Published at 11:35 on 22 December 2023
When I wrote this, I had not, in fact, caught all the mice.
Signs of mouse activity quickly resumed. Then began the game of strategically redeploying traps in an attempt to catch the other ones. A week later, I caught one in a trap baited with a piece of a walnut. Then began a further week with continued high mouse activity and no caught mice.
Eventually, the idea to try a different sort of bait occurred to me: something savoury, greasy, and meaty. I had heard that sometimes mice go for such things, so I borrowed a handful of dry dog food from a friend and left a piece of kibble out in an area of the kitchen with particularly high mouse activity. Within four hours, the kibble was gone.
So I promptly re-baited two traps with dog kibble that had been baited with Tootsie Roll (of which I had read can attract mice, but which these mice showed approximately zero interest in). The traps were ignored. So I made a trail of kibble bits leading to one of the traps. The mouse ate the trail and left the trap alone. So I left another trail, this time ending closer to the trigger. The same thing happens. Try a third time, this time ending under the trigger, since that type of old-fashioned snap trap can be tripped by lifting the trigger as well as depressing it. The trail gets eaten except for that last little kibble bit under the trigger.
It was at this point I nicknamed the offending mouse “Einstein,” because it had apparently managed to learn how mousetraps work. I complain to the landlord and get him to redouble his efforts at sealing off all entrances, and to seek the services of a professional exterminator.
A few days later, I get the idea of swapping out the bait in another trap in another area with high mouse activity for a piece of dog kibble. This is also wooden snap trap but it has a wide plastic trigger instead of a traditional metal one. Because there is no easy way to tie bait to this trigger with a piece of wire, I just place the kibble atop the trigger. Einstein promptly steals the bait, leaving the trap untripped.
So I try again, this time hot-melt gluing the bait onto the trigger. If you have ever observed a small rodent eat, you will notice that they prefer to do so by standing on their hind legs and holding the food in their front paws while they nibble on it. I figure the mouse will want to do that, which will lead to tugging on the stuck bait and a hopefully sprung trap.
And at long last, my newfound optimism at a new strategy is borne out. The same night that happens, a second mouse visits one of my other traps baited with walnut and gets caught by it. So I go from a week with no success to two dead mice in a single night.
That was now a little over a week ago, and there has been no sign of any new mouse activity since then. So I now feel reasonably safe concluding that my mouse problem is probably over, at least for this season.
- Peanut butter is not always best. It is reputed to be the best bait, and virtually every source out there about dealing with mice recommends it highly. Well, these mice showed exactly zero interest in peanut butter. If, after a few days, you have no success with peanut butter, it is probably best to start considering other bait types.
- Watch what they nibble on. One of my catches was in a trap baited with granola, since I had noticed an old, reused granola bag get nibbled on by a mouse.
- Try similar baits. Peanut butter never worked, but that got me to try another type of nut butter (sunflower). That didn’t work, either, but it led me to try walnuts. Half of the mice I caught were in traps baited with walnut pieces.
- Try dog food or jerky. Some mice like meaty, savoury things. A mouse that showed zero interest in any other type of bait came for dog food.
- Multiple traps are good. Anywhere you see signs of mouse activity is a good place for at least one trap. No area with signs of mouse activity should be more than a few feet from a trap.
- Multiple types of trap are good. These mice never came to any of those newer-style “improved” plastic traps, ever. The only traps that caught mice for me were old-fashioned wooden traps. Of those, Victor makes some with a new-style wide plastic triggers. Those were by far the most successful type, catching three of the four mice. I would have never learned this, and would probably still be struggling with a mouse infestation, had I not been willing to try different trap types.
- When using old-fashioned wooden traps, leave nothing to chance. The disadvantage of these traps, and the motive for most improvements on them, is that if the mouse approaches from the back and sometimes the side, it will evade the kill zone even if the trap goes off. Such traps must be placed inside a little box, or between objects arranged so as to guide the mouse into the kill zone, to maximize their chance of success. Likewise, solid baits should be affixed to the trigger by gluing or tying with fine wire to promote tugging and minimize the chance of bait theft.
- Incrementalism can be helpful. I never caught Einstein until I first baited a trap with a new bait and did not secure the bait. This probably taught the mouse the lesson that it was possible to steal from a trap of this design with this bait. On the second visit, when the mouse’s guard was down, the bait had been glued to the trigger. No more easy lifting. Snap!
- Exclusion is key. I do not think it is a coincidence that I caught two mice in one night right after the landlord redoubled his efforts at closing all possible avenues of rodent ingress and egress. I believe this trapped two mice inside, and once they realized they could no longer go outdoors to feed on garbage (I have been meticulous about cleaning up crumbs), there was no ready food source left for them save the bait on my traps.