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Someone has built a better mousetrap.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

One of today's humane mousetraps - a clear-plastic green box - goes by the name, "The Smart Mouse Trap."

One wonders whether it will catch dumb mice, too.

It's something to think about, if you've suddenly got unwanted occupants. Colder temperatures are pushing mice inside: Assuming you intend to leave their little necks intact, how best to catch them?

Anyone who has heard a mouse scream - and they do scream - might think twice about the classic spring-loaded killer, which doesn't always do the job completely, never mind cleanly.

A colleague recalled an in-law who caught mice with sticky paper, but didn't have the heart to kill them ... so he tossed them into the freezer.

Sticky paper and sticky boards, in fact, can be decidedly inhumane in the hands of an inattentive homeowner; leave a mouse stuck to the trap for too long, and it'll dehydrate and starve to death, and how could that possibly be good for your karma?

At Down to Earth garden store in downtown Eugene, clerk Carl Haga generally gets four customers wanting humane traps for every one seeking skull-and-crossbones solutions, although that's perhaps because of the store's reputation for stocking humane varieties.

He'll sell you small, cheap traps that tip or close shut once a mouse enters, but his favorite is the "Tin Cat," which costs $15.99: The galvanized metal box holds up to 30 mice and the deluxe model comes with a clear top, so you can look in on the action.

As with the sticky paper, it's important to empty the box regularly, lest its hungry little occupants turn on one another with cannibalistic intent, perhaps making you reconsider having purchased the deluxe model with the clear top.

Haga also stressed the importance of washing the mousetrap after each use. Mice can release a hormone that says, "I'm caught, I'm trapped," alerting others to avoid the area, Haga said.

"Some may say that's not true, but that's what we've heard," he added.

Ross Penhallegon, an agent with the Oregon State University-Lane County Extension, couldn't confirm that, but didn't exactly reject it, either.

"I don't know of any odor, but with most animals there is a stress communication," said Penhallegon, whose agency is a resource for many areas of the natural world. "You catch anything, it'll start squealing on you."

Keeping mice out means removing outdoor food sources and sealing the house, a sometimes daunting task given that mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel, Penhallegon said. In semirural and rural areas, the sight of one mouse suggests there are - conservatively - at least 20 more unnoticed.

Penhallegon couldn't be convinced that humane traps are, by their very nature, humane: What's humane, after all, about relocating a mouse from the warmth and safety of your home to a field, where it may become dinner for a passing hawk?

Helen Marie and her husband, Tim Shearer - both 52 - found themselves on opposite sides of the ethical coin last winter when a mouse entered their Eugene home.

Marie's cat dutifully removed the intruder, and the couple invested in more than a dozen mousetraps to secure the house: 10 spring-loaded classics and three or four humane ones.

They found only one more mouse, months later, dead and dried out in the garage, apparently dispatched by one of the killing mousetraps.

Marie and her husband were still sparring playfully over the matter last week.

"They have a right to live somewhere," she said. "I just want them to be out."

"It's a pest," he countered. "I don't kill people, but I'll kill mice. You can quote me on that."


Various traps include the Tin Cat (top), which can hold as many as 30 mice; the Tip Trap (left); the Smart Mouse Trap (right) and the conventional spring-loaded trap (bottom).
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Title Annotation:General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 5, 2004
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