Where mouse go?
January 31, 2011 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Quick! Where do I release a live mouse (or maybe rat). I live in the city.

Just caught a live mouse in a humane trap. It's scared, skittish.

Where should I let it go? Moderate climate in summer (Australia), so cold is not a problem.

Key deliverable: mouse's welfare. Somewhere with minimal cats or rodent bait, but some shelter. No car.
posted by dontjumplarry to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't want to hear this, but if you release it in the city it's just going to find it's way into someone's house again.
I don't really see how this can possibly end well for both your neighbors and the mouse at the same time, unless you can get it outside of the city somehow.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2011

There's no such thing as a humane trap. Your possible outcomes when you release the critter are:

1) Eaten by a cat or other predator, after some minutes or seconds of horrifying prey-terror.
2) Run over by a car
3) Dies of starvation/other natural causes very soon unless it can find a food source, which brings me to...
4) Gets into someone else's house. They either kill it quickly and humanely with a trap, or release it (restarting the cycle) or their cat plays with it and slowly kills it over a period of however long it takes the cat to get hungry or bored.

I'd strongly recommend an airtight container, into which you place first a cup containing vinegar and baking soda, then the mouse, then seal the lid. A quick death by asphyxiation is, in fact, the best fate the critter can hope for, unless it manages to find a house where nobody will kill it, and instead just contaminates their food and gets them sick.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:46 AM on January 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Not only do mice prefer to be inside someone's house, but this mouse presers to be inside your house. I do not have personal or scientific evidence to back this up, but I've been told that dropping a mouse a mile from your house is not so far that he won't head straight home again. So in any case, far. Across water, perhaps?
posted by aimedwander at 11:48 AM on January 31, 2011

Hi! I'm vegetarian, too. I have caught and released mice before, but not in a city. This might be the opportunity for you to take a nice bike ride or bus ride out to the countryside.

Another alternative would be to take up tomorrowful's advice and then find someone with a pet snake. (via Facebook? Craigslist? There are ways.) They presumably have to buy mice that led a much less fun live than your mouse, so it would be like them giving their snake a free-range mouse instead of a cage mouse, which in turn means that there's a tiny bit less reliance on caged-mouse-growing operations. So it wouldn't benefit your particular mouse, but maybe it would benefit some mouse somewhere.
posted by aniola at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is also the possibility that somebody on Craigslist wants it as a pet?
posted by aniola at 12:04 PM on January 31, 2011

Releasing the mouse in a city means it will find, enter, and infest someone else's house. Either that or die, painfully, at the jaws of a predator. Putting its welfare first means valuing your own squeamishness above the health, propety and inconvenience you will cause to others. The responsible thing to do it is to kill it as painlessly as possible, and with minimal handling so you are not infected with any disease. I was going to suggest drowning, but the baking soda and vinegar idea is great if you can make it work.
posted by Dasein at 12:13 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you take public transportation to somewhere further away and more wooded?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2011

I've released mice into parks before. Do you have parkland nearby? Please don't kill it. I"m utterly appalled at all these cruel comments, including one with a suggestion of drowning! Drowning is NOT humane, and neither is asphyxiation.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:21 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your possible outcomes when you release the critter are:


I don't think that this is true, for the reason that rats and mice do exist in the city. Some of them appear to be breeding before they become cat food or road kill.
posted by goethean at 12:25 PM on January 31, 2011

Drowning is a lot less of a good idea, as the mouse will be able to stay above water until it tires, and will be terrified the whole time. Speed of death is the key factor in killing something humanely, when you don't have access to the kinds of drugs and training a vet would use to put something down.

"Humaneness" is relative. There's really no option here that's 100% warm and fuzzy, for a wild animal that's almost certainly quite unsuited to being someone's pet. Asphyxiation isn't a good option - it's the least-bad of several bad options.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:28 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mice have crazy homing devices. If you release it, it might even make its way back to your house.

Your call, but be forewarned that releasing it may not got rid of it.
posted by zizzle at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2011

When my traps pinioned a live mouse (back before I got my cat and he rid the house of mice) I used to throw the trap in a bucket of water. No, I did not enjoy it, but mice and rats carry disease and they are prolific breeders.
posted by orange swan at 12:48 PM on January 31, 2011

If your suggestion is killing it painfully and with no regard for its suffering because it carries disease, please go elsewhere. I did specifically mention that the aim was the mouse's welfare; consider that I (and many others) see no meaningful difference between the suffering of a mouse and a cat or dog; they probably have roughly the same perception of pain.

Tomorrowful, I'm not averse to humane killing if that's the only option, but it's by no means assured that it will die horribly if I let it go. It's been doing pretty well in our back alleyway for the past few months. Visiting occasionally (not living in the house).

There will be no feeding alive it to snakes. Jesus Christ.

