Now that the weather is chilling down, a common problem for people (myself included) is the fall invasion of mice seeking warm places to hang out for the winter. This year has seen a lot more activity due to the heavy fall of acorns and other mast goodies (as reported in one of my earlier posts) which has led to a population boom. Already I have caught six mice and can still hear activity inside the walls or up in the ceilings. As this is an old house, there are plenty of spaces for them to sneak into and it’s not easy to find them or get at them to seal them up to keep the little pests out.

The enormous fecundity of mice is an adaptation to the unhappy fact that they are number one on the menu for a surprising number of creatures: cats, foxes, coyotes, weasels, hawks, owls, skunks, snakes, crows, blue jays, even occasionally herons, and oddly enough, squirrels. The mouse has out of necessity adopted a secretive life-style and it is possible to have mice in your house and not realize it. Of course if the population is large, a fair amount of scuffling ensues when they are moving in and begin competing for living space. There are a variety of signs that mice are sharing living space with you and it’s a good idea to learn what they are, if you are determined to make your home as mouse free as possible.

What kind of mice can you expect to find? There are a variety of species, but here in New Hampshire, the mostly commonly found in houses are the house mouse, white footed mouse, and deer mouse .

All are cause for concern as they can carry a variety of diseases such as Hanta virus,  salmonellosis,  Lyme Disease and a variety of less common diseases. So far bubonic plague, which is in the western US, has not made its way to the east coast (knock on wood…). While the likelihood of contracting some of these illnesses is fairly low, the risk is always there and needs to be kept in mind when dealing with these pests.

Which naturally brings us to the matter of getting rid of them. The search for a better mousetrap seems unending. Best avoided are the poisoned baits for mice. While they may get rid of the mice, it’s the kind of gift that keeps on giving as any predator (including the neighborhood cat) are likely to ingest these toxins themselves if they happen to catch and eat these mice before the mouse has been killed by the poison. I did try using poison bait once a very long time ago, but found that the mice often rather than immediately eating the bait would take and store it in various places, such as my clothing drawers, which I definitely did not appreciate. Also there’s a good chance the little creatures will expire in an inconvenient place (which of course you will not be able to reach) and create an unpleasant reek.

Glue boards and traps catch the mice but do not kill them. That apparently is left up to you. If you don’t mind bludgeoning mice to death, be my guest but don’t expect me to invite you to any parties. If you are too chicken to kill them, the alternative to let them die of thirst and starvation and… yeah I thought so. I guess there is a way to get them off the strip without killing them but it’s a bit of an operation that’s stressful for both the mouse and you. So unless you enjoy being exposed to mouse excreta ejected by panicky mice (and the diseases that go along with them) glue strips are definitely out.

Some people like to use humane traps which catch the mouse but do not kill it. They then can be taken away and dropped in an area far from your house, leaving you feeling virtuous but the mouse utterly terrified as it is now in a strange place it does not recognize. Now then, if a giant idiot grabbed you and dumped you off in a strange place, what’s the first thing you would do? Well, yeah, you’d tried to get home! Which is likely what the mouse will do. If you haven’t taken it far enough away, the mouse will eventually make its way back to your place. If not, it will probably get snagged by a predator somewhere along the way. The odds that the mouse will just shrug its shoulders and contentedly take up residence where you place it are pretty low. Even if it were inclined to do so, in all probability a mouse already resides there, and as they are very territorial, it will quickly give the intruder the heave-ho.

This leaves the old fashioned snap trap. The wooden ones made by Victor are still available along with a wide variety of plastic snap traps and electronic traps which zap the rodents. I have tried a good number of them as I have arthritis and find it impossible to set the wooden ones. Success varies quite a bit with a number of traps failing to trigger when the mouse comes along and blithely eats the bait. The single electronic trap I tried, killed one and only one mouse and never again caught anything. The Victor quick kill trap seems to work as well as any of them, provided you position it so the mouse has to come directly at it and not from the side.

I’ve read the various reviews people have given of the different traps available and get the impression success depends as much on luck and the ability of the user to follow instructions, as it does the trap itself. Of course there is one mouse trap that rarely fails and has yet to be improved on. It’s the one that likes to sit in your lap and purr. The only drawback to this one is that it will occasionally present one of its catches to you, sometimes still in wriggling condition. Oh, well….