As summer continues, so do the “varmint wars” as we fight the local rodents over our garden produce. A neighbor recently asked about traps, which got me kind of long winded in the comment section. That’s impetus enough for me to expand on the topic here.
We set standard household mousetraps for voles and field mice. They’re inexpensive and cheaply made, so they tend to fall apart quickly. The staples holding down the spring seems to be the weakest point. On some, the pressure from the spring pulls them right out. Using them outside does nothing to extend their life, either. However, we’ve used some of them for years, and when they work, the do the job well.
We bait them with peanut butter. When we moved here, we found a #10 can of the stuff left behind by the previous owners. Its seal had failed, so we wouldn’t eat it, but we have no compunction against feeding it to critters we’re intent on killing anyway. They love it, but we have to be careful in applying it, or they’ll sneak up and lick the pressure plate clean without ever setting it off. Most of the plates are plastic panels shaped and colored (ridiculously) as a piece of Swiss cheese. Mice don’t actually like cheese, it turns out, but they love peanut butter. We goosh the spread down into the holes of the faux fromage to make it a little harder for the rodents to get a consequence-free meal.
Michelle used to stake the traps into the soil with a stick and a seine twine lanyard to keep injured animals from dragging the trap off. She stopped that after a weird incident in the strawberry patch last year. A vole got trapped by the hind quarters, but didn’t die. Instead, it circled around on the stake, chewing plant stems through the arc (maybe grasping at them for purchase? It looked like revenge to us). It literally mowed a crop circle into our patch before expiring, causing more damage than if we’d just let him have a few berries.
The worst incident came when a song bird got caught in one of the traps. We were so horrified, Michelle actually stopped setting traps in the garden for a while. The bird got caught by the leg. We managed to free it, but it was crippled. However, for the rest of that summer, we saw it in the dooryard, foraging on one leg as happily and successfully as any other bird. The resiliency of nature is truly amazing. It reminds us that our pathetic attempts to stem the rodent tide will ultimately fail.