Introduction: Catching Mice Humanely and for Free

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I don't like having mice running around my kitchen, gnawing the bars of soap and wooden spoons. But I'd rather not kill wild creatures that are just trying to find somewhere warm in the winter. And I really don't like removing squashed vermin from conventional sprung traps. So I use the method my grandmother taught me, which causes no harm to the mouse and is surprisingly effective. Usually I manage to catch the interloper on the first night, although sometimes it takes two or three nights. Then I relocate it to a wood on the other side of a road, in the hope it will be happy there and won't find its way back.

The other big advantage of this method is it uses things that you will already have around the house. It saves having to try and remember where you put the mousetrap after its last outing.

All you need is:

  1. A large bowl, such as a mixing bowl, preferably glass
  2. A thimble, or a bottle cap of a similar size and shape
  3. Bait - chocolate and peanut butter are good, or go with the old favourite, cheese
  4. A sheet of stiff cardboard big enough to cover the bowl
  5. Flour (optional)

Warning: just occasionally, a mouse will be injured or killed using this method, so buy a humane mousetrap instead if you really can't bear the thought. You can find them in pet shops where they are sold for re-capturing escapee pet mice and hamsters.

Step 1: Setting the Trap

The best time to catch mice is overnight, when it's quiet and dark and they feel it's safe to come out and look for food. Before you go to bed, choose where to set the trap. It needs to go on a hard, smooth surface where there is evidence of mouse activity - droppings, in other words. If you can figure out where the mice are getting in or are hiding out during the day, then put it nearby. Clear away everything else from the area that a mouse may want to eat.

Put some bait into the thimble. Push it well in - for something hard like cheese or chocolate, cut a piece that will wedge into the bottom of the thimble. It needs to be quite difficult for the mouse to get it out.

Now place the thimble on its side with the upturned bowl resting on it and the open end of the thimble inside the bowl. Then go to bed. The mouse will come along, smell the bait, squeeze under the edge of the bowl next to the thimble and paw at the thimble from inside the bowl to get at the bait. The thimble rolls, the bowl drops and voila! you have caught a mouse.

If you're using a ceramic bowl or one made of some other opaque material, it's a good idea to dust flour lightly around the trap, then you can tell if there's a mouse under it or not. Sometimes the mouse will nudge the thimble on its way into the bowl with the result that the bowl falls without trapping the mouse, or lands on the mouse and kills it. But if you find the bowl flat on the floor and a set of pawprints going in one direction only, you know you've caught something and you can proceed to the next step. Otherwise, just put the bowl and thimble away and try again the next night. Mice don't have long memories, fortunately.

Step 2: Releasing the Mouse

To remove the mouse, slide a piece of cardboard under the bowl. (Slowly! You don't want to hurt the mouse do you, or you wouldn't be catching it this way?) Don't lift the edge of the bowl any higher than is absolutely necessary, because mice can squeeze through incredibly tight gaps.

Then you can pick up bowl, mouse and cardboard and relocate the captive to a less domestic environment.

Apologies for the photo quality, taking a decent picture through a glass bowl isn't easy.

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