I think it's a juvenile rat by the way.
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've always just chucked them outside. A pest control guy once told us that most important is rodent-proofing -- seal up easy entry points, keep food in non-chewable containers, don't leave stray pet food out. He was right, once the critters had no more tasty, tempting reasons to come into the house, they stopped.
posted by bunji at 1:04 PM on January 31, 2011

I think either humane killing or coexisting with it in your house are the only really good options for the rat's welfare. Letting it go means it will probably die an unpleasant death -- rodents need shelter. The rat you caught in your trap had a kick-ass shelter somewhere, whether it was in your wall or in a hole out in the alleyway, but you (understandably) don't want a rat sharing your resources and its germs. If you let it go far from its hidey-hole, it won't have anywhere to live, and rodents deal with homelessness even worse than people do. It's a long shot for that rat to be able to find a safe, comfy shelter that isn't already occupied, before cats/dogs/Rodent Control/etc. comes around. This is why I typically just kill rodents that come around my house; letting 'em go into the great outdoors is really about as humane as if I dropped you out in the middle of rural Iowa, in winter, in your pajamas, without your phone or wallet, and said "Go out there, kid! You can make it on your own!"
posted by kataclysm at 1:19 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sure probably everyone would see this as wacky/going too far, but if you really want to reduce mouse suffering, I think what would end up having the biggest effect is getting the mouse sterilized before releasing it. You could also have the vet put it down humanely instead.

When I was catching mice from my apartment in NYC, I'd just walk down to the river about a half mile away and leave them in a little cardboard box there with some food. I don't know if they ever came back - if the subsequent mice I caught were new ones or the same ones, but I think in a city it doesn't matter much, and I think it's also pretty impossible to ensure a wild animal's safety once you release it back into the "wild," whether you're in a city or not. No matter where you place it, well, it's going to leave there and go somewhere else.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:22 PM on January 31, 2011

For what it's worth, the vinegar and baking soda approach isn't very humane, perhaps we can come up with a variant that is as simple but uses a different gas?
In one of those quirks of evolution solving a problem indirectly, animals detect asphyxiation not by how much oxygen is in the air they're breathing, but by how much C02 is in it. More C02 than usual triggers the "I can't breath! pAnIC!" response. Conversely, so long as you don't introduce CO2, you can remove as much oxygen as you like without an animal noticing (hence divers still use SCUBA despite all the disadvantage compared to rebreathers, because rebreathers are so lethal - they scrub the CO2, so if anything goes wrong with the O2 you'll never notice anything amiss, you'll just die.)

So I'd suggest a reaction that fills that container with something inert, like nitrogen. (Hydrogen perhaps? Easy to make, but it floats upwards and mice fall downards). Filling h container with CO2 is not really humane. Removing the oxygen is.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:43 PM on January 31, 2011

Once I asked a "humane trap" company guy who came around collecting rodents from live traps from a restaurant I worked at what he did with them. He told me that by the time he got to them, most had starved to death, and that, if memory serves me correctly, he threw the rest in lakes. I know he did mention throwing live rodents in lakes, but I'm not positive that that's what he did. This is what the "humane" rodent-catching company suggested, and it didn't sound like a good idea to me. I let mine free in the forest next to my cabin after the crumb-leaving cabin mate moved out. They came back once, and didn't come back the second time.

For the record, I was advocating following tomorrowful's advice on killing it humanely, and only then giving it to a snake. My first option is still to go on a field trip to outside of town.
posted by aniola at 2:17 PM on January 31, 2011

A park? Or buy a hamster-type shelter and keep it as a pet?
You could also call the humane society and ask them for suggestions.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:22 PM on January 31, 2011

aniola: sorry, I misunderstood you! That's a very reasonable suggestion.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:29 PM on January 31, 2011

Filling h container with CO2 is not really humane. Removing the oxygen is.

Not necessarily. According to this anyway rodents may be more sensitive to low-oxygen conditions than humans, making any form of oxygen-displacement asphyxia potentially as distressing a death as suffocation by CO2 or drowning.

Please set aside the amateur chemistry suggestions. Seriously, people.

Killing is not humane, and ironically the more humane tends to be the more hands on - drowning is no less humane than any other form of suffocation and likely to be faster and less easily screwed up, provided you hold the thing completely underwater, either by sacking it first or submersing the whole cage, but in either case completely immersing it in water with no possibility of it getting above water, meaning you hold it down as it struggles and fights. Not nice. And hard to avoid the reality, in that scenario, that you are literally killing the thing, rather than just putting it into a situation where it dies. Likewise, you want the gold standard for fast and relatively painless, it is cervical dislocation, although there is a possibility of screwing that up. Also of being bitten. Personally I'd use a killing trap in future or focus on prevention of entry.

