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As temperatures drop, mice look for places to get warm and well-fed -- like your home (can you blame them?). Here are some humane approaches to mouse control.

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As the weather gets colder, our homes become a cozy and welcoming refuge. Unfortunately, mice feel the same way about your comfy abode. The very qualities that make our homes attractive to us – food, water and warmth – make our homes attractive to those furry little critters.

While retailers and pest control companies promote tons of mice-killing devices and services (like snap traps, poisons, fumigation and the dreaded glue trap), there are kinder, gentler ways to get rid of rodents -- by preventing the problem in the first place. Prevention makes sense when you consider the prodigious life of mice. In a single year, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) a female may have five to 10 litters of usually five or six young each. Young are born 19 to 21 days after mating, and they are mature in six to 10 weeks. The life span of a mouse is about nine to 12 months. That's a a whole lot of mice from just one trespasser.

The two key strategies for preventing mice are pretty simple: eliminate the food source and block entry into the house.

If prevention falls short and a mouse (or three) does invade, those of us averse to killing small creatures can trap mice live and relocate them to start over in more natural conditions. More on that later.

Eliminate Food Sources for Mice

Apartment Therapy

The first line of defense against mice infestation is to keep the tasty morsels that attract them to a minimum. This includes storing food in mice-proof containers. Store all dried grain and meat in glass jars, metal canisters, or other resealable airtight containers. If you have pets, keep their indoor food dishes covered when not in use. Mice need very little food to survive, so keeping the floor clear of crumbs goes a long way.

A Mouse-Proof House
Even with the house is sanitary and food items in mice-proof containers, the job is still incomplete. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), "No matter how good the sanitation, most buildings in which food is stored, handled or used will support house mice if [they're] not mouse-proofed."

Mice are tiny and can fit through small openings. However, they cannot go through solid walls. Your job is to patch any hole into your house larger than 1/4 inch. As you know, mice will chew through just about anything, so simple caulk won't do the job. The IDPH suggests mixing steel wool with caulking compound for a good plug. For cracks and openings in building foundations and openings for water pipes, vents and utilities, seal with metal or concrete for the best protection.

Also, doors, windows and window screens should fit snugly. You may need to add metal edging to prevent mice from gnawing. Note that plastic sheeting or screen, wood, rubber or other materials that mice can gnaw through will not be effective for plugging small holes. The mice will simply gnaw through them again.

And for the most natural of all deterrents, get yourself a cat.

Live Trapping
When prevention fails, trapping will be necessary.

As mentioned above, you can kill mice in many ways. Some methods, like snap traps, are quick and humane. But others, like glue traps and poison, cause prolonged suffering.

For those of us adverse to killing, it's possible (even for the squeamish) to catch rodent intruders and relocate them to a field 1/2 a mile or so away. Live traps usually include some kind of a pivoting ramp that leads into a metal box with air holes. Aromatic bait (cheese or peanut butter) draws the mouse into the box via the ramp, which pivots to let the mice in and then pivots back to trap the mouse. Many of these traps can catch several mice in one night. Your job is to carry the box to a field, open it and let the mice escape. Wear gloves, keep your hands away from the critters, and clean your hands thoroughly.

One note on live traps: When reading consumer reviews on live traps, you'll notice some products seem to work great for some people, and not at all for others. Could it be that mice in certain parts of the country, or certain neighborhoods, or even certain houses, fall for some types of traps and not others? One suggestion is to try several types of live traps if needed to find one that works.

Here are a few humane traps to consider:

1. Eaton Multiple-Catch Mouse Trap

mouse control, no-kill trapPhoto:

This metal trap costs around $10 and you can use it over and over again to catch multiple mice. To release the mice, you open the lid and let them run out.

2. Mice Cube

mouse control, no kill trapPhoto:

This simple cube is about $10 to $12 for a pack of 4 and is simple to use. Once you have caught some mice in this plastic trap, you simply turn it upside down to allow the pivoting ramp to open and let your captives run free into their new lives.

Humane Mouse Trap

mouse control, no kill trapPhoto:

The makers of this little green house claims it will catch mice when other humane traps will not. it certainly is cute.

Do-It-Yourself Mouse Traps
The goal of most humane DIY mousetraps is to entice mice into a bucket or container too tall for them to jump out of.

Photo: Chris Glass

One method suggests positioning an empty toilet paper roll with bait at the edge of a table and with a bucket beneath. When the mouse comes after the bait, the toilet paper roll pivots from the weight and dumps the mouse in the bucket. If your mice are good jumpers, shredded newspaper at the bottom of the bucket helps cut down on their jumping power.

For another type of do-it-yourself mouse trap, start with a 5-gallon bucket or a plastic trash can. Run a piece of thin string or wire through a paper plate or a soda can and attach the string or wire to either side of the bucket rim. Create a ramp up to the top with sticks or branches so a mouse can run up to the top of the bucket and toward the dab of peanut butter you'll put in the middle of the plate or on the can. When the mouse steps on the plate or can, it will pivot and dump the mouse into the bucket.

Note: After you live-trap mice, they cannot survive without food and water for longer than a few hours. And if you're averse to killing, you certainly don't want to kill your trapped mice, so you need to check the trap every few hours, or provide food and water until you can get out to a field. Make sure you release the mice far from your house or they'll just come right back "home".

If all this seems like too much trouble, and killing mice is not something you mind that much, you can find a plethora of mousetraps at your local hardware store.

