Mouse in my House
October 23, 2010 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I caught a mouse. Now what?

An appointment has already been made for pest control to come to my apartment—three days from now.

The mouse was huddled up against the baseboard in my hallway (completely out in the open—it might have been asleep). I put a small, clear plastic box over it so it can't get away. So now what do I do with it? I'd prefer not to kill it. Should I just take it to Central Park (four blocks away) and let it loose?
posted by ocherdraco to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
just let it go outside.... or, if you need a walk, take it to the park.
posted by HuronBob at 11:32 AM on October 23, 2010

Should I just take it to Central Park (four blocks away) and let it loose?

If you don't want to kill it, yes.
posted by royalsong at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2010

Put baking soda and vinegar into a small cup, and slip it under the box, then weight the box down.

The carbon dioxide produced will asphyxiate the mouse painlessly.
posted by Mwongozi at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2010

That's about the same as what I would do, although I'd consider not walking that far unless I really wanted to, if there were other options closer ('across one main road' was my guide in the city).
posted by Lebannen at 11:37 AM on October 23, 2010

If you caught it easily in the open, there's a good chance it's sick. Try not to handle it and dispose of it as far from home as possible.
posted by Ahab at 11:43 AM on October 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

The carbon dioxide produced will asphyxiate the mouse painlessly.

Unfortunately not so painlessly:
In severe hypercapnia (generally PaCO2 greater than 10 kPa or 75 mmHg), symptomatology progresses to disorientation, panic, hyperventilation, convulsions, unconsciousness, and eventually death.
posted by hangashore at 11:43 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'll just take it to the park. Thanks!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Mice can actually find their way back "home" over a surprisingly long distance, like a mile or more. You should probably go further than four blocks.
posted by Emanuel at 11:47 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a big park.

Besides, I let a couple of mice out about a quarter (not even .4) miles from my cabin when I was living in Sequoia, and they didn't come back. Maybe something ate them, though.
posted by aniola at 12:01 PM on October 23, 2010

It'll die anyway if you let it loose in a strange place. Just bop it on the head.
posted by fshgrl at 12:03 PM on October 23, 2010

If you let it loose in the park and something bigger eats it then at least it served a purpose. If you kill it yourself then it dies needlessly.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:11 PM on October 23, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Mice can actually find their way back "home" over a surprisingly long distance, like a mile or more. You should probably go further than four blocks.

I used to work in this ancient loft that had a periodic mouse problem. We would mostly trap the mice by balancing peanut-butter-doped paper towel tubes on the edges of desks, etc., over garbage cans. In the morning you have a can full of live mice.

There was a debate about what to do with the mice. Generally, people didn't want them killed, but also, some people held that the mice could find their way back from super far away (I remember 'mile' being the unit of discussion, which no one wanted to walk with a garbage can full of live mice, through Manhattan). So, we got a bottle of really bright nail polish or paint and started marking all the mice we caught, and then we'd set them free a couple blocks away. (I generally did the letting-them-go, and I'd let them go in a vest-pocket park about two long blocks from the loft). This was in an office full of engineering people so once we thought of this experiment, the argument was immediately replaced with everyone's shared curiosity. We never caught a single marked mouse. This leads me to believe three possibilies:

1) Mice can't actually find their way back home from very far away at all.
2) Somehow, putting a small paint dot on a mouse's back severely reduces the mouse's chance of survival: maybe the paint kills them? Maybe hawks can see them better?
3) Somehow, the mice were removing the paint from themselves. This seems very unlikely to me.

Anyway, get yourself some paint and you can continue this experiment and together we can crack the code of mouse home-finding!
posted by jeb at 12:12 PM on October 23, 2010 [44 favorites]

Similar to elsietheeel's comment, I don't suppose you know anyone who owns a snake? I wouldn't kill it needlessly, but a lot of things like to / are going to eat mice anyway.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:38 PM on October 23, 2010

Don't feed a wild mouse to a pet snake. You might introduce some nasty illness that wouldn't necessarily be found in a mouse bred in captivity.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:01 PM on October 23, 2010

Oh oh opportunity to post David Mitchell's solution!
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:02 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You called pest control over a single mouse? Heh... In New England, we pretty much take it for granted that you'll have mice in the house, at least in the winter. ;)

Also, as an alternative to the CO2 suggestion, butane works well as an asphyxiant, and acts as an anesthetic as a bonus. I used to use it before feeding (store-bought) feeder mice to a pet snake (really dumb snake, he got injured more than once by his food). Sometimes they'll convulse a little, but nothing really violent or painful-looking, just some mild twitching before that last turd pops out as if to say "done!" like an oven-timer in a turkey.
posted by pla at 1:27 PM on October 23, 2010

I am having the same kind of problems, except I don't live four blocks from Central Park. We just found another hole on the other side of the decorative fireplace and I also discovered that mice will chew through ketchup packets you didn't realize you had dropped under the chest which doubles as your coffee table and eat the contents.

