The best baits for trapping mice

The top foods that attract mice, plus how to set your traps properly

By Diane ForrestDiane Forrest

Mouse bait

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When it comes time to confront invading mice, everyone has a bait he or she swears by. Raisins, prunes, cheese crackers, corn meal, pineapple chunks, raisin bread, cooked bacon, chocolate, candy, and gum drops are all said to be favourites with big-eared gourmands.

However, for the professionals, three stand out. The first is peanut butter, with its strong, seductive odour. The other no-fail baits are cotton batting and dental floss. Neither dries out and, for nest-building mice, it’s like finding a stack of drywall on the front lawn. Tie the dental floss to the trigger, forcing the mouse into a deadly wrestling match. Fail to bait your trap properly and your rodent guests may view it as an intriguing form of food presentation. If you’re using a snap trap, put only a small dab on the trigger; a large lump of cheese or peanut butter can be licked and nibbled without ever jostling the trigger.

Where you set your traps is also crucial. “There’s more of a knack to it than most people think,” says Orkin’s Todd Summers. Mice generally only travel along the edges of rooms, guided by their acute sense of touch and smell. So traps should be set flush against the wall along a mouse’s regular route or where mice are likely to enter the cottage, usually in the bathroom or kitchen. Since mice will often leap over something unfamiliar on their route, try setting two snap traps about 4 cm apart. Mice are cautious, however, and learn quickly, so “if you don’t catch anything in the first two days, move the trap,” says Summers. If a trap is set in an ideal place and the mice still avoid it, try baiting it but not setting it for several days. Once the mice are accustomed to eating from the trap, set it again. Between eight and 12 traps is probably enough, suggests Robert Corrigan, one of North America’s leading experts on rodent control; set pairs of traps behind the stove and the fridge, beneath the sink, in storage areas, and anywhere else you’ve seen evidence of mice.

If you’re leaving poison over the winter, be sure to set out enough, otherwise the initial wave of mice will eat it all in the first week. It’s better not to put all the bait in one or two places, either, because the more dominant mice may carry it off and store it. Though bromadiolone may kill in only one or two doses, warfarin requires as many as 10 feedings. Check the instructions on the package for advice on how much to put out.

“Ideally, you should do integrated pest management,” says Summers, “which means you have a little bit of everything. The more you throw at them, the quicker you get rid of them.” For a cottage that’s being used regularly, Summers’ preferred combination is poison in the attic or anywhere else that’s inaccessible to children or pets, a Ketch-All or other live traps in the cottage itself when you’re there, and snap traps when you’re not.

Ultimately, there’s no nice way to get rid of mice. On the other hand, mice do carry disease and have been known to cause fires by chewing through electrical wiring. Being offed by a mouse is still a highly unusual event. Still, given the certain inconvenience and the potential danger, if you have mice in your cottage it makes sense to at least get the population under control.

This article was originally published on May 23, 2005

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