The Case of the Missing Mousetrap

A couple years ago, when the mice first showed up in our basement, my son insisted we buy no-kill traps and release the critters unharmed into the wild. They were field mice and had found their way in by tunneling into some mulch laid up against the foundation of the house.  Once the mulch was moved, we trapped the mice and carried them off to a vacant lot to live their furry little lives elsewhere.

Now, the mice have returned. When we saw the cute little one with the large ears scurry by the TV downstairs, we brought out the traps again. We baited them with peanut butter, having learned the first time that they preferred this to cheese.  We set the two traps near the TV, carefully placing them so they were properly balanced to trigger the door after the mouse entered.

And for good measure, we set a new kind of trap, one recommended by someone at a pest control company.  This trap consists of a bucket with a ramp up either side and a string placed across the top.  From this string dangles a piece of chocolate, a bait more enticing, the pest control man said, than even peanut butter.  The mouse is supposed to scale the ramp, tightrope its way across the string and fall into the bucket in its attempt to reach the chocolate.  Once you’ve caught the critters, you can take them anywhere you like.

A bucketful of mice.

My children concocted such a trap from household items, the ramps being wooden rulers left over from school secured to the edge of the bucket with duct tape. It took a few tries to figure out how to hang the chocolate from the string. My son tried softening a Hershey‘s kiss (plain, not almond) in his hand and sticking the string to it, but the string wouldn‘t stay put (so of course he had to eat the chocolate).  My daughter eventually skewered a Hershey’s kiss on an unwound paper clip and tied it to the string. Then we placed the bucket in the crawl space next to where we saw the mouse.

The first day, both of the little traps were sprung, but with no mouse inside. When I checked the big trap, I found the string dangling outside the bucket and the chocolate gone. Obviously the system needed refining. We reset the traps, re-hung the chocolate and tried again.

We’ve repositioned the traps and restrung the chocolate a dozen times now.  My husband did manage to catch a mouse in a shoebox when it ran by him in the furnace room, and we released it into the wild. But as it scurried into the woods, we noticed that this was not the mouse we had seen at first.  This one was large and had small ears.  The one we’d seen was small and had large ears.

Two days ago, when we went down in the morning to check the traps, one of the small ones by the TV was missing.  We thought perhaps the mouse had managed to move it behind the TV, so we reset the other one and replenished the chocolate in the bucket.  The next day, we moved the TV out from its niche in the wall to retrieve the second trap.

No trap.

It’s been three days now, and we can’t find the trap.

Mice. They’re smarter than we are.