Chores Trapping the Muridae Mus musculus the House Mouse

“Trapping is as old as man with evidence going back more than 7,000 years trapping fed, and clothed them as well as pulled them to explore new areas; 200 years ago it drove exploration of the northwest. Trapper not only did it for the furs but the adventure. Today trapping feeds kids thirst to explore as they learn science, history, and more.” - Brian King M.S.

Nice eating house wiring

A Great First Chore Little Children Can Be a Big Help With and Pre-Teens can do on Their Own

Every home may have an infestation of mice especially in suburban or country settings and should be kept in check to limit loses. Over the years we have had mice contaminate food stores, ruin clothing, destroy books and important documents, strip insulation from wiring, gnaw furniture, and build nests machinery and vehicles. It is a chore that the youngest of kids enjoy doing and truly be a help with. Pre-teens can take on the trapline as their sole responsibility. The skills they learn are transferable to other studies and the teens could turn this chore into a business.

If you have seen evidence of one mouse in your home it most likey has a litter or is part of a litter, so if you have seen one there is likely a half to a dozen more in your home. Yes, trapping mice in your home is a great first chore for the youngest of budding hunters and trappers. A daily chore that I looked forward to each week was hunting squirrels for my aunt but trapping mice is something the kids can do every day in the country or city. It teaches skills, habits, grit, and the discipline they need when trapping and hunting larger animals. They will also learn cause and effect and the critical thinking skills transferable to other subjects. They learn to read the mice’s track and sign, learn the habit of checking their traps daily, they will learn there will be more failures than successes, they will learn that perseverance pays off, they will learn that the more they think like their prey the more success they will have. They will learn the mechanics of the traps. They will learn they must take caution in setting and handling the set trap and experience the pain of getting bitten by their traps when they don’t. These traps will hurt but not injure like the traps for larger animals may. They will develop the safety habits they will need when using the bigger traps. The kids will get rewarded with their needed endorphin and serotonin hits of the day. They will get to explore their home in a new way asking questions about the framing, plumbing, and wiring. Each success gives them added confidence and the pride of being of service to the family get the serotonin hit that comes with it. Parents will learn quickly that their kids are not only doing a chore they are eager to do but are better suited at than adults because they can get into spaces that adults can’t as they’re providing a service to the family that is worth $50 to $150 per month. They learn nature skills from investigating the trapped mouse. They will learn to have compassion for the animal they trap. There is that added benefit that it is safer than using poison around children, pets, and wildlife. Trapping is also much more humane than using poison. There is the added benefit this could not only be a good service to the family but for the neighbors as well. The caught mice can also be used as fishing and trapping bait as well as food for snake and raptors which could give added income to the child. After ridding the family home of mice the now experienced trapping provides a valuable service to the neighborhood and could grow it into a small business.

For an outlay of roughly $50 for traps, a jar of peanut butter and a flashlight, and a hook on the end of a pole is all they need to start what could be a good business and a lucrative career in pest control. The Bureau of Labor Statistics “projected a 20 percent increase in job growth for the professional pest management industry from 2012 to 2022” faster than the average for all other occupations. Pest control technicians make an average of $16 per hour and pest control owners on an average net $100K.

Preteen setting mouse trap
Nice eating house wiring
Preteen placing mouse trap

My Own Trapping Experience this Past Month

After attending Johnny Whisenhunt’s Idaho Fish and Game Instructors class I had heighten interest in trapping and a gift from him of many publications to thumb through. In the November/December issue Trapper Post Magazine had a mice trapping article written by commercial pest control trapper and staff writer for the publication. Reading the article reinforced much of what I already knew about mouse behavior and practices for successfully trapping this tiny mammal. Before we moved in our little forest home was vacant long enough for the mice to become well established inside the home. Toni had been setting sticky traps and over about a month had caught 5 mice but each morning their signs were easy to find in the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom. Off to North 40 Farm Supply and there was a Kness snap trap display I had recently learned of. I picked up a dozen traps. As soon as I got home I put a dab of peanut butter in the pot and set them in likely successful places as I describe below. I checked the traps the next morning 3 sprung 3 mice, 1 sprung 1 mouse, 1 sprung o mice, O sprung, 0 sprung, 1 sprung and 1 mouse; in 2 weeks I caught 7 mice and gone was any evidence of mice in the kitchen or bathroom. It has been a week since I trapped that last mouse so my plan was to leap frog the traps around the house in moving the traps I found I caught another mouse. I leaped frogged the traps around the house. I will give a detailed procedure below. During the our Winter Family Camp 11 year-old Dalainey help with the trapline chores setting traps in hard to reach locations.

