’s previous house worked on the basis of balance
    / <– bait
    ramp /
    entrance |——-/

    The entrance door is triggered closed as soon as the mouse starts to climb the ramp to get to the bait.

    As they are cheap buy a bunch and set then up in places where they won’t accidentally be touched (the “trap” mechanism is very sensitive)

  15. #15 Doug Alder
    January 4, 2009

    Well that sad attempt at a graphic didn’t work so well ;) Here’s a link to the ones I’ve used with great success

    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4112W5SWEQL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

    Do remember to take the little critters a long ways from home or the will find their way back. You also need to look for how they are getting in and block those holes up.

  16. #16 Jason
    January 5, 2009

    Well, live-trapping wise, the mice my trap usually catches are quite alive… temporarily.

    My trap is called Heisenberg, and she is a stripey critter-catching machine

  17. #17 Julie Stahlhut
    January 5, 2009

    I once nabbed a mouse in my family room with a butterfly net.

    The little guy was happily scuttling around when I walked into the room and startled it. It ran for the sliding door that opened out onto our porch, but had trouble navigating the door tracks. I didn’t want to risk squishing it by messing with the door itself, so I grabbed my aerial net, which was conveniently parked in the corner, and put it over the mouse. Then I pulled the cloth pouch of the net into a vertical position; this is what you do with big game like butterflies and dragonflies, which tend to respond to this maneuver by flying, as Daffy Duck once said, due up.

    The mouse didn’t disappoint. It ran straight up into the pocket of the net. I flipped the net over and trapped the mouse in the pouch, and then carried it outside and released the mouse unharmed.

  18. #18 CalderaGal
    January 5, 2009

    I guess you mean you want to trap a mouse and keep it alive, to be turned outside and given the chance to come back inside. The cheapest way to do this is wear heavy socks. Put a chunk of smelly cheese and a spoonful of peanut putter on a dish on top of your coffee table. The mouse will run toward it but of course, cannot climb up to get it. While the mouse is sniffing at the base of the table, step on it. Not too hard (which is why you wear socks not shoes), just enough to stun it so you can pick it up and toss it outside. Now you can eat the cheese and peanut butter. No waste!

  19. #19 Brian
    January 5, 2009

    But really, if, after catching the thing in a live-trap, one would then hand it to the cat/snake/owl/etc., what is the major attraction of the live-trap?

    Personally, the spring-traps are my favorite. They’re quick, humane, and have a pretty decent kill-rate. I consider it a kindness that my wintry neighborhood, my cat, a snake, or an owl would be hard-pressed to offer.

  20. #20 Mr P
    January 5, 2009

    Your basic 5 gal bucket seems to work well for small mice. My dad trapped 3 or 4 mice one winter by accident in his garage. No bait or anything just left the bucket out.

  21. #21 Frasque
    January 5, 2009

    Why would you want to live trap a mouse? It’s not like there’s a shortage of them that they need to be carefully preserved.

  22. #22 Art
    January 5, 2009

    I don’t know about all sticky traps but it is possible to successfully recover a mouse live from the glue of some of them by using rubbing alcohol and a little vegetable oil mixed.

    The alcohol dissolves the glue and the oil prevents the stickum from reattaching. I held the mouse with one hand and used a q-tip to apply the mix. Apply the solvent I worked in a circular pattern around the animal allowing it time to work while gently lifting the limbs and wetting any part released to keep them from sticking again.

    After being freed I gave the mouse a bath in warm water and a little Dawn to remove the oil and any remaining glue. After a bath and a rinse in warm water the mouse was pat dry and allowed to groom his frizzy fur back into shape.

    After being fed a peanut and kept in a warm location, coffee can with a couple of wadded up paper towels inside and a 60w incandescent bulb nearby, the mouse seemed to be entirely healthy but was kept an additional 48 hours for observation. The mouse, now named “Max” by the resident naming authority, was released in a grassy field full of tasty seeds and surrounded by a dense wood.

    Even though the mouse was provided with our address, e-mail and phone number he has not kept in touch and his status and location are unknown. So it goes with children.

  23. #23 Dunc
    January 6, 2009

    Next week: why to live-trap a mouse. It’s not like they’re dying out.

  24. #24 Ila Mc
    February 14, 2009

    I found the mouse in my house too clever for the traps but we managed to catch one with a broom.
    I was too grossed out to kill it.

    One question though: how true is it that mice can really find their way home unless you take them miles away?

