Mice: frequent questions


What’s the difference between a mouse and a rat?
The easiest way to distinguish them is by their size. For example, one of the most common rats, the Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) weighs up to 1 1/2 pounds, while an adult House Mouse weighs around an ounce or so. The mouse has more delicate features and a more pointed snout. His tail is also thinner, while the rat’s is thick and very noticeable. Rats and mice probably had a common ancestor, but there are chromosomal differences, too, and they can’t interbreed. They aren’t “friends.” In fact, rats will kill and eat mice.

About mice and diseases
House mice can inadvertently help spread some diseases, such as typhus or salmonella. They are not connected to hantaviruses, however, as are the deer mice. Your chance of contacting diseases from any species of wild mice is very low, unless you put yourself at risk by handling them or inhaling their dried droppings. All mice should be respected for the important role they play outside, but promptly remove any that invade your home. If you happen to handle a mouse, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward. (If you trap mice humanely to be released outdoors, don’t touch any baby mice. Mothers will kill those who smell of human scent.) By the way, a recent study reported in New Scientist, July 4, 2009, shows that the greater the mammal diversity in your yard, the less chance that Deer mice will be infected with hantaviruses.

What’s the difference between House Mice and Field Mice
“Field mouse” is a name for a number of different mouse-like rodents. In the U.S., it usually refers to the Meadow Vole, who is larger than a House Mouse and has short legs, small ears and a short tail. Coloration ranges from silver-gray to dark-brown. Voles belong to a different family from mice.

About making a pet of a wild mouse
Wild mice don’t make good pets, they’re nervous and skittish, can’t be easily “tamed,” don’t want to be handled and getting away is always on their mind. There will be no pleasure in it for either your son or the mouse.

The kind thing to do is release the mouse early in the morning, after feeding him some breakfast. Turn him loose in protective cover, i.e. tall grasses, brush pile, undergrowth. If he was caught in your house, release him several blocks away (mice can be amazing at finding their way back home.) Any areas the mouse has touched should be thoroughly cleaned, including hands.

Why not kill mice, they’re vermin? 
Perhaps our web name says it all! We’re all about wild-life, not wild-death. And, we don’t consider mice to be vermin. It’s our position that they play an important role in a wildlife habitat and should be left alone. Of course, we don’t want them in our homes, and when that happens they can be caught humanely and released outdoors.

Outdoors, there are non-lethal, common-sense ways to control rodent populations, such as eliminating potential nesting places and easy sources of food for them. A wildlife-friendly yard plays host to many predator animals that feed on mice, which helps to keep their population under control.

How can I humanely remove mice from my house?
Look for their trail of small, oblong, black feces along baseboards; this marks their traveling lane. Place a live trap baited with peanut butter along the trail. Some live traps are designed to catch only one rodent at a time, but traps are available that will catch and hold several at a time. (These require you to wind them up. When a mouse steps on a trip-bar, he triggers a metal plate which moves forward and throws the mouse into a holding chamber. Take care not to over-wind; 10 turns is about right.)

Release the mice into tall grasses at least one mile from your house or they will find their way back (no kidding) and second time around they’ll be wary of your trap and harder to catch. Release them early in the morning so they’ll have a chance to get the lay of the land and build a nest before nightfall. The grasses will help shield them from birds of prey. You can also try putting peanuts in the bottom on a deep bucket. Set the bucket on the trail and place a couple of boxes as steps to the top of the bucket. Once in the bucket, if it’s deep enough, the mice can’t get out.

How to humanely remove other wildlife from people spaces