Tuesday, March 31, 2009

See How They Run - Part One

A month ago I was out in the garage when I heard an odd sound. It sounded like a cross between a humming bird trying to fly through the window and a frog's rhythmic jumping. When it rains a lot and the ground gets really soggy we occasionally see some frogs venture beyond the realm of the creek to as far away as the front of the house; and I had seen one just a few days prior. And we've certainly had our share of hummingbirds "trapped" in the garage trying to exit through the glass window instead of the open overhead garage door.

I followed the sound to a corner of the garage, but it stopped as I approached. I looked in the cabinets - no birds or cats jumped out. I backed away and returned to my task. The sound returned. This time I crept in much more stealthily to avoid detection. Inside an upright 5-gallon bucket was a little field mouse trying to jump out towards freedom. I've got nothing against mice, but I definitely don't want them in my house, under my house, or in my garage. Can you say "hantavirus".

I gave Mortimer some pretzels and Costco dinner rolls while I figured out what to do. I suspected that he was not acting alone. I decided to use him as bait to attract the others.

First off, I needed a quiet place to set up my trap. I moved our Jeep out of the third bay and into the driveway. Upon doing so, I discovered the mouse/mice had been playing inside the Jeep, specifically on the drivers side. They had turned the flag on our off-road whip antenna into Swiss cheese. And there was what looked to be the beginnings of a nest - Owens-Corning pink insulation chunks stuffed into a corner next to the seat.

I've not had luck with traditional, spring-loaded mouse traps. I consistently find them empty of both mice and peanut butter. Brooklyn says I should use cheese instead, since it's obvious they like the peanut butter too much.

Still reveling in amazement at the effectiveness of the 5-gallon bucket at containing the mouse, though not having any clue as to what attracted the mouse in the first place, I turned to the Internet and learned how to make a slick, self-resetting, multi-mouse trap using, you guessed it, a 5-gallon bucket. I had to rig up a little mouse-sized ramp so that they could ascend to the top of the bucket and reach the bait. 

The first version of my trap included an empty soup can coated with peanut butter, suspended and spinning freely on a dowel. The mouse was supposed to jump from the top of the ramp onto the can to get the peanut butter. The can was then supposed to spin and dump the mouse into the bucket where it would not be able to get out. The can is then ready to go for the next varmint.

That didn't work so well. All of my peanut butter disappeared, but no new mice appeared inside the bucket. It was at this time that I noticed, sadly, that Mortimer had passed on. I thought perhaps he had fatally gorged himself on pretzels, or that the salt had raised his blood pressure, or that he didn't survive the nights exposed to the cold as he was. Sara thought perhaps he may have needed some water to drink. All good points.

Another version of the trap called for a paper plate to be set up with a metal hanger such that the edge of the plate rested on the lip of the bucket, spinning horizontally on the hanger. Peanut butter was placed on the opposite edge of the plate. As the mouse left the MDA-approved (that's Mice Disability Act) access ramp and crossed the hanger's axis to eat the peanut butter, the weight of the mouse would flip the plate end-for-end and the mouse would be dumped into Mortimer's tomb. With the weight of the mouse now gone, the plate was supposed to reset itself to its original position.

Mine didn't quite work that way. The plate would stay in its triggered position once activated. This turned out to be a good thing because I could easily glance at the trap and see if there had been any activity. Several times per day I would find the plate in its upright position, but I never caught another mouse.

Then, one night I was heading out to the freezer and looked over at my trap. The plate was gently rocking back and forth indicating current activity. I'd caught him in the act. I spotted a mouse scurrying around on the ground near the bucket. I sprang into action, grabbing my push broom from the wall and a garden hoe. The little guy was fast AND furious. I managed to corner him near the man door, but there were a couple of items in the way which he used for cover. His movement was so fluid, I started to think that perhaps I did not, in fact, have a "spouse" problem under my deck (half spider, half mouse) as I had suspected for the past two years. I poked at the small boxes in the corner to smoke him out. He bolted across the base of the garage door towards the middle of the garage, in between my gas cans. 

Advantage: me. 

There was no way out of the three-sided cubby where he'd gone. He must have realized his tactical error, because before I could take up an offensive position, he scrambled out of the cubby and underneath the behemoth food storage rack/workbench I built. 

Advantage: mouse.

He had bested me this day.

In the diagram below, the mouse is represented by the red line, while I am represented by the green line.

(End, part one)


JAP on a Bus said...

I have to tell you that I just randomly came across your blog, but I'm hooked. I love it. You are hilarious. I'll be following along your journey.


Lainie said...

That is hilarious. I can't wait to find out the rest of the story!