4 alternative ways to trap mice

How to choose the least cruel trapping method

By Diane ForrestDiane Forrest


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Glue boards, which are covered with a powerful adhesive and a mouse-attracting odour, are a cruel way to go. The glue is so strong it can pull fur off struggling victims, trapping them until either they die many agonizing hours later or you find them and kill them. And the boards, which cost $2.50 – $3.50 for two, are not particularly effective: While some young mice will get caught, more sophisticated rodents avoid the sticky traps. (There’s also doubt about the glue’s sticking power at very low temperatures.)

Many cottagers love the bucket style of trap because they can build it themselves. (While some credit Kiosk, Ont., as the bucket’s birthplace, the earliest prototypes may have been developed by miners plagued by rodents during the Klondike gold rush.) The simplest version consists of a ramp leading to the top of a water-filled bucket. Lured by peanut butter smeared inside the bucket’s rim, the mouse leans over and topples in. In more complex versions, various baited devices are set up across the top of the bucket, and the mouse falls in when he lunges for the goodies. Since mouse stew doesn’t smell too appetizing after a few days, antifreeze is added to mummify the bodies. But Robert Corrigan contends that the bucket, though inventive, is neither efficient nor cost-effective. “Some young mice will fall in, but older ones aren’t fooled. And to have a bucket full of corpses? It’s messy and ugly and much more work than to put out a mousetrap.” And, since mice can swim, it takes “at least several minutes” for the mouse to drown, says Ron Brooks. “If we used these at the university we certainly wouldn’t get them past the animal-care committee.”

What most people want is some simple mouse control that involves no killing or actual contact with the mice. Which is why you may find ultrasonic devices at your local hardware store. These supposedly drive mice away with sound frequencies higher than we can hear. Some professionals find them useful as part of a larger strategy to clear rodents out of buildings, says George Laidlaw, who oversees the evaluation and approval of insecticides and pest control products for Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. But their efficacy is reduced by carpets, drapes, and furniture, which absorb the sound. And Laidlaw points out that his agency only has data for house mice; they have no idea whether ultrasonics work on deer mice. “My conclusion is they do absolutely nothing.” says Brooks, who’s helped test ultrasonics. “I’ve put them on full blast and the mice don’t even look up.”

Cats and certain breeds of dogs, such as small terriers or dachshunds, can get pretty deadly around mice, especially if they’re descended from top-notch rodent terminators and received early instruction from their parents. But Robert Corrigan, a consultant at RMC Pest Management Consulting in Indiana and one of North America’s leading experts on rodent control, isn’t convinced. “People love to give the credit to their dog or cat,” he says, “but it’s doubtful whether even the best mouser does more than keep the population just under control.”

The problem in judging the effectiveness of any of these methods is that people base their estimates of success on whether they can actually see any mice – not a very reliable criterion.

George Laidlaw mentions a study in which researchers introduced a known number of house mice into bags of stored grain. No-one actually observed any mice in the grain until the rodent population had grown into the thousands. In other words, you only see mice when you’ve got an excess. As well, the perception that you’ve finally got the cottage to yourself may have more to do with mouse population fluctuations caused by food sources, weather, and predation.

This article was originally published on May 23, 2005

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