Spare the Snap-Trap and Have Mercy on the Mice (Article 3 of 3)

October 23rd, 2007 11:56 am by mad mags

While I was disassembling my old blog today, it occurred to me that I never crossposted a few articles I wrote about humane methods of “pest” control from there to here. So, here they be…two years late, but still totally in season. With updated links, to boot.

The articles in this particular series include:
1 – How to Tell If There’s a Mouse in Your House
2 – How to Mouse-Proof Your House: A Natural, Humane, and Effective Form of Pest Control
3 – Spare the Snap-Trap and Have Mercy on the Mice: A Guide to “Catch-and-Release” Mouse Traps

Teh fine print: You’re permitted – nay, encouraged! – to reprint these articles elsewhere, as long as all links remain intact and clickable, and the resource box is included at the bottom of the page.


Spare the Snap-Trap and Have Mercy on the Mice: A Guide to “Catch-and-Release” Mouse Traps
By Kelly Garbato

Summer is slowly winding down; the little ones are back in school, and each day brings with it a slightly chillier frost. Just as you’re preparing to hunker down for the winter, your furry neighbors are plotting to invade your home. If you don’t act quickly, your house could quickly be overrun with – mice!

Though you might be tempted to turn to lethal traps at the first sign of company, now’s not the time to resort to toxic or lethal devices, which serve as an attractive “quick fix.” Rather than relying on poisons or lethal traps – neither of which are natural or humane – consider buying “catch-and-release” live traps instead.

Why Opt for Non-lethal Methods of Rodent Control?

Traditional methods of rodent control, including rodenticides and traps, are lethal to mice and largely unsafe for humans. Rodenticides are pesticides that are designed to kill rodents. However, when ingested, they can also prove deadly to companion animals, as well as other wildlife and even children. Nor are they good for the environment; Americans are so fond of pesticides that they can now be found in our surface and ground water and soil. In fact, pesticides even find their way into the food chain! Moreover, the cumulative toxicity of pesticides is such a concern that the Environmental Protection Agency discourages homeowners from using pesticides before trying preventative strategies.

Lethal traps, while not harmful to humans, prove to be a torturous, barbaric death for those mice unlucky enough to find themselves caught in one. Mice trapped on “glue boards” usually starve to death – or may actually gnaw off a limb in order to escape. Likewise, those mice caught in “box” or “multiple” traps will suffer a slow death due to starvation – assuming that the trap isn’t baited with poisons, of course. “Snap” or “spring” traps don’t necessarily provide for a quick death and may merely injure Mickey.

Catch-and-Release Traps

In recent years, “catch-and-release” or “live” traps have become readily available. These contraptions allow you to catch your houseguests alive and relocate them outside. Prices range from fairly cheap to moderately expensive – and, in general, you get what you pay for. My first winter spent in the country – in a home surrounded on three sides by alfalfa fields, nonetheless – I lost hundreds of dollars worth of food to the resident mouse family. I looked into humane traps, and – naturally – started off with the least expensive model I could find, the Victor M007 Live Catch Mouse Trap. They turned out to be more trouble than they were worth; they are hard to set, go off without warning, and (duh!), as they’re constructed of solid plastic, it’s impossible to see whether you caught a critter without opening the trap up.

I quickly caved in and opted for a more expensive version, the Smart Mouse Trap, which works like a dream: they’re easy to set, don’t slam shut at random, and are made of semi-transparent green plastic, so you can easily glance inside in order to gauge your success. That first year, I caught dozens of little guys, all of which I released back into the fields (I’ve always wondered whether I trapped the same mouse twice!). Although I still get out the trusty Smart Traps every winter, the guests all seem to have departed.

When setting the traps, you must take the mice’s behavior into consideration. Place the traps alongside walls, in storage areas, and next to objects. Leaving them in the middle of a large room would prove pointless, as mice will rarely travel across wide, open spaces. Leave the traps in areas where you’ve noticed a large concentration of droppings or chew marks. Mice rarely travel more than 30 feet from their nests, so concentrate your efforts in the areas where there appears to be activity. Place several traps together for maximum effectiveness. Remember, the more traps, the better – so buy in bulk! You can bait them with any number of food or nesting materials, such as peanut butter, chocolate chips, cereal, nuts, or cotton balls. (However, you should avoid chocolate if you have canine companions – caffeine and theobtomine, both present in chocolate, can prove fatal to dogs.)

