Me and the Mice

I don’t hate these little critters. In fact, in dealing with them the past couple of years I’ve become sort of fond of them. This is not to say I want to share our home space with them or support their free-loading ways in our RV either. But over time I have come to see how they all have different personalities and respond to the stress of being captured in a variety of ways. And I have spent many hours researching all the different ways of repelling mice…I will get to all those methods in a short while.

Using humane traps to capture and then release the mice was something I started doing after a pest control company came out, sealed up the obvious cracks in our basement, and set regular snap traps to eradicate the mice. I had to deal with collecting little mouse carcasses out of the traps, and I am here to tell you that they don’t always kill the mice quickly. Quite often the mice would have been caught by just one leg. I won’t go into more detail than that…but you get the picture. It was just more than I could bare. So…humane traps found their way into our home.

Free, now what?

After a few weeks we had no more mouse activity in the basement, no sounds of scuttling in the walls, and all was well.

A couple of years later, we purchased an RV. We named her Dora, took her for a spin across the country, ended up in Arizona for a few weeks and then cut our trip short and scurried home because of COVID. Dora was parked in her spot outside under the trees. And then we discovered there were mice in the RV. We could only hear them…in the ceiling…and so the mouse wars began.

We pulled out speakers in the overhead storage compartment and searched every nook and cranny, finding two nests. After thoroughly cleaning out the spaces I put pieces of peppermint oil soaked cloth in every imaginable place, and that was the end of ceiling noises at night and the beginning of our RV smelling like a stick of peppermint gum.

Watching each other.

Because mice live in the underbrush all around our house and RV parking spot, we figured that the mice would make their way back into Dora at some point, so I took window screens from the house and taped them all around the RV, pushing sand and gravel up over the bottom of the screens and taping closed every tiny opening with packaging tape, and then taping the screens onto the sides of the RV, making a point to seal above the wheels. I made a small, sealable doorway area so I could place mouse traps under the RV at night and capture any clever little critter that found a way in. And every morning I would check the traps, and almost every morning I’d have one mouse to release. It was a decent enough arrangement…catch them on the way in, before they made a nest.

Screens taped onto the side of the RV.

And so I settled into the routine of evening trap-setting and morning mouse-releases. I found the favorite food for the mice is a variety of seeds and raw peanuts. I tried some other foods like cheese and peanut butter suet, but the seeds and nuts were the winners, hands down.

A few times I found that the mice had released themselves. One time a mouse had actually chewed a hole in the side of the plastic container and escaped through it. Several other times they had chewed the plastic latches off the doors, and opened the doors for themselves. My solution has been to tape all the doors on the traps closed…since most of the traps have had the latches chewed off anyway.

It’s been interesting seeing how the mice respond to the door being opened for them. In some cases it takes just a few seconds before the mouse comes flying out and runs off into the underbrush, while others sit hunched up and unmoving. It can take these timid ones quite a while before they begin to sniff the air and move cautiously forward to their freedom. I’ve had some mice walk out fairly casually, stop and give me a long look, and begin to walk towards me. I encourage them to move in the opposite direction to me. And sadly, the stress of capture was apparently too much for one little guy to cope with and he died. And on three or four occasions it seemed that I had a dead mouse on my hands but perhaps they were just in deep shock because they were still breathing. These little ones were placed on a soft patch of leaves and covered with a large leaf to keep them out of view while they recovered. Except for one special little shocked mouse…I lay it on some leaves and watched it’s tiny little torso expand and contract with each little breath, it’s eyes closed. I ran my fingertip gently down it’s tiny body and it squeaked. I wondered if it was registering fear at being touched. I took some sticks and built a miniature lean-to over it, covered the little structure with leaves and left it alone. Within 30 minutes it had recovered and run off.

It seems most of them eat a lot of the seeds and nuts as they wait out the night. Some work on freeing themselves by gnawing on the walls of their trap. It reminds me of how some people, when backed into a corner, come out swinging, while others go quiet and freeze in fear. Different responses for different personalities. I observed one mouse cautiously exit its trap and go straight into the vacated trap that was positioned next to it. I just waited…he found his way out a second time.

Out one trap and into another…

These little creatures are also very cute. They are tiny, soft, have big innocent eyes, long whiskers, and sweet little hands and feet. I don’t want to hurt them, but I would like to make our living space unattractive to them in some way. And so the research into repellents has been ongoing. So far these are the methods I have tried: peppermint essential oil, cinnamon essential oil, mouse sachets, LED lights under the RV, ultrasonic plug-ins, bounce dryer sheets. I’ve tried them separately and all together. It seemed like the peppermint oil worked for a short while. At this point though, the mice will walk over the dryer sheets, around the peppermint and cinnamon oil cotton balls to get to the seeds in the traps. At some point we will need to crawl under the RV to try and find entry points that can be filled with expanding foam…

…until then, it’s me and the mice.

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