30 June 2016

Adventures in Humane Mouse Capture

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered mouse poop in our cupboard. We'd found poop before and blocked the hole in the back of the cupboard, but apparently that wasn't enough this time. A few days later, I went to bed early (which is a clear recipe for Michael forgetting to ever go to bed), and Michael heard scratching before I woke up wondering where he was. When we discovered a bag of chips and a bag of rice had been chewed into despite being moved to a high shelf away from the cupboard, we knew something had to be done.

I really don't like the idea of killing things, and once Michael saw the mouse freeze while using the microwave cable to climb up to the shelf, he started saying, "It's so cuuute. Can we keep it as a pet?" I told him how when I was little, I'd once found a mouse in a mouse trap at my grandparents' cabin. I can't remember if it'd eaten rat poison or if it was in a trap, but it was really weak and unable to run. I felt so bad for it that my dad put it into a box and I watched it and provided it with food. I even gave it a name—Marie. Unfortunately, Marie didn't make it. Telling that story made me remember how my siblings, cousins, and I had caught squirrels, so I told Michael about the squirrel-catching method we used: you attach a string to a stick, prop a box on the stick, put some food under the box, and wait for the squirrel to go for the food before pulling on the string.

Squirrel Trap Didn't Work photo 2016-06-22 00.16.11_zpssmuitq2i.jpg
City version of the cabin squirrel trap: garbage can, broken chopstick, and packaging string attached to an iPhone charger cable.

Unfortunately, the mouse was too scared to run out in the open and just stuck to the edges. I was really surprised by how little the mouse was; I don't remember them being the few times I saw them at the cabin. Its ability to squeeze under the oven, dart and wriggle into the cupboard, and hide behind the fridge was quite impressive. We blocked off all the good places to hide and put all the chewable packaging into the fridge or a high, closable cupboard.

The next night, after trying to get the mouse again and turning our kitchen into a disaster area, we started googling. We tried the balancing-spoon-with-peanut-butter method with a Blue Apron box (handy). We tried the balance-a-glass-on-a-nickel method. The mouse didn't fall for any of those methods even though I waited and watched each time until it came back out of hiding and wandered around. Finally, I decided to try the string-through-a-plate method and waited and waited. I think because I'd stuck the ramp right into the mouse's hiding place, it was too scared to come out again, so I went to bed after waiting for a long time.

Spoon on a String Didn't Work photo 2016-06-22 23.02.18_zpsnakneoss.jpg
The precarious spoon method.

Precarious Peanut Butter Plate on a String photo 2016-06-23 00.53.09_zpsrrtjvrui.jpg
The precarious plate method.

Nothing in the morning. In the evening, when I got home, I saw this in the box:

Precarious Peanut Butter Plate on a String Worked photo 2016-06-23 20.57.52_zpssf8euwyo.jpg

It looked subdued, like it had jumped itself out and was hopeless. I had no idea how long it had been in there, but it had clearly been jumping and trying to make a hole in a top corner to get out.

As soon as I decided I'd better cover the box, the mouse started going berserk and jumping, and its panic gave it super powers—it jumped right out even though we'd made the walls higher than we thought it could jump (about 18"). I re-set the trap, got some cardboard ready to cover it if I got another chance, and went into another room. A few minutes later, I heard scrabbling, and ran in and taped the cover over the box right away. I didn't really want to do anything with the mouse without Michael, so I left it in the kitchen like that, but I felt nervous that it was going to get out somehow and checked on it several times. Each time it had been jumping and wearing down a corner of the box where I'd added a piece of cardboard to make it taller, so I covered the corner with tape.

Our Kitchen Was a Disaster photo 2016-06-23 21.46.18_zpsz8jobrgd.jpg
Our kitchen was a disaster.

Little Mousey Peaking Out photo 2016-06-23 21.51.17_zpsarhozzxe.jpg
The mouse burrowed its way under the bottom flap of the box whenever I'd go to look at it.

I decided to put my camera on the edge of the counter and film what it was doing when I was gone. It took 10 minutes on the dot for the mouse to make its way out.

When Michael got home, he was excited to see the mouse, but it burrowed its way under the flap and was too scared to come out, even when we put peanut butter close to it. So Michael captured this picture:

Mice Can Get So Flat photo 20160623_223908_zps1hdcqt9d.jpg
Mice can sure get flat!

I said we'd better take it to the park.

Sad Michael and Blue Apron Mouse Box photo 20160623_224128_zpsykkytpbu.jpg
Michael was sad, so I agreed to bring along a "care package" to send the mouse on its way: some sunflower seeds.

Our conversation on the way to the park at nearly 11 PM:

Michael: "Are you sure we can't keep it?"
Michelle: "Yes, it'll chew its way out, escape, and then steal our food again."
Michael: "It wasn't stealing; it was hungry."
Michelle: "It moves really fast, so you can't really cuddle it like you can with hamsters."
Michael: "So I'll just look at it."
Michelle: "Our lease doesn't let us have pets."
Michael: "I can feel it shaking in this box. It's so scared. Maybe we can just put it in this yard [across the street] so we can visit it."
Michelle: "No. The Chow Chow that lives there will scare it to death! And it'll get into that house . . . though it'll probably find its way from the park to someone's house anyway."
Michael: "What about this house? No one has moved in yet, so it can have the whole house to itself."
Michelle: "No! Besides, there's no food in there. Whew . . . it is such a clear, cold night; look! There are a few stars!"
Michael: "Won't it be too cold out here?"
Michelle: "No, it'll build a nest and keep itself warm. My hamsters did that with whatever was nearby."
Michael: "Do you think those people are wondering why we are carrying a box into the park late at night?"
Michelle: "Probably. Maybe you should have just given it to them."
Michael: "Let's let it out here."
Michelle: "No."
Michael: "Do we have to go all the way to the top? How about here?"
Michelle: "No."

Finally, we let the mouse go, though we had to use a stick to open the flap to get it to run away.

When we got home, I said, "My parents always said that where there's one mouse, there are multiple mice." I re-set the plate trap but didn't really think we'd catch anything. After three nights of being up really late trying to catch a mouse, I weirdly took my time getting ready for bed. And then suddenly I heard scrabbling again! I turned to Michael with wide eyes and said, "Do you hear that? We've got another one!"

The second trip up the hill and release weren't quite so full of fanfare, though I kept exclaiming at catching another mouse and at the fog that had completely moved in during the ~50 minutes we'd been inside. Michael wanted to know if the mice would find each other and if they were siblings or a couple. "Maybe both," I replied.

When we got to the same spot as before, we could see that the chip and peanut butter we'd left were gone, hopefully to Mouse #1. Mouse #2 never figured out the flap thing, and it darted out and in the opposite direction of where Mouse #1 had gone. Here's a video:

No more mice have been caught. I haven't yet decided if we should ask our property owners to fill the hole or not. I don't want them thinking we have a dirty household (which we do not) and blaming it on us (especially since I'm still hoping that some day I can convince them to replace the old windows), but I also would really rather not to have to lose food and clean up after and catch more mice.

For now we have an entirely empty cupboard and we're happy to have a quiet kitchen. The mosquitoes in the bedroom, on the other hand, are as annoying as ever . . . they can smell me through the ancient windows and make their way in with the windows, blinds, and curtains closed, and we don't always find them with our perimeter checks before turning off the light. Our neighbors must wonder about the middle-of-the-night circling followed by a sudden slap of a flip flop on the wall or ceiling.

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