Friday, December 10, 2010

The Mouse that Roared

The photo at the left is of a sprung mouse trap found two rooms away from where I had set and placed it; the yummy peanut butter on the trigger completely gone.

The back story: Some sort of little rodent had recently chosen to take up squatting in our vacant house which we have up for sale. Since squinty-eyed little vermin are not a particularly attractive selling feature for a home on the market, the little visitor(s) would need to vacate.

After finding evidence (droppings) around the parameter of the kitchen floor, and bits of chewed insulation from the garage door, I purchased a few of the cheap garden-variety mouse traps, bated them with peanut butter and placed them at strategic locations around the house.

I had every confidence that I could catch the offending rodent as my major in college had been Biology; particularly excelling in Vertebrate Natural History and Mammalogy. I had been on numerous expeditions in the field where I had trapped any number of small mammals including rats, squirrels, bats, mice even a nutria once. My university level knowledge on animal Ethology and the natural history of small mammals would surely be of practical use now after a 32 year career in banking, information technology and social services.

Unfortunately it appeared that the rodents had also availed themselves of studying the predatory habits of Homo sapiens likely in an effort to ensure their survival. For when I returned to check for trapped rodents, I found all the traps sprung and devoid of their bait; the one pictured having been carried victoriously down the hall and displayed as vengeful mocking.

In reexamining the animal’s droppings evidence again I noted that they seemed rather large for a mouse. Perhaps my quarry was larger, perhaps the Dusky-footed Woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes) which I had so successfully trapped in my college days. Clearly what were called for were larger traps.

However, the following morning, one of the large traps had again been sprung, the other, carefully avoided. When I related my lack of success to Nancy, she drew on her Psychology degree and extensive research in college with rats, reminding me that the animal had now been “conditioned” to avoid the traps. This concept ran through the crevices of my brain like a maze – of course... rats had the capacity to “learn”! A strategy would be needed.

The game between the rats has now escalated. I recalled having had previous success with “sticky” traps”; little plastic pans with gooey jelly which ensnares the little buggers. I placed these adjacent to paper plates of enticing peanut butter. But yet again the following morning, the traps remained untouched and the peanut butter uneaten.

At this point Nancy suggested that we call an exterminator. Indignantly I refused; I was not about to let an expensive college education go to waste – I became even more determined to catch that rat.

By this point I had been invested in increasingly costly trap solutions; my military budget required expansion. I obtained a “Rat Zapper”; a trap which lures the rodent into a small box at point it is dispatched via a huge jolt of electricity. The zapper instructions recommended that the bait, resembling dog food, be placed nearby the un-set trap for one or two nights prior to turning on the lethal current. The strategy: to build up a sense of confidence in the little pest so that it would let down its guard, enter the zapper and…

I placed the zapper trap and spread out the delectable fare to attract the little monster. However the next day the bait remained untouched; likewise the second and third days as well. I also noticed there were no longer droppings in the house. Had my quarry decided to move on to more sumptuous digs?

The rat and I decided to mutually retain our dignities ending the the conflict in a truce.

27 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Sometimes they just go away after eating all the food they can get to. I once caught 5 mice with homemade traps and fruit gum bait, but the last mouse left of his own accord. It might have been loneliness.

Infidel753 said...

Against an enemy with brains, you need a weapon with intelligence of its own that can operate in real time to counter the rodents' defensive strategies. Since we don't have mousetraps with AI yet, your best option is a cat.

PeterDeMan said...

it's tempting but I won't say I smell a rat in this story.

The Mother said...

There's a point where personal dignity loses out to rodent adaptive evolutionary qualities. They've been doing it far longer than we.

I pay our local pest control people $100 a year for all the rodent control I can use. I thought it was mob extortion until a family of flying squirrels took up residence in our attic.

Now I think I got off cheap.

DJan said...

Good thing he moved on before the war escalated further. I think you would have prevailed eventually, but now I wonder if it really was a rat and not something else. Well told adventure story.

You've Got to Be Kidding Me said...

I recently paid two different pest and animal control experts to turn my home into a mini-Hiroshima. The results have been questionable at best.

Rain said...

I've had best luck with live traps that look like cages and they have to go clear in to get the bait-- and peanut butter seems to work best. They come in various sizes and then you are only left with the problem of how to dispose of the creature if it is there when you return... We've used it with gray diggers (squirrel like) and packrats in Tucson. The problem I have is I don't like to kill things; so when it's the gray diggers, we took them up the road about a mile where nobody lived and left them to figure out a new lifestyle. Packrats were more difficult and the stories about them have given me more blog hits than any others which says it is a problem in many states.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas Loneliness could have been the motivator. I guess I should feel fortunate that the little guy didn't decide to invite his friends and turn the place into a "mouse party house."

