When all through the house...

Not a creature was stirring... that's because they're not in the house. They're in the garage. One of my annual struggles is to only overwinter plants, not animals. Especially the rodent types.

So I end up catching a lot of mice in the garage as winter kicks in. Before I realized this was something I needed to stay on top of, there was a year where the little critters didn't stay in the garage -- they came into the basement and forced me to "knock it up a notch. Bam!" That was years ago though, and I have a pretty good system now.


Once my garage gets full of potted plants in early winter, it becomes impossible to get to the one wall. With little exposure and no chance of being disturbed, that area becomes quite attractive to mice. I can sometimes hear them (or something) scratching around over there.

Remember that I caught some shrews in the garage earlier this year.

I catch the mice in the same way. I use this non-lethal trap:

That center hole was once the same size as the others. Little gnawing teeth.

When empty the door stays open, but once something climbs in the trap tips slightly, causing the door to fall closed. The little yellow tab is the "lock".

It's quite effective.

After catching the critter I will empty it into a bucket, add some birdseed and usually some water, then leave it alone for a while to let it calm down.

These ears look fake.

Okay, he's been eating. Must be calm enough to move now.

Later that day I'll grab the bucket, jump into the car, and release the mouse in a nearby field:

Remember, I'm usually doing this in early winter, before it gets very cold. This year is unusual in that it's been so mild, so the mice are still looking for winter dens -- or maybe this one has been in the garage all along, and just woke up hungry? I thought I was done catching mice for the year. In any case, I figure that releasing them is better all around than using lethal traps.

This was confirmed somewhat by the previous mouse I released. A kestrel (small hawk) must have been sitting in one of these nearby trees, and as soon as I released that mouse and got back into the car, it dropped down, snatched the mouse, and flew off. Sorry mouse! You're welcome kestrel!

This new one got itself under the grasses without incident though. But releasing one so late in the year makes me think... is this really better for the animal? If it's going to starve to death because it doesn't have any food cache, or will die of exposure because it doesn't have time to build a suitable "house" -- is that better than quickly dying in a lethal trap?

So I'm still debating this. Maybe I'll switch to lethal traps for the rest of the winter. Maybe I'll keep the live traps in place, and if I catch any more mice this winter I'll just put them into a big unused fish tank I have and treat them as pets until spring.

For now since mild weather remains in the forecast I'll just put the live trap back in place with some sunflower seeds as enticement and see what happens:

Of course I can always just let Super-whitey (who lives in the house with us now and is called Kumo) live in the garage for a few days again. That will take care of any mice for sure.


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Steve Lau  – (December 21, 2011 at 9:16 AM)  

That empty field looks like it would look a lot better with some bamboos planted there.

Loree/danger garden  – (December 21, 2011 at 10:06 AM)  

I think the most shocking thing about this post was the fact I actually thought "cute" when I saw the picture of the mouse. Yikes.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 21, 2011 at 10:49 AM)  

I'm not as mouse-friendly as you are. We use a Rat Zapper to get rid of rodents. It catches both rats and mice.

GrowingHabit –   – (December 21, 2011 at 11:23 AM)  

Ah Gerhard, I love my RatZapper.

scottweberpdx  – (December 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM)  

That's so sweet...I used to have pet rats, so I have a soft, sympathetic spot for rodents :-)

Stupid Garden Plants  – (December 21, 2011 at 1:07 PM)  

I've often thought of them as cute, but a small mouse problem over time becomes a bigger one. The day I saw 3 cascading over my seeding table, I knew they had to go. That and the various nests I found during winter cleaning. Crafty buggers!

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (December 21, 2011 at 1:32 PM)  

I'd put Super Whitey in there for a few hours a day and let nature take its course, unless you feel like having the extra "pets" to take care of. It's a real dilemma for me, I'm such an animal nut and hate the thought of killing anything, but they don't belong in a garage, so what to do. I think you are incredibly sweet to drive them out to the field - that's very special, very very few people would do that.

Alan  – (December 21, 2011 at 1:36 PM)  

I've always been told that you have at least 3x the number of rodents that you see, so seeing one mouse means there are several more around for sure.

I'd probably go with the Zapper if I had rats, but a few mice a year in the garage isn't such a big deal. I'm glad to know about that solution though!

Hoover Boo  – (December 21, 2011 at 7:16 PM)  

I would think letting kestrels eat the mice would be better than throwing the mice in the trash--at least the kestrels are getting fed--but I know it is hard to decide what the best way is. Mice can ruin your home--you have to do something.

Beautiful kitty!

Andrea  – (December 21, 2011 at 7:19 PM)  

oh you are getting good karma for this, and you will be blessed, hopefully not with more mice! Merry Christmas

Anne McCormack  – (December 21, 2011 at 7:31 PM)  

The kestrel solution is the best! I'll investigate the Zapper though. These little guys are driving me sane!

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