Small Mystery Critter in Our House...Help!
November 14, 2011 7:43 AM   Subscribe

We have an unknown critter nibbling the fruit and tomatoes on a counter INSIDE our house (in Miami, Fl). It's hungry enough to eat most of the bait on a mouse trap (say, leaving only the skin on a small slice of pear, as it seems to like fruit), strong enough to somehow move what's left of the bait about 1.5 inches away from the trap, but agile/light enough to not be caught by the trap. No vermin poop nearby that I can see. Ideas what it could be and how to get rid of it?

We live in a single-family house in Miami, FL. Near a canal, property not large but has a fair amount of foliage. For the last three weeks or so I've noticed small bites, gnaw marks, and gouges in the fresh fruit and tomatoes we leave to ripen on a counter above our kitchen sink. Seems like too much for an insect to accomplish but if it's a mouse, it's a very light and clever one. Thoughts on what it could be? The fact that this creature, whatever it is, has been alive for weeks now is starting to freak me out. I don't want it to be building a family under our roof! We have left a baited mousetrap out two or three times with no luck. I did try googling various phrases for this query but all I got was info about pest control in gardens, etc. Any ideas/tips welcome. Thanks.
posted by wordworking to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Assuming you're using the snap-traps, you most likely DO have a mouse. We ran into this problem ourselves. Switch to different traps where they need to crawl inside - two types that worked for me are the simple gravity traps that trip when they go past the middle point, or one that looks like a hockey puck that you wind up (it snaps closed). Also, no cheese - use something else (probably fruit in your case).

Also, look under the sink, in crawl spaces, fuse box (!!) and etc; get the green poison bricks and put them out where you think they are (DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE PETS IN THE AREA).

Once you find where you think they are coming in, foam-spray-insulation-in-a-can fill the area. For us, it was where the wiring came into the house.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2011

Sounds like regular old mice. Old'n'Busted is spot on. Mice can very easily lick the snap traps clean, never triggering the trap itself.

We have had pretty good luck with battery operated traps too.
posted by Max Power at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your prompt and helpful responses. Will check these ideas out. Gotta love MetaFilter!
posted by wordworking at 7:57 AM on November 14, 2011

I live in Houston, which has a similar climate and ecology, and my first thought was those gigantic tree roaches. They eat way more than you would think an insect would or could. I've had them eat huge chunks out of a bar of glycerin soap, even, and it was wrapped in cling wrap. And they have been particularly fierce at my house this year, for some reason.
If that's what it is, you want to sprinkle Roach Prufe (which is just boric acid mixed with some powdered sugar, I believe) along your baseboards and inside your cabinets. Stuff works wonders.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:58 AM on November 14, 2011

Not to freak you out, but in Miami it's actually most likely a rat.

Especially if you have palm trees whose fronds brush your roof. They climb up the tree, drop onto the roof, wriggle into the house, have a snack and then head back out.

Or they build a nest and have their babies under the sink, in the wall behind a cupboard, etc.

This time of year the nights have finally started to be noticeably cooler, so they may be coming inside for comfort and just happening to enjoy a teeny snack while they're at it.
posted by bilabial at 8:14 AM on November 14, 2011

Mice are evil, clever little bastards who are far more capable of evading and overcoming traps than you imagine. I had an exterminator who put down glue traps, formed into a tunnel so it got the mouse on all sides -- and that evening I watched a mouse FREE HIMSELF FROM THE TRAP HE HAD JUST GOTTEN STUCK TO.
On the second exterminator visit (I don't remember if it was the same exterminator or a new one) the exterminator did a much more thorough job, blocking up all entrances, etc., and I never saw a mouse again after that. I lived in an apartment, so it was a no-brainer to call the super and have him get the exterminator, but even if it's on your dime it's probably worth calling in an expert.
posted by katemonster at 8:39 AM on November 14, 2011

This is the BEST mousetrap. I hate mice, but I don't want to really torture them with misaligned snap traps or (god forbid) glue traps, and poison is too dangerous in our urban neighborhood (and we have pets). Our mice visitors would laugh at every other mousetrap we had: old-fashioned snap traps, those plastic ones with jaws, and even those little battery operated ones. The 'live release' traps aren't much better - the mice usually panic, get sweaty, have a heart attack, pee everywhere, and go into shock from being wet/damp and trapped, all the while waiting for you to release it into the city park. Sometimes you'd find them dead in the trap anyway, and some people have told me the traumatized mouse might not even survive after all of that.

This thing is amazing - it's a giant rectangle, with huge vents at the back. You put one piece of food back there - dog kibble works well - and set it along a wall. We've only had to use it twice, but it's worked within hours of setting it out at night. The mice are electrocuted instantly, with no gore and no mangled bodies. You slide the dead mouse into a garbage bag, and set it again. I want to get one for everyone I know!
posted by barnone at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks. The phrase "to build a better mousetrap" is clearly more than merely metaphorical!
posted by wordworking at 1:30 PM on November 14, 2011

I've been using some snap traps made of white plastic that have worked very well. I've caught 5 mice in them, and the wood traps I had out at the same time did not catch any.
posted by yohko at 2:44 PM on November 14, 2011

Have to second the rat zapper. It's amazing. No muss, no fuss, no gross bodies for me to deal with!
posted by coupdefoudre at 3:52 PM on November 14, 2011

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