Infidel We had a cat at one time. Unfortunately Angelia was afraid of everything. She saw a mouse one time and hid under the bed.

Peter My friend, you just did!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dr. Mom I just saw an episode of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel about a company that removes animals which have crawled under houses and died. And tho think I used to complain about MY job!

DJan It could have been some other rodent, the footprint size and droppings showed it was larger than a mouse. Putting a guard over the dryer vent may have discouraged it's return as well.

Kidding Yeah, I think one could build a house completely out of brick and steel and some critter would still find a way to become comfortable in there.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain We had a pesky raccoon trying to get the Koi out of our pond. I used a large wire live trap and baited it with marshmallows. The first night I caught a raccoon and drove it out of town and released it. The NEXT NIGHT we heard a noise outside, there was a raccoon (same one??) Trying to reach through the mesh to get at the marshmallows, it would NOT go in the trap; it KNEW it was a trap! We resorted to using a 8" high electric fence around the pond. That did the trick.

secret agent woman said...

I have to admire any animal that evades a trap designed to kill it. I bought a no-kill trap and relocated the mouse we had to a field far away.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent A good solution to the problem, my main concern is Hantavirus.

Stinkypaw said...

I like a story which could have been bloody to end well, thank you for that!

TechnoBabe said...

Too bad there isn't a training film for politicians teaching how to adapt and learn to survive using the thinking process instead of just using mouth before brain. Nice story. It sounds like you have no more mice.
They did provide blog fodder (droppings).

Ponita in Real Life said...

I have a good mouser you could borrow if they come back. She is a former barn cat, so well versed in the wily ways or weenie little rodents.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

We never had a problem with mice, even though we live in a wooded area. That is, until our cat died. Since then, we get mice in the house on a regular basis each fall. We set traps in targeted areas, and they seem to do the job. One thing we have learned, however, is that where there is one, there are more. And the two favorite foods are peanut butter and dog food.
Glad you won by stand off.

billy pilgrim said...

shades of the coyote and the roadrunner. was it an "acme" zapper?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Our visitor turned out to be a rat, slithered in through a heating vent that seems to connect all the apartments like links on the underground railway. Peanut butter and a trap with a serrated edge that would break a human finger...or worse. Not fond of extermination but sometimes it's us or them. But the first attempt with a "mouse" trap must have amused him greatly...thanks for the cheese, so long suckers.

hot girl said...

lovely

Robert the Skeptic said...

Stinkypaw It came out well for the rat, anyway.

TechnoBabe I need to go back and check the house, make sure they haven't opened it up for their friends the raccoons.

Pontia A good mouser is a hard find; our baby, Angelina, was afraid of mice, unfortunately.

Backrow True, mice and rats are communal and they like to share the goods with their friends. Dog food is a great attractant for mice.

Billy Meep Meep !!

Marylinn I never had much luck with cheeze in spite of all the Tom and Jerry cartoons I was Indoctrinated to as a kid. It seemed that live trapping was not a good option in this case.

HotGirl Thanks for visiting.

GutsyWriter said...

You could have called me. I have a rat terrier bred to chase rats. She's never found one in the U.S. If you have iguanas, she's good at chasing those from her time in Belize.

Mary Witzl said...

I remember watching a massive cockroach walk over, under, and around one of those sticky roach hotel traps. What s/he NEVER once did was walk into it. Grossed out as I was, I almost wanted that roach to get away. And it did.

Animals really do have amazing abilities. Others have recommended cats, no doubt, but why not get yourself a pet snake and put a tiny in-only mouse-flap on it? A natural solution to the problem, and you'd have all the entertainment of watching nature take its course.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Gutsy I recall the iguanas in Mexico. It seems they tolerated them because they kept a lot of the insect pests at a minimum. Kind of fun to watch as well.

Mary There is a big controversy in India about killing cobras; they keep the rat population down. Kill the cobra, more rats although a certain number of people there die each year from cobra bites.

secret agent woman said...

Hantavirus? Really? Then a no-kill trap seems like an even better idea. You have no contact with the creature and there's no risk of blood. Or maybe you should do what I do - allow a really large rat snake to live under your house.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent The rat snake sounds like a good idea. I looked at live-trapping but opted not to release an animal which would become somebody else's pest.

I live trapped raccoons twice invading my pond, took them out of town to release them. The next night they were back, donno if they were the same individuals but they sure as hell were wary of going into that trap again!

I don't kill capriciously; my brother-in-law took me rabbit hunting but I didn't see the fun in just killing animals for sport.

Jerry said...

Strategical retreat. To regroup and attack when your guard is down.

KleinsteMotte said...

Well that just proves that rats don't like to be outsmarted. That's why they are called rats right?