    For the mouse I caught, I walked three blocks down a hill, across a fairly busy road to where there is a deep gorge that is bounded by a 3ft stone wall. On the other side of the wall is a steep cliff on which there are a lot of trees, but it’s very shear. I threw the mouse over this gorge. Would that be enough?

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    February 14, 2009

    Maybe it wasn’t a mouse. Maybe it was a monkey or something.

  26. #26 simba
    February 14, 2009

    Coming from a family who were very against killing rats and mice (though at the same time disgusted by them)-a flowerpot, a piece of card and a well-trained terrier or energetic small child are needed. Get the dog/child to corner it, slam the flowerpot down on top of it, slide the card underneath and dump it in the garden.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    February 15, 2009

    Oh. I think I’ve been slamming down the flower put upside down from how I’m supposed to. Whoops.

  28. #28 jamie
    June 24, 2009

    another thing is if you release them somewhere else than your home they may have already marked their territory. if so than they will most likely find their way back. this may sound harsh but the best way to get rid of them is to somehow kill them. What i do is drown them for 4 to 5 minutes.

  29. #29 jamie
    June 24, 2009

    another thing is if you release them somewhere else than your home they may have already marked their territory. if so than they will most likely find their way back. this may sound harsh but the best way to get rid of them is to somehow kill them. What i do is drown them for 4 to 5 minutes.

  30. #30 jamie
    June 24, 2009

    another thing is if you release them somewhere else than your home they may have already marked their territory. if so than they will most likely find their way back. this may sound harsh but the best way to get rid of them is to somehow kill them. What i do is drown them for 4 to 5 minutes.

  31. #31 kyle rinas
    October 8, 2009

    where can i get one for free & witch stor because i wont to catch a rabbit mouse and other animails two….thank you

  32. #32 kyle
    October 8, 2009

    i need a trap for free so i can catch a anamail

  33. #33 maurene
    November 15, 2009

    Last winter, mice nested next to a hot water pipe. They moved the wall insulation away from the pipe. We had two days of -8 degrees. Without the insulation, my water pipe broke. The water damage was over $40,000!!! My house was on the market. A couple who loved the house was coming back for a second showing. When they saw the clean-up crews and damage, they bought a different house! So what was the real damage cost!!!! My house is not sold, but I am still trying to kill mice!!!!! Before the pipe break, I caught them live and released them in the back yard (probably they returned) Now, I kill them any way possible.

  34. #34 Bobby
    January 11, 2010

    Excellent stuff!

    I had a mouse in my house. Made a guide to catching mice with a difference here on my new blog “www.BobVersus.com”.

    1 man. 1 mouse (hopefully!).

    3 attempts to catch the mouse.

    Take a peak:

    http://bobversus.com/?p=130#more-130

  35. #35 Jo
    January 15, 2010

    How far away from the building should I release the mice? I have heard they will just come back even if I release them 50 yards away.

  36. #36 Miss B Having
    January 15, 2010

    Gave up on the “humane” sticky traps. The goop gets all over their little feet, and faces get stuck too. You have to wash all the goop off the fur, etc, , and it’s hard to get between their toes. Also, then you have to blow dry them before they are released cuz they freeze when wet. As a retired biologist/naturalist for Ramsey Co., I’d say the best place to release white footed deermice is a marshy area with cattails; the subnivian environment there is abundant and easy to access, and they have lots of cattail fluff for nest building. I just spring-trap them now, but it’s not always a quick death. They sometimes drag them around for a while

  37. #37 Miss Mouse
    April 23, 2010

    Glue traps aren’t humane and aren’t intended to be, and they aren’t meant to live-trap mice but to kill them by slow suffocation. They cause so much suffering to the mice that they are illegal in some states. If you want to live-trap a mouse, use something like the Ketch-All trap, which deposits the mouse in a separate chamber with air holes, and check it and release any mice twice a day.

  38. #38 Greg Laden
    April 24, 2010

    I agree about the sticky trap thing, but it is not legal to transport a mouse in most states. I think. If you do transport a mouse it should be to a very close distannce (like just outside).

    Don’t worry, it won’t come backin.

  39. #39 Laura
    November 15, 2010

    I didn’t read all the comments here, but a few thoughts to add. First of all, mice are definately not dumb as a couple of people commented. They are actually quite intelligent, considering their size. They are also very curious, which is mostly why they are easy to trap. Second, if you have problems with mice popping the lid off of a live trap, the easiest fix is an elastic band. I’m talking about the small, inexpensive kind of live trap sold at Canadian Tire (don’t know what the American equivalent is, but any hardware store should have them). I don’t know what the Canadian laws are, but I find the large park near my house ideal for releasing mice. There is an area that is left natural deliberately for the wild(ish)life, with lots of food, nesting sites, and predators to provide a natural death. And one more thing, released mice will not find their way back to your house. A mouse may travel up to a mile to look for a nesting site, maybe even a little more. But if you pick a good spot for them, they will just make themselves at home right there, and rarely travel more than a few feet after that.

