Is there a mouse (or two, or 12…) in your cabin? There’s no mistaking the pitter-patter of tiny feet in the walls or cabinets—not to mention the droppings, nibbled blankets, sampled food, and chewed wires. We asked Gary Ure, an authorized wildlife control agent and owner and operator of Second Nature Wildlife Management in Gananoque, Ont., for his pro tips on catching these messy and invasive critters.
1. Start by mouse-proofing.
The best remedy for unwanted house guests? Keeping them out in the first place. Plus, all your trapping efforts won’t solve your problem if you’re not blocking all the entrances—you’re essentially leaving the door open. Examine your home’s exterior and block any holes, cracks and gaps bigger than a quarter-inch. Steel wool is a popular rodent barrier, but Ure prefers a sturdier solution: small pieces of sheet metal, screwed down and caulked (for example, where pipes traverse walls).
Indoors, focus on the kitchen, especially wherever you store food and compost scraps. Block any holes and gaps around pipes and wires, between cupboards and countertops, and inside cabinets.
2. Keep it simple with snap traps.
Hardware stores carry a variety of mouse-control products, from live traps and electronic traps to coyote urine and ultrasonic gadgets. Ure prefers the simple, no-tech snap trap with the metal pedal (for example Victor Metal Pedal Mouse Traps). At a cost of three bucks for two, it’s also the cheapest option.
You could use a live trap, but you’d have to release the mouse somewhere—and in the dead of winter, that’s no kinder than killing it quickly. Mice caught in live traps often die from hypothermia. Not only that, but traps that confine multiple mice can cause extreme stress. “You open it and one’s half-eaten. It’s a bit of a horror show inside,” says Ure. “If you think you’re being humane…you’re not.”
Poison is another option, but the mice can keel over anywhere—including places you can’t reach—and stink as they decompose. Ure advises using poison only in confined spaces, such as attics, and sealing up any access points to prevent reinfestation
3. Use peanut butter as bait.
You can try other foods, but Ure sticks with peanut butter. Mice eat nuts in the wild, so they can hardly resist a nut butter buffet.
Wearing gloves, Ure slathers the peanut butter onto snap traps with a spoon. “Some people put just a little on, but I don’t care how much the mouse eats. Eventually, it’ll get greedy and try to get the bit under the pedal,” he explains. “The longer I can keep a mouse at the trap, the more successful it’s likely to be.”
4. Skip the training session.
Some people put out baited traps but don’t set them, with the idea of making the mice feel safe and catching them later. Ure doesn’t bother with pre-baiting. “The mice will go for the peanut butter whether the trap is set or unset, so I don’t waste time,” he says.
5. Go where the mice go.
Set traps wherever you notice mouse activity: cabinets, under the sink, against walls—“Mice like to run along the edges, not clear across the middle of a room,” Ure says—and, for truly desperate homeowners, on countertops. After blocking any access points to the kitchen, Ure also places traps in attics, basements, and furnace rooms.
Don’t be stingy with the traps. Ure puts two or three traps under kitchen sinks, about a foot and a half apart so that a triggered trap won’t set off its neighbours. Along mouse travel routes, place several traps two or three feet apart. “You could blitz a basement with eight traps along the walls, since it’s not a living space,” says Ure.
6. Do the humane thing.
Snap traps are designed to kill, but occasionally a mouse survives. What’s a squeamish homeowner to do? “I don’t want to sound morbid, but I would step on it,” says Ure. “Don’t just put it in the garbage. Don’t try to drown it. Don’t prolong its misery. Just end it. And quickly.”