Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mouse Problems and Puzzles

We’ve had mice problems since our very first day on Locust Hill.  And not only mice but
 rats.  Since our little farmhouse hadn't been lived in for six years, I suppose it made an inviting home.  Eventually we got rid of the rats, but we still get plenty of mice, especially in the winter.

  Sad to say, my cat at age 18, died and hopefully went to a land of heavenly catnips in the sky.  Not that she’d been solving my mouse problems all these years.  She much preferred being outside catching moles, and once even a chipmunk.

Mice love Locust Hill. In winter they take over the dozens of bird houses on the place. Three or four set up housekeeping in these safe little boxes.  When I go out with a stick to clean the nests in early spring, they have a total panic attack at my invasion, scrambling around and finally leaping down to the ground. I went out several weeks ago and managed to get a few pictures of these little guys.

Catching mice in a simple snap trap never appealed to me. It  not only looks painful, it IS painful if it snaps shut when you’re trying to set it. I use what I call a “Hav-a-Heart trap, a metal box that sweeps curious mice into a holding area until I release them.  

I have two of these benevolent traps.  The Mouse Master, made by Whitmire Micro-Gen, doesn’t compare to the Ketch-All made by Kness Mfg.Co. On winter mornings it almost always contains at least one prisoner which I can easily release from the trap far from Locust Hill. Both traps can catch more than one mouse, but the Mouse Master never manages it, while the Ketch-All often has two little guys nervously peering up at me.  I suspect that the first caught mouse probably squeaks pitifully to his friends, who come to help and are swept in to join him.

I must admit that coping with these captured mice when you’ve hardly swallowed your first cup of coffee, is not the greatest way to start the day. Having that appealing little face with its round frightened eyes peering out at you is hard. Most captives are so scared they don’t even eat the cheese I’ve used as bait.  

Last month I had such a strange mouse experience that it inspired me to write  today’s column.  That morning both my traps were empty, but every time I went into the kitchen I heard little scratchy sounds. I peered in cupboards, inside the waste basket, just about everywhere until I suddenly saw a whiskered wiggling nose.

Guess where this mouse was hiding. In the toaster!  I could just make out his little pink nose  poking out from a hole no bigger around than my index finger.  I’ve circled it in red

Not wanting to turn the poor creature into toast, I pulled the plug, then tipped the toaster upside down and shook it.  Nothing happened.  I examined every possible place where he could be hiding with no luck.  When I set the toaster back up I could still hear him inside. 

I’m happy to report that that clever rodent must have escaped the toaster because there were no more little scratchy noises, much less a yowl of pain when I finally decided to make some toast. The mystery of how he got in or got out, however, will remain a mystery.  Hopefully he is now in one of my birdhouses, curled up in a nice  cozy nest.

How’s that for a mouse tale?  I couldn’t resist writing about my mouse experiences, especially when I had all these photos to use.  If you like the idea of using a benevolent trap like those I've mentioned, they're easy to find on the Internet.  . 


  1. Isn't it more humane to kill them instantly in a snap trap than to release them in the dead of winter where they will most likely die a slower death?

    1. A mouse outside is dinner for an owl or fox....And can be kept outside by cramming miles of steel wool into every nook and cranny, starting with the foundation, hatchway, doors, floor/wall joints.... use sturdy gloves and a spatula or putty knife to wedge it in. Have used this method in old Boston apartments for my daughter and works. Don't forget to cram it in where pipes, plumbing or heating, come through floors and walls. Good luck...

  2. I loved this column! it made me laugh out loud...especially those panicked mice trying to escape the birdhouse! hope you are surviving the winter blast and staying warm. much love from colombia! brittany, nathan, and twain

  3. We had a VT ski house in the '70s- free mouse territory during the week. My job was to empty the weekly traps into a valley below the deck. Recently, I've begun to wonder what archaeologists will surmise when they see hundreds of tiny skeletons in the valley? Was it climate change, a plague, some strange Yankee Ritual? A CT matron would never occur to them.
    *tee hee* - I love a mystery!

  4. It is so satisfying to read about humane treatment of the little whiskered invaders. As I have four indoor house cats, stray mice are no longer an issue. I don't even find any remains, so I think that some wise old rodent must be giving a course about the dangers above basement level here.

    When I had cats with access to the great outdoors through their own kitty door, I had a house full of live playthings - mice, chipmunks, birds, and fish from the pond. Now that those days are over (because of cat predators in my woods) everything seems to know its place. I don't miss the hours spent tracking and catching critters who needed to be shown the way to go home.