  • Alonso

    Please also consider that releasing what normally turn out to be pest, non-native mice that do not belong in the wild, that often they will simply enter someone else's home. It is also illegal in most jurisdictions to release animals onto anyone else's or public property like parks without permission. So please reconsider what you're doing, if you didn't want them around, what makes you think someone else will?!?

  • dman

    there are many types of native mice-some difficult to tell apart.Unless you can tell them apart,they will be 99.9% of the time native species.

  • jenn

    CAT works well.

  • kittylit

    The Mice Cube doesn't give the mice enough air if they stay in there all night. I drilled 5 holes in the top of the cube so that they can breathe easier until I free them in the morning.

  • Jlea

    Paper grocery bag and a long stick. I keep a paper bag on hand for just this purpose. Put bag on floor with opening facing mouse, use stick to nudge mouse to run into bag. Pick up bag and fold down top. Release by dumping mouse out of bag. Cost : $0.

  • Jumbo

    I'm not averse to killing them. The spring traps work great. I wouldn't want to release them; they will just find a neighbor's house to get into.

  • liz

    I have had luck with putting moth balls in the garage and other areas to keep mice out, as well as sealing with the steel wool in small cracks and holes. Also have heard of using downy dryer sheets as a deterent.

  • trent

    i set out some spring traps the other night and i was so excited when i heard it go off...then i ran over to check it out and i felt like such a pu..y when i saw it struggling for is life slipping away. my hardware store didnt have the sissyboy traps for catch and release.


    Expanding foam in the holes and cracks in your house works well,too.

  • Santa

    If you kill them they won't be back. If you don't want me to visit every year just say so. Mice don't give that option

  • Dee

    Avoid using baits to "draw them in". I have an inflatable snake, and a hanging frankenstein (rubber) monster dangling from the back of my basement steps, where I know they've been making entry. Also got some strong cinnamon-scented packs from a feed & seed store. Haven't had any rodent trouble since! Can also use an owl figure. They're very smart when it comes to avoiding danger!

  • ruthsgardens

    I understand that you people don't want to kill anything and neither do I.But let's do the math here.With a female spitting out 5-6 kids at 5-10 times a year comes out to 25-30 younguns to 50-60 a year.They mature in 6-10 weeks.At the worst case scenario she could have all females.That would be 60 females giving birth to 6 kids would be 360 and at 10 times a year would be 3,600 maximum.So let's say 1/2 were male.That would still leave 1,800 a year.Now let's whack off 800 for dying in a year giving us a nice round number of 1,000 mice that could be produced in 1 house.So now take 300 million people and divide by 5 in a household average.That would be around 60 million houses.Multiply that by 1,000 mice.Even factor in maybe 1 in 10,000 houses that would capture and release them buggers.Or factor in that 1 in 100 homes have mice.Make it a thousand.Which would jack the numbers up more.I think you get the picture.And I won't even bring up rats or squirrels.

  • jackl

    Peanut butter on a can that has an coat hanger wire for an axle with a ramp set up to the lip of the bucket. Try filling the buckets with water or windshield washer anti freeze in the winter. They can't jump up from this and they are always dead in the morning. Lift them out with a pair of needlenose pliers. Tails make a great handle. I have had 2 timing belts on my lawn tractor eaten half way through by these pests. At a cost of $300 each time to repair the tractor I really don't much care about being humane or otherwise. Last fall and winter I got over 50 mice, and the teactor has not being damaged since I made this kind of trap. We live next to a farm, so they are unfortunately abundant.

  • Lisa

    Hi. I didn't have time to read many of the posts and I didn't see any that talked about the mouse "traps" that are sticky. When the mice walk on them their feet stick to the surface of the sheet and they can't go anywhere. I used these successfully several years back. I checked the sticky traps morning and evening and when I found a mouse trapped on one all I had to do was pour oil, preferably non-toxic, room temperature cooking oil, on their feet and they easily came off the sticky paper. I then boxed them up, drove them outside of town and set them free in country. These traps are inexpensive but can only be used once although I once caught two mice on one sticky paper.

  • Donna

    I did what Lisa did and used the sticky traps. One year I had a bunch of mice, so I put out sticky traps around the house. I checked them often and I would just put a dab of oil at their feet and would lift them off with a stick or butter knife and drop them into a fish tank. The tank was equipped with food, water, bedding, a wheel and a heavy lid. (I've had small animals as pets before and already had the supplies on hand.) Once I had enough I would drive them far away and release them. I reused the sticky traps several times and did several releases. It worked for me and I haven't had mice since.

  • Tony

    Mice don't eat much. Leave them alone. Poor Mice...

  • Bill

    Are you kidding me? Humane way to rid your home of mice? These rodents are disease carriers.
    Ever heard of hantivirus? Better check it out. Mice should be killed.

  • Tony

    bubonic plague, the mice have been so frendly to humans.

  • steve taylor

    TO the guy that let his mice in his neighbors yard cause the neighbor asked him to keep his dog in his yard. To hear yor story of revenge when you couldnt keep your dog in your yard is really mean and selfish. Your dog is your problem and your answer to the neighbor asking you to keep your dog in your space is not unreasonable. YOu are a rat. I am glad I dont live next door to you as you are a selfish mean liitle man. What a jerk!

  • Lu

    That's what cats are for! Mine get the mice as they come in and it is nature at work!


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