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If you’ve ever had a mouse build a nest in your car engine or chew the wiring or insulation in your attic, you know that unchecked rodents can cause thousands of dollars in damage. But we also know that mice and other rodents play an important role in ecosystems. Considered a keystone species, many other organisms depend on them and, if removed, the food chain would change drastically. In forests, fields and deserts, mice are food for a range of predators, and some species of rodents are also primary pollinators.
While the market is full of rodent poisons that are effective, it is difficult to contain that poison and keep it from entering the food chain. Research has shown that rodenticides can travel up the food chain where they can harm many rodent predators including owls and eagles, and our furry companions, dogs and cats. Glue traps are not considered humane because the mouse is trapped alive and so becomes immediately stressed and if not dispatched quickly will die a slow, painful death from dehydration or exhaustion.
Catch-and-release traps are a safe and humane way to get rid of these curious guests. “Look for traps with adequate ventilation and ones made out of materials that mice can’t easily chew through, such as stainless steel or metal,” explains Registered Veterinary Technician Nicole Wilson. “You’ll want to check them frequently to ensure any mice you catch stay caught, and routinely check the integrity of the trap and dispose of it when you see signs of vulnerability.”
Below is a list of the best no-kill, humane mouse traps that minimize stress for both you and the unwelcome mice in your life.
New What to Look for in Humane Mouse Traps
Materials & Type
Generally, humane mouse traps are made of plastic, stainless steel, or a combination of both. “Most budget traps are made from plastic, which unfortunately mice can and will chew through if given the opportunity,” explains Nicole Wilson, Registered Veterinary Technician. A stainless steel trap can last many years and catch hundreds of mice if properly cared for.
Humane mouse traps come in a range of styles. Baited traps lure the mouse while un-baited ones rely on natural mouse curiosity. Both types rely on the mouse walking inside the trap. Some use a weight or trigger system that closes a trap door behind the mouse either with spring action or tipping. Some traps need to be reset by hand once triggered while others, including multi-catch traps, reset themselves automatically.
Be sure to follow manufacturers instructions for the best results, and discard them if they develop cracks or gaps. “Remember, mice are miniature escape artists; they can wiggle themselves in and out of the teeniest spots,” says Wilson.
Because mice carry viruses and bacteria that can be transmitted to humans, you should try to wear gloves when handling a reusable trap to avoid direct contact with the mice and their feces. Wash your trap with hot soapy water between uses.
Likewise, when releasing the mice, avoid direct contact with the mouse. Diseases can be transmitted through bites and saliva.
PETA recommends releasing mice and rats within 100 yards of where they were trapped. Greater distances mean that the mouse may not find enough food and water to survive. Make sure you eliminate their entry point to prevent their return. “Mice (and other wild animals too) will always return to a place they know has food and shelter, and they are super smart,” says Wilson. “It’s best to release them somewhere that has good coverage, like near a forest or bushy area so they have lots of places to hide.”
Traps to Avoid
By far the most popular method has traditionally been the spring-loaded kill trap. These traps use no chemicals and, when used properly, can result in a quick death. We’re too tender-hearted for that, but what’s worse is that these traps often injure, rather than kill, the mouse, causing unnecessary suffering. They also remove the mice from the local ecosystem.
Sticky traps have gained popularity in recent years because they are non-toxic and easy to use. But they are not as effective as many other traps. They are only as good as their adhesive so quality and effectiveness varies widely and they are considered very inhumane because they do not kill rodents quickly. Instead, mice that are stuck can linger and struggle for up to several days, dying only after they become hypothermic, dehydrated, or exhausted.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get rid of mice without traps or killing them?Prevention is the best way to keep mice away. You can lower your chances of being chosen by these freeloading fuzzies by eliminating food sources for them. “Store your food in airtight containers, keep surfaces such as counters, cabinets, and floors free from crumbs, always put away leftovers and make sure your trash can is sealed,” recommends Wilson.
Determine and eliminate their access points. “If you live in an older house (and even if you don’t!) you’ll want to take a flashlight and check the foundation for any cracks, holes, or crevices a mouse could use to gain access into your home,” explains Wilson. “Don’t underestimate the damage if you do find cracks in a wall. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Especially in the winter, when mice are actively seeking shelter from the dropping temperatures, they will chew, gnaw, and squirm through any damaged area.”
Start by filling gaps and spaces in buildings, around trim and other areas with a combination of steel wool and either caulk or expanding foam sealant. Mice don’t like to chew through metal and expanding foam can fill small spaces quickly. But mice can squeeze through a space smaller than a dime so you must be thorough. Some people also have success with natural deterrents, like surface sprays or getting a cat.
How long can a mouse survive in a trap?
“Generally, mice can survive anywhere from a few hours to a few days inside a live trap,” says Wilson. “You should check your traps every hour to make sure any mice you caught aren’t left there too long. When the mouse realizes it’s trapped, it will start to panic and try to find a way out as soon as possible. They can die from exhaustion, starvation, or hypo/hyperthermia if left inside the trap too long.”
Can you clean and reuse a humane mouse trap?
“Yes!” says Wilson. “Another perk to using live traps: you can clean them with a disinfectant and reset them or hold onto them for future use.”
Why Trust Treehugger?
Lorraine Wilde, MS lives on a hobby farm in the Pacific Northwest where she’s had lots of opportunities to humanely trap and release a number of uninvited furry friends. She also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make informed, environmentally-conscious choices to protect our planet.
Nicole Wilson is a Registered Veterinary Technician and owner of Critter Comforts Pet Care in Indiana. In addition to keeping fancy mice as pets and owning dozens over the years, Nicole has worked with mice in both a clinic and rehab setting. She graduated from the Vet Tech Institute in Tinley Park, IL. She has many years of experience with exotic pets and wildlife including interning at the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in Indiana and as a Seasonal Wildlife Keeper at Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Illinois.
Wilson has personally seen the damage inhumane traps can do—not just to “pest” animals, but also other species that benefit and balance our ecosystem. She has helped rehabilitate birds of prey that have unintentionally ingested poison via an infected rodent and many don’t survive.