Mouse Trapping 101

Mouse Trapping 101

mouse

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is a common pest outdoors around homes and farms. In the fall, mice come indoors seeking warmth because, unlike other animals, they do not have the ability to hibernate. A mouse living in a warm place indoors will need less food and have a greater chance of surviving the cold winter months, than one living outside.

Some people do not want to kill mice, but these people may not understand the health and safety implications of living with them. Mice are incontinent and dribble urine everywhere they travel. (This disgusting habit is very useful to mice because it helps them locate hiding places, even ones from earlier infestations.) Mice contaminate food-preparation surfaces with their feces, which can contain salmonella bacteria and food poisoning. Gnawing causes damage to structures and electrical wiring and may be the cause of fires and failure of appliances.

Signs of Mice

The presence of droppings indicates areas where mice are active and will probably be the first sign of a mouse infestation. Occasionally, you may see a mouse during the daytime; this could be an early invader, one that hasn’t found a good place to hide yet. As soon as you see the first sign of mice, you should begin mouse control. Waiting and hoping they will go away will not work...in fact, the longer you wait, the greater the mouse problem you will have. Trapping is the best method of mouse control inside homes. Understanding a few basics will help you more quickly get rid of the mice.

What types of traps?

Snap traps are the simplest, cheapest (i.e., reusable) and are very effective when placed correctly. If you are worried about kids and pets messing with a trap in a specific location, you might want to use a covered trap, like the Ultra Set trap™ made by D-Con. These covered traps will be more expensive, but have the added advantage in being able to set by simply pressing lever on the outside of the trap housing. Mice can also be removed without touching the carcass.

Glue traps are easy to handle and monitor, but they are more expensive than snap traps. Some animal welfare groups consider glue traps to be an inhuman method of rodent control. If the mouse is not captured cleanly, the mouse may crawl away with the trap. There are two types of glue traps sold for mouse control. The first is the glue “board” trap, a flat piece of cardboard covered by a thin layer of glue. The second is the glue “tray” trap, which is a shallow plastic tray filled with glue. According to Bobby Corrigan, a nationally-known rodent expert, the best type of glue board is the glue board trap because the mouse does not have to step up onto the tray platform. In his research, Corrigan has also found glue traps are less effective at catching mice than snap traps.

Multiple catch traps (Ketch-All®, or Tin Cat®) are useful in areas where mice populations are high because many mice can be caught in the same trap each night. These are live traps, but mice will die quickly (a day or two) of starvation once caught so they do need to be checked frequently, and emptied, and reset. Multiple catch traps are best used in garages and outbuildings. For quickest trapping, here are some suggestions:

  1. Location, location, location. Good trap placement is essential to catching mice. Place traps:
    • In high activity areas, where droppings have been found or where you have seen mice.
    • Near all appliances that produce heat. Examples are: furnace, water heater, refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, and stove.
    • Cluttered places near where mice are nesting.
  2. Install lots of traps. A dozen traps is not too many to set in your house to catch a single mouse. Because a snap trap can only catch one mouse each night, buy and use more traps than you think you need. Snap traps are cheap.
  3. Offer many bait choices. Different mice might be attracted to different types of food. Divide the traps and bait with peanut butter, thin slices of hot dog, bacon, or gumdrops. You may need to tie some of these baits to the trigger. My favorite bait to use is a small piece of a vanilla-scented caramel. This will work on those elusive mice that lick peanut butter off the trap without releasing it. Dental floss or a cotton ball will be attractive to a female who is building a nest. Contrary to popular opinion, cheese isn’t really a very good bait...only mice in the cartoons seem to like it.
  4. How to place the trap. Mice usually travel along vertical structures by using their whiskers to “feel” their way. If you place traps in the center of the room or a cupboard, you will hardly ever catch mice. Instead, place the trap against the wall so the mouse will encounter it when it travels. The bait pedal should be placed next to the wall to prevent the mouse from jumping backward to avoid the kill bar. Another method is to place two traps along a wall with the bait pedal facing opposite ways, so mice will encounter it from either direction.

Why Don’t We Recommend Poisons Inside the Home?

When food is abundant, mice will hoard it and save it for hard times. Sometimes they move it from one location to another or may drop it. Because of this behavior, poisoned pellets and other baits are frequently moved from one location to another, and there is potential exposure to humans and pets. If poisons must be used, experts recommend bait blocks, rather than pellets.

Another problem with baits, is mice often die in nesting areas or wall voids and produce unpleasant smells. Many people believe poisoned mice are thirsty and will leave the structure to find water, but this old wives’ tale isn’t true.

Barb Ogg
Emeritus Extension Educator, Entomology
Barb Ogg shared her love of entomology with clientele throughout Nebraska for many years through Nebraska Extension. Barb retired in 2015.

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