When the weather changes from moderate to cold a mouses thoughts evidently turn to going indoors for the winter. I know this because I have live trapped hundreds of the little critters in the last ten years, most in the few weeks between Fall and Winter, when frost is first thick on the morning grass.
As you might imagine, in all this time I've learned a thing or two about catching mice and helping them to survive the experience. Sometimes, though, I still screw up and inadvertently hurt one of my temporary guests.
The biggest boon to their health and survival is something I realized last year. Since I have these small furry visitors so often I can sometimes be casual about releasing them. For the program of live trapping to be effective, I have to take the mice miles from my home before letting them go and sometimes I have caught as many as 3 or 4 in a day. To keep this from disrupting my life, I hold them captive here till I am going somewhere for some other reason, like work, shopping or visiting a friend. Sometimes, especially on weekends that could be 36 hours or more after the mouse is caught. They often enter a state of high anxiety and excitement because they are trapped. This leads them to exert themselves trying to escape and waste a lot of energy and water. Long time visitors were often listless when released. A few have even died awaiting their freedom.
That is ironic and sad. Here I was going to so much trouble to keep from harming them and I ended up torturing the mice for long periods before releasing them in such a depleted condition that they had little chance for survival. Then sometime last year I got a big idea. To keep them both fed and hydrated while they are in my care, I slip apple slices into the cage. This is an amazing aid to them. They settle in and don't try to escape as much, so evidently the apple slices are somehow soothing. Now, I can keep them for days if necessary since when given daily apple slices the mice are uniformly vigorous at their time of release. Every one leaves the trap in good spirits.
This last part astounded me. Living in the country for a long time I have caught all manner of animal. Woodchucks, raccoons, squirrels, even a skunk once or twice and it is not surprising that these larger animals will be so flipped out when they are caught that they don't even eat the bait food that attracted them in the first place. They go on a stress induced hunger strike. Not so with mice. Either apples are so intoxicating for mice that they universally cannot resist them, or they just have very sturdy appetites, but for whatever reason, I have never had a captive mouse who did not eat all the apple I cared to share with him. Not one.
This week I did make a costly mistake, though. When I got home from working late on Wednesday night, there was a mouse in a trap in the kitchen. Since I had been gone for 14 hours there is no telling how long he had been here and it would be another 10 hours till I left again, so I cut the rotten part off a couple of bruised apples and fed my little charge. I also set out another trap. This is key to eradicating the problem of an infestation. Laying out traps till there are no comers for 3 or 4 days. Mice are pack animals and follow each others trails. Usually the first one or two caught will be the larger adults. Ensuing captives are smaller. I guess babies looking for Mom and Dad.
Sometime in the wee hours a baby entered the second trap and was caught. I didn't find him till morning. Knowing I'd be leaving in three or four hours I didn't bother giving him anything and that was my mistake. Hours later when I released my two little friends the adult who had received apple and was with me for about 28 hours was in fine form, scampering away when released. The baby who had only been with me at most 11 hours and most likely much less, was listless and disoriented, when I opened his trap. He was so dispirited that he didn't run away at all, so I picked him up and carried him to what looked to me to be a good spot near water and shelter. I feared for his survival.
So now I have a new rule. Everyone will get an apple slice or two while staying at Chateau Ray regardless of whether their release is imminent or far off. I guess it is just good manners on my part to offer guests something, but now I realize it may actually save their lives!
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