(201): On Humane and Inhumane Vermin Control

Image (cropped) by Jeremy Noble via Flickr. License.

Warning: This might get a little gross, so if you’re squeamish, click away…click away!

OK, now that THAT’s over with, I was sitting in my living room watching an episode of Blake’s 7 with the husband, and all of a sudden I heard a telltale SNAP! in the kitchen. That’s all right, I think; we got a mouse. I figure I should go dispose of it, but I’m not too quick about it. I wait until I’ve finished wrapping a tube of pennies (yeah, it’s THAT kind of a month here) and then I go to check out the trap. It turns out that the bar has snapped onto the mouse over its lower body, so that it is still fully conscious and writhing in the trap. (I didn’t realize this until I had gathered it up and put it in a plastic Ziploc bag — then it started writhing).

I closed the Ziploc bag and grabbed a heavy duty rubber mallet that just happened to be sitting on the entryway table waiting for its turn to be useful. I gave the mouse a couple of hard thwacks with the mallet through the bag, making sure it wasn’t moving anymore. I hate to see a little creature suffer, even if it is vermin I’m trying to kill.

Which brings me to my next point: if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might not have thought about it. But years ago, we bought glue traps to deal with a mouse problem at another house (college town — they’ve got every sort of critter and usually all together in the same house). One day I came home and saw a mouse struggling on a glue trap. I had no idea how long it had been struggling. It got its quietus with a hammer. But I felt bad that it might have lain there, trapped, until it died of starvation. Bad way to go.

After that, I refused to use glue traps for vermin control. And although I imagine poison is an unpleasant death for the critters as well, I don’t use that for the reason that we had one crawl up inside a wall to die. It smelled for a long time (it may have been a rat).

The handy Victor snap traps are the most reliable quick and painless method, but even they aren’t foolproof. I had merely become complacent because the mice I’ve caught in the last 5 years or so have all gone quickly in the snap trap. But I was reminded tonight that it hasn’t always been so. I remember a particularly harrowing event quite a while back.

A mouse had gotten its tail caught in a snap trap, and it was dragging it around the bedroom at about 3 a.m., making an annoying noise that was sure to wake my husband if I let it continue. This was back during a time when he had a particularly bad work schedule and had to get up in less than 2 hours. So I tried to be quiet about taking care of the mouse. I managed to gather it, kicking and squirming, into a bag and took it into the kitchen.

It is very difficult to be quiet when trying to bludgeon a mouse to death. It turns out my efforts to be quiet made the poor thing’s demise a bloody and awful affair. It took several attempts, until I became convinced that what remained of its movement was mere reflex.

I felt soiled afterwards, and I couldn’t help but feel like I should apologize to the mouse for making its death so agonizing and prolonged. I don’t feel bad for killing mice; one has to do it to keep them from potentially spreading disease by leaving their droppings around where we live every day. Also, they had wrought havoc on some stored grains (in an upper shelf of the kitchen cabinets no less!) They’ve got to go.

It seems that nothing beats the old traditional Victor snap traps, not those weird fake cheese yellow plastic dealios but the real, basic pull-it-back bar, hook and bait setup. Just prejudice, I suppose. Oh yes, I’ve found that the best bait for the Mus Musculus Tennesseensis is a bit of a Tootsie Roll. It’s sugary and really, really sticky. I’ve tried marshmallows on the same principle, but it seems they prefer the Tootsie Roll.

And with that, I bid you a fond nightie night, y’all!

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