Of course, you must be able to check the traps daily; “catch-and-release” traps left unattended are just as lethal as regular box traps! Make the rounds at least once (if not, twice) a day. Establish a schedule and record the location of each trap, if necessary. If you do happen upon an unwitting inmate, either release him outside as soon as possible, or – if the temperatures are dangerously low – keep him a thick plastic box (one with high “walls” and sans lid, naturally!) until it’s safe outside. I find that a medium-sized plastic Tupperware storage box, lined with rags and stocked with cereal and water, works well.

Ineffective Mouse Control Methods

Many concerned homeowners have been duped into buying electronic repellents that produce ultrasonic sound waves or electromagnetic fields and supposedly control rodents. Manufacturers claim that these devices increase mortality in existing populations and/or repel existing and potential mice. However, these claims are not backed by any scientific data, and the Federal Trade Commission has actually accused these companies of making false claims.

Although mice can hear the noises emitted by ultrasonic devices – and the noises may temporarily ward them off – mice eventually become accustomed to the sounds and resume their normal activities. Canines, on the other hand, are more sensitive to these ultrasonic devices, and may actually suffer a loss in hearing from repeated exposure. Furthermore, the electromagnetic devices are absolutely worthless; they’re less powerful than a standard incandescent light bulb, yet are many times more expensive!

Finally, conventional wisdom dictates that felines ward off mice. While they (or their scent, rather) may discourage mice from taking up residence in your basement, cats are usually powerless to eradicate an already-established mouse colony. If you have a recurring rodent problem, it may be a good idea to adopt a cat to prevent yearly visits, but in the meantime, it may still be necessary to purchase a few non-lethal traps to evict this season’s squatters. Of course, adopting a cat from your local shelter is a winning proposition either way – but that’s another discussion altogether!

This winter, have a heart; spare the snap-traps, show your mice mercy, and opt for “catch-and-release” traps.

About the Author:
© Kelly Garbato, 2005; All rights reserved
Kelly Garbato is an author, web editor, and small business owner ( A guardian to five dogs and a cat, her work is largely inspired by (and aims to honor) the human-animal bond. She blogs about environmental and animal rights/welfare issues at and To learn more about Kelly, or to send her an email, visit her personal web site at



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4 Responses to “Spare the Snap-Trap and Have Mercy on the Mice (Article 3 of 3)”

  1. » Blog Archive » How to Mouse-Proof Your House (Article 2 of 3) Says:

    […] in this particular series include: 1 – How to Tell If There’s a Mouse in Your House 2 – How to Mouse-Proof Your House: A Natural, Humane, and Effective Form of Pest Control 3 – Spare the Snap-Trap and Have Mercy on the Mice: A Guide to “Catch-and-Release”Mouse Traps […]

  2. » Blog Archive » How to Tell If There’s a Mouse in Your House (Article 1 of 3) Says:

    […] articles in this particular series include: 1 – How to Tell If There’s a Mouse in Your House 2 – How to Mouse-Proof Your House: A Natural, Humane, and Effective Form of Pest Control 3 – Sparethe Snap-Trap and Have Mercy on the Mice: A Guide to “Catch-and-Release” Mouse Traps […]

  3. » Blog Archive » easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-25 Says:

    […] The PETA Files: ‘Win It’ Wednesday: Humane Mouse Trap “It’s almost spring, the time when a young mouse’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. Next thing you know, you may start hearing the pitter-patter of little mouse feet on your attic floorboards. Now, we know you would never want to hurt one of these cute little guys, but we can understand if some of you don’t want them setting up a love nest in your box of old LPs. That’s why we’re offering up three of our popular humane mousetraps for “Win It” Wednesday.” Kelly’s note: these traps are teh awesome! […]

  4. The easyVegan Weekend Activist, No. 4 » V for Vegan: Says:

    […] Federal Women’s Prison in Minnesota to Stop Using Glue Traps! [For talking points, please see this series of articles I wrote about alternatives to lethal methods of mouse […]

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