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Man Vs. Mouse – A Battle of Wits

February 20, 2011

Every winter, mice somehow get into my house to escape the cold. I just set some conventional traps and, a few days later, the problem is solved. This year, however, things were different. I’m convinced that the mice have been in school learning how to avoid getting caught. I baited several traps with peanut butter and placed them around the kitchen. The next morning I discovered that the mice had eaten the bait but hadn’t tripped the traps. This went on for several days until I actually witnessed a mouse approach the trap from the side, eat the peanut butter, lick the trigger clean and go on his merry way. I fashioned some cardboard trays to place the traps in that had 1-inch-high walls on three sides around the trap in an attempt to force the mouse to approach the trap from the most lethal end. That didn’t work either. The only thing that tripped a trap was my dog’s nose.

It became a battle of wits and the mouse was winning the battle. I was determined not to be defeated by a little rodent. The mice had gotten smarter and it was time I did the same, so I decided to build a better mouse trap. How hard could it be? It turns out that it’s a lot harder than you’d think. Once I had the basic design done in AutoCad, I rooted around in my boxes of old electronic parts and spent three days building the device shown here. I used the spring from a conventional trap to operate the door. The bait is at the back of the box. The mouse enters from the front, walks up a treadle which see-saws as he crosses the midpoint. An electrical contact is made which causes the solenoid on top to release the latch and the door slams shut. Rube Goldberg would be proud.

I loaded the bait tray with peanut butter and set it out. The next morning I found that it had tripped. Because the box was opaque, I wasn’t sure whether there was a mouse inside or if it had tripped falsely on its own. Now I had to deal with the most gruesome aspect of this method. A conventional trap would have killed the mouse and that would be that. This trap contained a live mouse inside. If I had let him loose outside, he’d have just found his way back in. Someone suggested that I drive him 30 miles into the country and let him loose. I quickly calculated that such a 60-mile round trip would cost me $10 worth of gas, so that was out of the question. My only choice was to drown him. I filled a bucket with water and dumped the mouse in it. He swam around for a while until he was exhausted and then drowned. I felt terrible about that but that feeling was outweighed by the sweet smell of success. Man’s ingenuity and technology had finally outsmarted the critter. I HAD WON, and that was the most important thing.

Since I haven’t caught any more mice, I’m assuming that either there was only the one, or that word has spread through the mouse community that this human has gotten smarter and they’ve all gone back to school to learn how to defeat me next year. But I’m now working on a non-electric version. With my two home-made traps I’ll be ready for them. I’ll report back then with an update.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2011 7:29 PM

    You drowned him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe you did that. Or maybe it was a her, getting food for the little ones? or a dad providing for his family. 😦

    • February 24, 2011 11:13 AM

      Yes I drowned him (or her) and, like I said, I felt terrible about that. I tried to talk my dog into catching and killing it but she wasn’t interested. I could have bludgeoned or hacked it to death. I could have dumped it into an airtight jar and suffocated it. I could have designed a feature into the trap that would have electrocuted, gassed or poisoned it. I considered all these alternatives, but drowning seemed the most humane of the alternatives and less painful than the conventional trap. If it was a “she”, I didn’t want her giving birth to seven more pests. What would Linda do? Would you have let it live and breed in your house? Not very sanitary.

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