Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Long Tale of the Mouse House

When you live in a house that is over 100 years old, when your basement is a dirt basement, and where there are all kinds of holes leading from outside to in and from basement to living areas, you can't really be shocked when you get mice. Last year, when we saw the tell-tell signs of their little "trails" we weren't shocked. We never actually saw a mouse, though I'm guessing now when I look back I might've heard a couple and not known it at the time. This year however, we were SHOCKED!!
Apparently, if you have mice one year and don't do anything about it the following happens: when the male mice leave for spring and travels of adventure and food, leaving wives home to try and clean out winter's mess, they join up with the other male mice from the neighborhood. During the day they rummage through compost piles, get chased by cats and have bravely duels with birds of prey. At night they like to camp together where, over a large mouse-sized bonfire, they drink and swap stories. Well, apparently, our male mouse was QUITE the drinker & talker (which kinda fits in here at the Blue Nymph). He bragged and bragged about life and lack of poisons as well as no house cat. He continued to tell his tales while drinking, eventually drinking himself into a stupor and passing out. Here is the photo his buddies have posted on the internet:While he slept it off though the other male mice got to talkin' and decided that they were tired of risking their lives with cats and D-Con. They wanted to see how good it really was here! And so, much to the female mouse's surprise, the male mouse not only came home in the fall with all of his buddies, but all of their families as well. We've since found little broken-down mouse-size wagons in the yard and now we know where they came from!!
So, you can imagine our COMPLETE shock and awe (some of the new mice were originally Texans) when we started seeing the mice. They'd come up in the half-bath in our bedroom through a hole in the floor, they'd run across the living room, and they'd scurry through the kitchen. They quickly found where the chicken feed was kept and made themselves quite fat on it ~ we put it in a rubbermaid bin only to have them laugh and climb up the sides, then we put a lid on it and to their dismay they haven't been able to get into it anymore. We'd even begun hearing them in the wall, thumping around and making the wall sound as if it is going to come crashing down if we were to try and hang a picture.
Being environmentally minded as we are, we didn't want to put out poisoned bait. Getting a cat was out for a couple reasons: 1) allergies, 2) we have a one-week long tolerance for cats, and 3) there is no guarantee the cat would be a good mouser. The suggestion of getting a black snake and letting it live loose in the house was met with enthusiasm from Justin but VERY quickly squashed! The use of peppermint oil as a deterent was good, but not enough and quickly became costly. We did get live traps, though Jomo ate one of those. We seemed to be having quite a hard time catching the mice (words spreads among mouse colonies!). A snap-trap was nixed since they can sometimes decapitate the mouse and leave a bloody mess, we have nosy dogs, and if you note the post below, we have nosy little boys!
Finally, after searching the internet we came upon something called "Shake Away" ~ I was skeptical, but it says to be all organic and natural. It won't hurt pets or plants and so on. They also offer a 120 day money back guarantee. It is made of/from predator urine/scent, so it makes the mice think there is a fox or something living nearby and scares them away. We ordered the kit, which comes with little stockings to make balls for hard to reach places, a scooper, and gloves. We've gotten that put down now and it seems to be working, though we did see a big increase in the mice we were seeing as they were running around quite scared and not sticking to normal paths. Last Thursday I went to lay down and heard a crunching beside my head on my nightstand. We were luckily able to catch the bugger, and found the "best disposal method" - drowning it. It is the most humane thing we can think to do. (And though I am not terribly girly, I did yelp and jump when I heard and saw it .. you would too if it was that close to your head!!)
We've also found the proper bait (peanut butter!) and learned to put it just inside one end of the live trap, which is then shut, making the mouse walk through the one open end, hopefully springing the trap. Last Friday Justin managed to catch 5 in the trap. All were quickly drowned except for the last one. Justin ignored my advice to place the trap in a deep plastic bowl filled with water, and instead tried dumping the mouse out of the trap into the water. He ran off behind our microwave instead. We did catch him later (we think).
We are beginning to think we're getting successfull at ridding ourselves of the mice. I was able to catch 7 mice yesterday, but they were all tiny babies. All the parents seem to be long gone now. In fact, I caught 3 in one trap!!! Quite a shock when I was dumping out the bodies.
All of this mice catching and drowning has had an interesting effect on the boys. They were quite curious at first and so we explained it as honestly as we could while keeping it as simple and age-appropriate as we could. They were at first quite interested, though now don't care as much. Tristan has happily waved and hollered "bye-bye" as he would to anyone, and in general they're used to seeing the trap in the water and know I'm drowning a mouse. Shannon did tell his Grandma that he had to protect Tristan from the mice. This leads me to my last little bit. Apparently, Shannon didn't follow his own words. I was making dinner last night, with dishwasher going and (I'll admit!) tv on, while the boys were occupied with Noggin. Suddenly I heard Tristan screaming and crying and Shannon hysterically yelling "MOMMY, MOMMY!!!" He was yelling something else, but I couldn't make it out, and so I assumed Tristan had fallen and hurt himself. I went running in there, to find them on the couches, hysterical. The mouse trap sat open on the couch beside Tristan. Apparently a mouse had been caught in the trap, and Tristan was "trying to help" or just plain ole curious. Either way, he had it on the couch with him and accidentally (?) opened it, only to find out what happens when you do that!! The mouse jumped out and onto Tristan before running off.
Shannon was straddling the couches, trying desperately to keep his feet off the ground but in true kid-logic not having the sense to just sit on ONE couch. Tristan was on the little couch sobbing and screaming. I picked him up and tried to sooth him. This took quite a long while, involved me taking him into the kitchen with me, singing to him, and then ~ because holding a crying 2 1/2 year old while you're trying to drain pasta and make baked spaghetti is NOT a good idea ~ plopping him in his high chair for crackers. By now I was trying to not laugh too hard at it all.
This morning I went to check the trap again to find the dogs' had found it once more and licked the peanut butter out (at least that is what I PRAY happened!). So it is cleaned out, and has been freshly filled, and waiting more hungry and scared little mice. I have seen one more today, coming out from under the couches to check for kid-dropped crumbs on the rug. Hopefully I will catch him. The Shake Away people said to give it a full 2-3 weeks to see full-effect, but we're pretty hopefull at this point. Let's just hope that next spring and summer, if there is a male mouse leaving here, that he will have a very different story to share with all of his buddies!!

*Update as of 2/8 ~ The Shake-Away stuff really seems to be working. We've talked with them via phone for recommendations about the mice running around very crazy and their staff was very helpful. We were told the mice may be trying to "relocate", so if we've found a new spot where they've taken up, we've placed a little Shake-Away in a dish. So far, no returns. Hopefully we are truly near the end of this saga and we'll know what to do next year.*


Em said...

This is a really funny tale. Thanks for sharing! Also, thanks for leaving a comment on my site about my broody girl, Cutie Pie. I have found that the peanut butter does work the best in luring the little visitors into the live traps. We had 3 in our house this winter and got them all in one night!

Carole and Chewy said...

Some of your mice may be refugees from an event at our house, aka The Great Mouse War of 2005. We actually had a sheet on the bulletin board with a tally - the final score was mice 17/humans 1.
The final insult was when I went to dig out the dog food, and a mouse popped up out of the food and smiled at me. And we have 5 dogs and three cats, none of whom cared that the mice shared their food. (Carole from BRFUN)