Wanted: dead or alive

When it comes to rodents, homeowners have a choice

When the pack rat came through the doggy door at Kathy Danchuk's Heffley Creek house, she knew she had some trapping to do.

While Danchuk loves the natural area where she lives, she wanted nature as a neighbour - not a houseguest.

She headed for Purity Feeds in Kamloops and confronted by a wide variety of devices designed to rid us of unwanted rodents, made a choice, a non-lethal one.

"I didn't want to kill it," she said.

She baited the live trap and in quick order, had trapped the pack rat inside. She and a friend walked it up into the bush and let it go.

In the days that followed, she caught two other pack rats around her house and offered them the same free trip to the bush.

"(The live trap) worked," she said. "We're softies. They are cute. Some of our neighbours think we are crazy."

It appears many others in Kamloops feel the same way.

Mary Ellen Dalgleish, Purity Feeds' staff "mouse expert," said more and more people are choosing live traps over more traditional kill traps to deal with pesky mice, squirrels, moles and pack rats. Kill traps are still popular, out-selling live traps by about two to one, but live traps are gaining ground.

A quick scan of the store shelves reveals a number of different types of live traps. They do the same basic thing, however - they encourage a small, furry animal to come in, and they don't let it out. The mouse is unharmed and can be released later.

Not that live traps can't be lethal; they can, she said. In fact, some people use live traps to catch mice then drown them in the trap once they are caught. Why? Well, that way you know the mouse is gone and hasn't sneaked off into a wall somewhere to die, like rodents do when poisoned.

Live traps can be lethal as well if they are not checked regularly, Dalgleish said. Mice will live four or five days inside a live trap, then they die. An unchecked live trap is more accurately called a slow-death trap.

The other reason some people prefer live traps to lethal ones is that they can catch a lot of mice. A decent sized live trap will hold 20 mice, although once again, they must be checked frequently, as mice trapped together will start to turn on each other, creating a whole different kind of horror for the trapper to deal with.

"They will start to eat each other," Dalgleish said.

For those who use live traps in order to release mice alive, the key to success is to let the mice free far enough away from your house.

Letting a mouse go on the edge of the backyard isn't good enough, she said, they will quickly return to structures. Mice and rodents are looking for food and warmth this time of year, she noted, and if you let them go, you have to ensure the critters are far from where they started. At least a kilometre is best.

Dalgleish has used live traps in the past, but concedes she prefers kill ones. She has had no shortage of experience with mice at her rural log cabin.

The simple spring-loaded metal-bar snap trap is tough to beat, but there are more modern alternatives that can be used over and over again and are much easier to set, she said.

The one kill trap Dalgleish doesn't like much is the glue trap, which uses a sticky glue pad to ensnare a mouse and hold it fast.

"They are a horrible," she said. "You sit there and hear the rodent squealing."

This year has been a big year for mice and pack rat populations, she said. Rodent populations follow natural cycles and seem to peak every several years.

( rkoopmans@kamloopsnews.ca )

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News