I am also eagerly awaiting the answer to this question. I am far too hard-hearted to want the buggers to live, but far too squeamish to kill them myself.
posted by TrishaLynn at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2010

When I found two mice in my apartment during last years garbage strike, I stuck one in the freezer, as I think hypothermia is not a terrible way to go, the poor little guy would just drift off to sleep and never wake up. Painless and fairly quick.

Just don't do what I did with the other one, keep him in a jar and try to feed him and name him billy pilgrim. Setting him go in the park I'm sure did not lead to a happy life for him.
posted by custard heart at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2010

I'd prefer not to kill it.

Then you may not like thinking about what'll happen when the pest control people get finished. There will definitely be some killing going on then, possibly either a very painful death from poison or a prolonged bit of stress and starvation and injury from a glue trap. You might want to consider buying a bunch of cheap catch-'em-alive traps, and of course keep a close watch on them so there isn't the suffering inherent in being trapped in a small space for several days. They're easy to transport to a block or so away, and easy to empty.
posted by fish tick at 3:09 PM on October 23, 2010

I live out in The Woods, where mice are forever finding their way into your home and car all winter long. This is a big topic of conversation out here.

It's generally accepted that the most humane thing to do is use a snap trap. It kills them instantly. If you are squeamish, you can set a snap trap inside a paper lunch sack. Just pick up the whole thing and drop it in the trash.

On the other end of the spectrum are glue traps. The less said about which, the better. (I find it hard to believe it's still legal to use them.)

Somewhere in the middle is your collection of drowning, freezing, and asphyxiation deaths. None of these is as painless or as quick as a snap trap.

If you find yourself in possession of a live mouse, and you aren't willing to kill it, then you have only two options:

1. Open the box and dump it back out on your floor. ("Seeya, little dude! Have fun dropping turds in my silverware drawer!")

2. Take it far away.

Many people will argue that option #2 is not in fact a very nice thing to do, for various reasons. Some people feel that mice cannot adapt to a new environment. Others call it "making it your neighbor's problem instead."

These debates are all well and good, but what it comes down to is: are you going to kill it? If not, then your only option is to extradite.
posted by ErikaB at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nothing says it will automatically die in the wild if you let it go. Try to find a sheltered bit of groundcover for it and it may do well, who knows. Please as least give it a chance.

The OP explicitly said that they preferred not to kill it... I've never been so disgusted and disappointed by comments before. It's true the little dude might not be so healthy if he was slumped out in the open, but put it in the freezer? Crush its skull? Are you kidding me?

It's possible the poster has no control over whether the pest control people are sent to his/her apartment... this is often the management's prerogative. And the possibility of it not surviving in the wild can in no way be the equivalent of your drowning it in a bucket. Why not take an awesome video of the act like so many sub-humans have...
posted by mostlybecky at 4:34 PM on October 23, 2010

I'm with mostlybecky. These comments are disturbing. Why the hell would you put a mouse in the freezer. It came from outdoors, so just put it back outside. Then fill any cracks or crevices where the mouse might have gotten in. What's so hard about that? Why would you kill a living creature if you didn't have to?
posted by Surinam Toad at 5:51 PM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It's in Central Park now. (Unless it's in a belly somewhere.)
posted by ocherdraco at 5:56 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just kill the damn thing. A mouse set free is still a mouse that can reproduce and/or turn into someone else's problem. Pest control will be killing them, one way or another. If you wish, kill it quickly to be humane. Crushing the skull, while ugly to think about, could be very humane. Really, you're doing nobody any favors by letting it free.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:27 PM on October 23, 2010

Nothing says it will automatically die in the wild if you let it go.

Except every bit of scientific evidence*. Not to mention that if it doesn't die right away and it reproduces it's probably not a native species to start with. Which is why it's illegal to transport and release fish or animals into the wild pretty much anywhere. How do you think North America got overrun with Old World animals to start with?

*I'm a biologist.
posted by fshgrl at 11:43 PM on October 23, 2010

I've "relocated" wild mice about 300 wooded meters from my house and had them return within a day (I could tell because one had a notched ear). They do have a remarkable homing instinct.

But yeah, dumping them somewhere is most likely a death sentence anyway. There's no nice way to deal with unwanted mice.
posted by klanawa at 12:10 AM on October 24, 2010

At only a slight tangent (rats not mice), Robert Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants is an amazing and delightful mix of nature writing, history, journalism and biology.

It covers how and where the rats of New York live, how they get in to apartments, how city administrators have dealt with them, how exterminators and architects work to control them, and much much more.

It's really worth a read if your preferred option for pest control is catch and release.
posted by Ahab at 12:28 AM on October 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Heh. I work for the company that publishes Rats. It's one of my favorites.

All the holes are stopped up now, and with the exception of one mouse that seems to have died of natural causes behind our trashcan, the problem is at least temporarily solved without having to kill the mice.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:18 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's just brilliant ocherdraco. Problem solved, and some lovely internet synchronicity to boot!
posted by Ahab at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2010

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