  40. #40 Laura
    November 15, 2010

    Okay, I just read a little further and see that Greg already told everyone that the mouse won’t come back. I read once on a live trap that I bought that 100 feet from the bulding is sufficient.

    I would just like to add my voice to the opposition for glue traps. They are leagal in Canada, but I wish they weren’t. Just seeing one in the store is enough to make me shudder. Please, do not use them!

  41. #41 JJ
    December 15, 2010

    Three weeks ago, I set out a trap that managed to catch a mouse by only one back leg. He tried to run around with it on him. I didn’t know what to do with it so I got him into a box carried him across the street, to the far end of the empty lot and released him into the field. The trap looked like a large clothespin so it was easy to squeeze it and let him out. Tonight I noticed an odor under our kitchen sink. I found a dead mouse – with one squished injured leg. Even injured, he found his way back. I’m still shuddering.

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    December 15, 2010

    What did you do with the body? You might need to drive a toothpick through its heart.

  43. #43 Red Pomegranate
    December 16, 2010

    I find that leaving the dog food bag open and about half full is the perfect device. I caught (and released outside) THREE mice in one afternoon. Yeesh! I think I’m ready for some killing traps at this point.

  44. #44 Dave Engvall
    February 18, 2011

    50 years ago we used can traps. 1 qt oil can (back in the days when they thin steel). A mouse trap was bolted inside the can and 1/4″ hardware wire (mesh) was affixed to the bail which covered the mouth of the can when the trap was sprung.

    I ought to cobble up a couple as I have a friend with a 6 foot corn snake that needs feeding. Of course I’ll have to use wood as steel oil cans have gone the way of the dodo birds.

    My other mouse trap is a cat that brings them in as presents. ;-)

  45. #45 Greg Laden
    February 18, 2011

    You can get oil cans made of metal here: http://www.vintagegas.com/

  46. #46 Gardenmouse
    April 21, 2011

    After finding one in my utinsel drawer, I got a “Tom Cat” brand live trap – works well… caught 10 in the first two days. We were way more infested than I realized. I am thinking of tagging them with spray paint to see if they come back… very scientific, i.e. the ones I release in the woods, green paint, the ones in the park, blue paint, etc. They are cute, but I am glad to have them out and don’t want them back in…

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    April 21, 2011

    Gardenmouse: What species are they? That makes a big difference vis-a-vis their liklihood of coming back in.

    Use a dye that can be safely eaten by your local predators!

  48. #48 a rat trap
    May 12, 2011

    I think one of the big factors with the current infestation is that I live in an area that’s had a couple of recent fires. The outer hillsides have been ravaged, which I’m sure is a factor that drives much of the animal population into urban areas. Whatever the factor, they’re not going to be happy when they accidentally step into an electronic rat trap and find 8,500 volts of power introduced through a metal plate in the floor. Man, I’m glad I’m not a rat

  49. #49 Gary F. Logan
    Silverado, California
    January 23, 2013

    There is no need to kill any animal that is not trying to kill you. Hanta virus aside there is no real threat if you keep your food supplies secured. I have a mousie in my Chevy Van which I will use my larger brain to live-catch. I will follow up with results. Gary

  50. #50 patrizia filippi
    September 12, 2013

    Making a “sitting duck” of a mouse is so typical of human cruelty, snake should not be pets and owl can find their own food. The mice can be released in a field with some cover.

  51. #51 DJ Wo
    SE PA
    June 29, 2014

    The mice I get in the house are the result of my really not-so-smart puddy cat who brings them in the house to play with, then invariably lets them get away. The mice hide behind the cabinet, and sneak out on a regular basis to eat the cat’s food. (Justice, if you ask me). However, I’M left with the problem of getting rid of the live mouse. Dumb cat.

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    June 29, 2014

    You can get cat sized traps!

  53. #53 thado
    india
    August 7, 2014

    Caught mouse with spring trap. Rattled around all night. Next AM, retrieved mouse with trap clamped on neck, stll wiggling! Was going to glush but figured it deserved another chance at life. Released outdoors. In 30 minutes, it had recovered and ranaway. Now we use a live trap and release outside. The hawks and owls will control.