The same conversation, previously, pretty much the same conversation (for real, always the same one) you're going to get every time this is brought up.
posted by nanojath at 2:36 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

"House" mice are very capable of living in open fields. Releasing a mouse in parkland does not guarantee that it's going to make a dash for the nearest house. Killing it is not an evil act, but releasing it will probably make you feel better.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:38 PM on January 31, 2011

I have no idea about your climate, but some possibilities might be:

Park, as mentioned
Empty lot
Area behind a shopping center, away from the building
Around dumpsters where you don't see traps

I think that there are always dangers for any wild animal. Look for places to hide and for food sources.
posted by Agatha at 4:34 PM on January 31, 2011

Please don't give the mouse to a pet snake. Most snake owners will not appreciate their snake ingesting the potential mites/parasites/poisons this wild mouse contains, and most captive-bred pet snakes used to eating frozen captive-bred feeder mice will not appreciate their dinner fighting back.

(This is why passive feeder mice are not the same breeds as pet mice. And why cats "play" with their live food: they're not being cruel, they're cautiously poking to make sure dinner's really dead before putting sensitive face/mouth organs in close proximity to sharp, bitey mouse teeth.)

If you are really at a loss, you could always call animal control, or a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. They will probably look at you funny / tell you to kill it, but may be willing to take the mouse from you if you bring it in. And a wildlife rehabber dealing with (very territorial) squirrels could give suggestions on where / how far away from houses to release the mouse.

Please wear gloves and take care when handling the mouse & trap. You don't know what kinds of mites and parasites it carries, and especially if it dies (from shock/stress/starvation/whatnot), they will be all too happy to jump to you.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:53 PM on January 31, 2011

after belatedly realizing your location, since squirrels are an invasive species in Australia, you're unlikely to find wildlife rehabbers sympathetic to them. And in that vein, house mice are also an invasive species in Australia, so setting this one free may do more harm.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some info on whether it's a rat. If it's a black rat (Rattus rattus, and they come in brown, buff and grey too) it'll do fine outside in summer in Australia basically anywhere there's some cover and a source of water. They're an invasive species, but they've been here as long as Europeans have, and they're here to stay regardless of whether you bump this one off or turn it loose.

They're super-adaptable. Anywhere with underbrush will do, pretty much, and even if there's just a storm drain nearby they'll do okay for water. (I am not, myself, a fan of feral rats, but I understand your reluctance to kill this one.)
posted by gingerest at 6:21 PM on January 31, 2011

Oh man, dontjumplarry, I am with you on humanely releasing that poor mouse/rat. Mice/rats are part of the urban ecosystem. Releasing this little guy is not going to cause a plague or sow disease and destruction. It is a kindness to a small, frightened creature.

A few times when my family has live-trapped wild rats in our house, we took them to a nearby park at dusk (less people around), found some spot with a decent amount of plant cover and places to hide, then opened up the trap and waited for the little guy to exit. We figured this gave them as a good a chance as anything. The park was less than a mile from our house, but we haven't been overrun with returning rodents or anything like that.

Good luck to you. I think you are doing a good thing.
posted by spiny at 6:43 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bring it to a park. This is what I have done. And I feed the creature before hand. so there....
posted by fifilaru at 6:58 PM on January 31, 2011

I've been faced with a similar situation, and I've researched the relocation option (mostly because I'd rather do that than mess around with an execution). Releasing the rodent into a new environment will make you feel better, but it's likely a death sentence anyway. You're tossing a creature into a strange environment that is almost certainly supporting what it can by way of small rodents already. And the rodents that are already there have the advantages of being familiar with the area and having shelter in place. Your rat would starve, but for the fact that it'll likely get eaten as it spends its first night shivering out in the open.

The only reason that the area you're releasing would not be supporting its full potential capacity of rodents is because someone is killing them off, and you're just making their job harder while not improving your rodent's lot. That's why it's illegal where I live to relocate vermin.
posted by Nahum Tate at 7:12 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Drown the mouse.

Why I came to that recommendation, and why I would do it if I were in that situation:
- the mouse would die eventually
- the mouse, lacking any sort of complex consciousness, has no significant expectations about it's future self (i.e. by killing it, you are not robbing it of its dreams of retiring with the wife and their 10,000 grandmouselings)
- by killing it now, you prevent the 10,000 grandmouselings, many of which would die before adulthood.
- the mouse likely won't be missed by its mousey family.
- the possible outcomes for the released mouse aren't very bright (see Tomorrowful's post)
- a quick and efficient drowning is as painless as a mouse can hope for, excepting it dying as a pet.
- mice are not endangered by any stretch of the imagination, so the loss of one doesn't harm the species.
- Once drowned, the mouse would likely make good snake food, if you know someone with a snake

So if you're looking at this from a utilitarian viewpoint, you have the brief suffering of the drowning mouse, plus your own turmoil from committing the act, against the high probability of it dying in a more painful manner later if you release it, not to mention the offspring that it would likely produce in the interim, which would also likely die in a painful manner as well. The possible offspring would not benefit the rest of the species, and would likely put an increased strain on existing resources of the other mice in the area.

The idea of paying a vet to have the mouse sterilized, recommended above, is ridiculous.
posted by Homo economicus at 3:34 PM on June 1, 2011

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