How to live trap a mouse

Over the next few weeks, in the Northern Hemisphere, the mice will start moving in to your house.

There are many strategies to manage this, and there are many factors in play (including exactly what sort of "mouse" is moving into your house). But many individuals will want to live trap the critters. If you do, please don't move them to a distant location. It is a bad idea to do that with any animals.

Regardless of what you plan to do with the little furries once you've got them alive, you need to capture them first. Thus, the following timely repost:

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 1025 Live Animal Two-Door Chipmunk, Small Squirrel, Rat, and Weasel Cage Trap
. 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.

And, finally, added, h/t Miles:

More like this

I like the idea of an owl feeder! We've had a family of owls in the neighborhood for the last couple years, and I'd love to encourage them to stick around.

By Benton Jackson (not verified) on 14 Sep 2011 #permalink

Peanut butter is one of the best baits.
Probably easier to have a trap that kills them instantly. The design of these has improved recently with the new plastic ones you just click open, instead of holding back the trap and trying to jiggle the holding wire just right.
One year, for no good reason, there was a bucket of water level with porch. More mice jumped in that without bait, than ever got killed in traps

Oh yah, I keep a kiddie pool next to my deck for my dog to splash around in, and sometimes it's slightly under the deck. Mice fall into it from time to time.

By Benton Jackson (not verified) on 14 Sep 2011 #permalink

Peanut butter is the best bait I have found as well. All that vegetable oil is probably an irresistible caloric treasure for a mouse trying to put on some weight before winter.

I like the live traps that are balanced - look a bit like a boomerang. Bait goes in the end that's up in the air, mouse climbs in to get the bait, trap over balances and the door slams shut (…) - caught a lot of mice in my wife's old house that way - took them out to the parking lot of the nearest church a couple of blocks away and let them go - figured the xtiams could show the mice some compassion and let them in for the winter ;)

Never known a mouse to turn up its nose to peanut butter.

By Charles Sullivan (not verified) on 14 Sep 2011 #permalink

A number of years back we lived in an old, old house with a huge mouse problem. Most days we would live trap 6 0r 8 of them every night. In the morning we'd take them across the street and let them loose in the woods. After a while, the local magpies caught on and every morning there would be a dozen or so hanging out in the trees waiting for breakfast. While not raptors, magpies are very opportunistic feeders.

By Rick Quarton (not verified) on 14 Sep 2011 #permalink

I have one cat that eats mice and one who doesn't know what she's supposed to do with them and lets them run across her tail. Guess which one my sister's taking with her when she moves out? I wonder if neighborhood cats are likely to get to mice in an outdoor container like the kiddie pool mentioned above. There are several cats in my neighborhood who love to hunt for squirrels and birds, and a container of mice would probably look like a buffet to them.

I live deep in the woods in a wooden cabin in north Florida. It should be mouse heaven yet for twenty years I never saw a mouse other than the white fuzzies that I feed to my snakes and to the owls outside. It was inexplicable. Then one night an absolutely endearing elfin creature leapt into my salad bowl. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen, a Peromyscus gossypinus, and I was delighted! For many months thereafter they never touched my food but gobbled up all the spiders which led to an increase in cockroaches. The only problem was the ever increasing number of tiny turds, so I reluctantly decided to live trap them. It was an abject failure. At first they werenât interested in peanut butter but finally acquired the taste. Even then it was impossible to trap them. They can move faster than the speed of light, and yes, they can leap tall building with a single bound, so even sprung traps were always empty. Then I discovered something interesting, the kitchen raiders shat everywhere but the mothers were most fastidious and always used a public latrine located at least twenty feet from the nest. It was a winning strategy. They proliferated like brooms and buckets in the Sorcererâs Apprentice so I had no choice but to use extreme prejudice in the form of old fashioned snap traps, the mousetrap design that cannot be improved upon. I put one on my kitchen countertop, then later that evening while I was upstairs reading in bed I heard thumping, bumping and squeaking and thought, âAah, I finally got one!â When I came down in the morning I beheld a scene of carnage. The bossdaddy mouse had been caught but all that was left of him was part of his head. What was left of the rest had been strewn around the kitchen, a foot here, a tail there, and a pile of entrails in the sink. His numerous wives and children had devoured him! I was disabused of my romantic notions and after that it was all out war! Now the spiders are back and all is well.

As for owls, for more than the last decade I have had multiple generations of barred owls that know me, take mice off peopleâs heads at parties, and personally introduce their fledglings which then become pests until they grow up and learn that white mice are a special treat only available during special events. Welfare owls are just like welfare people, demanding and whiny!

By Sleazeweazel (not verified) on 15 Sep 2011 #permalink

That is very interesting. The cotton deer mouse is one of the more omnivorous of it's genus. They are not known to eat roots very often. Which I mention only because, well, it's my job to know that.

If you are going to live trap, remember to check the traps frequently. Mice can dehydrate pretty rapidly, and that's one of the less pleasant ways for them to die.

At least snap traps are quick. Usually, anyway...

We were trying to trap a mouse that was in our garage at the old house. It would steal the bait. But chipmunks were also getting in, and it caught an awful lot of them before we gave up on getting the mouse. Evidently mice are smarter than chipmunks, or perhaps just more cynical about free lunches.

My biology class built live traps so we could do a population study of field mice. The traps were built by taking buckets, bolting a rat trap to the inside, and then attaching hardware cloth to the inside of the snappy part so instead of slamming down on the bait, it would slam the mesh closed over the opening. Only one of the traps was even sprung. It caught a mouse. We dutifully marked and released the mouse, then set out traps out again a week later. Didn't catch anything that time, so our experiment was deemed inconclusive. ;-)

If I still had a pet snake, I'd get a live trap. Otherwise, lethal traps that kill quickly are my preference. (Not sticky traps. Those are cruel. Much worse to die of thirst than a snapped neck or crushed skull.) I do like the idea of an owl feeder, though. We do have great horned owls which hunt in our neighborhood.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 15 Sep 2011 #permalink

Calli, I have been told that you don't feed snakes live mice any more. They have learned to eat dead ones, often purchaced frozen in bulk. This was a great disappointment to me and I no longer want a snake.

Had a terrible rat problem one year, until we figured out that an opossum had loosened the mesh that covered a subfloor ventilation entry. (It dawned on me one night when I went out on the back porch to see a pair of opossum kits playing up and down the orange tree; they're so cute. But, where was Mom? Where were they -- oh, hell, check the ventilation entries in the subfloor.)

Cover your entries, below your floors and in your attic! Keep the mousies and rats and opossums out!

And please, please, please, don't use sticky traps, they're a horribly cruel death. Use Havaheart traps, make your own live traps, or use an instant-death trap. Oh-- and peanut butter works really well as a bait.

Greg, it depends on the snakes. Not all of them like dead mice. A friend has a rosy boa named Scarlett, and he feeds her home-bred rats. His momma rats are named Replicator Units #1 & #2. The stud rat goes by Ratfucker. Scarlett loves herself some live rat babies!