To be an Effective Trapper Know Your Target Species

Here is a basic body knowledge of the Muridae Mus Musculus:

  • A group of mice is called a mischief
  • One female can produce 40 young or more per year.
  • Estrous cycle about four to six days long, with estrus itself lasting less than a day.
  • Gestation period is about 19–21 days
  • Litter size is 3–14 young (average six to eight).
  • One female can have 5 to 10 litters per year.
  • The pups are weaned at around 21 days.
  • Females reach sexual maturity at about six weeks of age and males at about eight weeks, but both can copulate as early as five weeks so the mouse population can increase very quickly.
  • Breeding occurs throughout the year. (However, animals living in the wild do not reproduce in the colder months, even though they do not hibernate.)
  • An adult weighs about an ounce.
  • Can leap up 12-18 inches and jump down 12 feet.
  • They travel less than a 10 to 30 foot radius from their nest.
  • Will visit their feed source 15-20 times per day.
  • Mice in your home have no fear of the scent of man and have an interest in new things placed in their path. This behavior of showing no aversion to new objects (neophobia) is significate.
  • In the food rich environment of living in our home they are polygamist (one male and many females) and may be polyandry (one female to many males) in the wild.
  • It is easy to tell males from females in that females have five pairs of teats and male none.
  • Typically mice runs will follow along walls leaving darker greasy path from feet and fur
  • Mice if they can grip it they will climb it be it a vertical wall or wire and have a great interest to climb a ramp to see what is above.
  • Because the critters don’t have a collarbone, they are able to wiggle through a gap as teeny as a quarter-inch thick and under an inch wide or hole a dime size in diameter.
  • Mice gnaw constantly to keep their teeth from overgrowing, mice teeth like other rodents, never stop growing. Chew on this: If they aren’t worn down by gnawing, each of the vermin’s 16 teeth will grow up to five inches a year, so they gnaw just to gnaw on wood framing, plastic pipe, house wiring, even aluminum castings.
  • Mice whiskers are used to sense smooth and rough surfaces, temperature changes and breezes.
  • Mice see best in dim light. Their eyesight is weak, but their other senses are acute.
  • Mice can hear ultrasound up to 90kHz, they can also produce ultrasound for communication between individuals.
  • Mice explore their territory for 12 hours each day,
  • The average mouse consumes 3-4g per day, preferring cereal grains and seeds.
  • Mice may make 20 to 30 visits to different food sites each night taking as little as 0.15g at each site.
  • Mice mark their territory with urine which can be seen with a black light.
  • Some mice will live in our home year round many will move inside mid-Autumn so you might want to up your trapping chores at the end of summer.
  • Hunt for mice nests and learn what the mice are making them with.
Set E-trap

A Better Mouse Trap

What got my attention from my trapping class was a new to me snap trap made by a US company Kness. There are many innovations of this trap that makes sense as to how it would be a fast acting trap having to swing only 90° and not 180° as found on the traditional snap trap, the enlarged trip pan, a trigger and sear that resembles more what you would see in a firearm than on a rodent trap. Made entirely of plastic and steel so cleaning is easy and quick. Setting the trap is very fast and easy and requires no intervention other than pushing the trap bar down. This arrangement keeps the trapper away from the kill bar so even if the trap is sprung in the hand it won’t bite fingers. The yellow plastic on the kill bar is a great feature, When the trap is set the kill bar is up making a convenient place to hook it on the end of a pole to place the trap in hard to reach locations such as under or behind equipment. Our collapsing trekking poles work great for this. The plastic gives it enough friction on the kill bar so it does not side about on the end of the pole. Additional benefit to the yellow color is the ease to see with a flashlight at a distance, if you can see the yellow the trap is set, you can’t the trap has a mouse. I also found out in a little bit of research that not only are their traps made in Iowa but assembled in a sheltered workshop. There are cheaper knock offs of this trap but I want to support US companies that support their local community.

Strategy in Trapping House Mice

Baiting the Sets

Set a dozen or more traps, many of the commercial trappers suggest 2 ½ dozen is a good number. Mark each trap with a number which you will enter on your trapline map, and keep track of the success of each trap. It is a good habit to get into to only handle your traps with gloves on to prevent your scent from getting on the traps, though mice in your home are not fearful of human sent but most everything else you will later trap will be. Most trappers will tell you target animals will most likely avoid any traps or runs with human sent. Also it is a good practice to wear gloves to avoid contact with the dead mice to reduce the chances of contacting pathogens or parasites.

Start with baiting with peanut butter because it is known to be effective, when success wanes try using nesting material such as dryer lint, hair, or attractant lures such as strips of aluminum, flashy anglers hair or any other scraps from your fly tying supplies. Don’t be afraid to experiment also don’t be afraid to go back to peanut butter or anything you have seen them feeding on or building nests with.

Creating Your First Trapline

Find an area of concentration, where there is the most signs of mice, droppings, dark greasy marks along walls, chew marks, damage, urine marking, etc. Most common mistake is too few traps set. Put the largest concentration in the area with the most mice evidence, spreading them out from there. Your sets should be no more than 5 feet apart starting on both sides of where signs show that mice are entering the runs. Put your sets perpendicular to the walls with the trigger pan nearest the wall or splitting the angle at intersecting walls in dark areas and under or behind appliances. The E-traps can easily be baited, set, and put in place with a hook or duplex nail on the end of a pole in hard to reach areas. Make a sketch of the floor with your sets marked like you would setting furbearing traps so you can find them the next day.

Great success should be seen the first night and waning success over the coming days. A good practice when trapping furbearing animals is check your traps daily. In Idaho it is required to check your traps every 72 hours but again 24 hours will prevent loss of the animals and will get the trap working again for you as soon as possible. The Kness E-trap has a yellow plastic cover on the kill bar, when set it is up in the air and can be easily seen from a distance with the light of a flashlight so it tells you if the trap has been sprung. Again handle the traps and dead mice with gloves. The E-traps can be cleared of mice simply by resetting the trap. The sprung trap has the lock bar now above the trap, pulling it back with the thumb to the trigger will set the trap and free the mouse in the same motion. Drop the dead mouse into a freezer bag and mark the bag with the trap number. Reset the trap in the same location and it will likely catch addition mice in the same location.

Uses For the Dead Mice

After checking all you traps use this time to learn as much as you can observing the mice. When you start trapping furbearing animals you will need to document date, location, species, sex, condition, I would suggest measuring and sketch every detail with the first of each sex you catch, measure the length of every detail, weigh each one. In time you will become an expert in the species of what you are trapping. You will learn if there is a difference in the success in baits with time of year or if there is a preference by sex. You can put the dead mice in your sit spot so you can attract and observe wildlife during your sit spot. You may also want to use them for bait for baiting your other traps or use them for feed for snakes and birds. You may freeze them, but remember to ask first. If you continue to trap you will soon have a freezer dedicated to your trapping activities.

Move Your Traps as Success Wanes

Leap-frog the traps from the end of your lines that are not catching mice from areas that have seen the least activity filling in areas where there is a lot of activity and working to and past the outer traps and work around the home in this manner. Keeping this up will pressure the mice to nest and forage outside where natural predators will keep their numbers in check. Keep this up through the winter and early spring keeping pressure on them to be outside to be food for the fur bearing predators. When you feel you have eradicated the mice from your home you may leave a couple traps in attractive areas and check them often. If you catch a mouse you know where to reset your trapstring. Remember if you found one mouse it may have a litter or be part of a litter. You can clean and store the traps for the next season or set a new trapstring in a different area.

In Closing

In Closing Mice were definitely a problem that we needed to address when we moved into our home with in the Idaho Panhandle Forest. Mice evidence could easily be found in most every room. Nothing was safe from them investigating, gnawing, or soiling.

The outcomes of our $40 investment in Kness Snap-E mouse traps and just a few minutes spent each morning for a month of us systematically working our little trapline:

  • roughly two dozen mice were trapped
  • Delainey, an eleven-year-old in our winter family camp got some great experience running the trapline and setting the E-Snap traps,
  • after three weeks of working the trapline daily all sight of mice activity has stopped and now working the trap line has become a once a week chore
  • we gained experience with the Kness Snap-E mouse trap
  • developed some skills and habit transferable to our next trapping adventure

I hope you see that the kids could be a benefit in keeping mice in check in your home, the youngest kids can not only truly be a help with this chore but have fun doing it, and how your pre-teens and teens can take this on as their sole responsibility and know they are doing something of value for the family. I hope you learned some skills which are transferable to other pursuits. I hope the pre-teens and teens could see how this could be a future business opportunity.