Tales from the Cabin
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Cabinitis: Of Mice and Men...and Cabins

By Lars F
Published: August 1, 2006
Photo by © Linda Bucklin (illustration) | Agency: Dreamstime.com
It is a well-known fact that generals spend many, many days planning finely detailed military campaigns. Yet when a battle finally commences, generally things turn out much differently than planned.
I have been conducting my own campaign at the cabin for 14 years, and I must admit it is not going as I had planned. There is no clear victory in sight. And at this point, the best I can claim is a draw.
The campaign I am referring to is my battle with mice.

Halting egress. When I first purchased my cabin it was a three-season place, and egress for mice was relatively easy. Like a good general, I set out to change this. The first thing I did was completely skirt and seal the underside of the cabin. Then I insulated the underside of the cabin and installed furnaces to heat the crawl space so I could use the cabin in the winter. I still wound up sharing my winter cabin with some unwanted tenants. 

Granted, there were fewer mice than before, and that made me happy. But I still felt that one mouse was one too many.  

Taking the offensive. So I continued my campaign by rolling out the drowning pails. These are simply pails half filled with water with a baited board leading to the top of the pail. Then, suspended in the pail on a wire is a small aluminum can with a wire running through it. This too is baited. When a mouse goes across the ramp and leaps onto the tin can, it spins and drops the mouse into the water, where it drowns. Somewhat cruel, somewhat effective, but it still didn’t quell all the invaders. 

For my next campaign, I elected to use some of the normal mice poisons. This was effective to a point, but it resulted in having to clean out dead mice; yuck. Normal mousetraps were objectionable for the same reason.

Then I went the electronics route. If you read the advertisements, there are electronic systems that supposedly generate inaudible tones that drive mice crazy and force them out of the premises. I thought this was a rather neat idea so I spent a fair amount of money installing one of these systems. Alas, the net result was barely noticeable. There may be some systems that work but the one I purchased was not one of them. 

Then I read that mice truly detest the smell of oil of peppermint. Well, I thought, that’s an interesting concept so I purchased several small bottles and sprinkled them liberally around the base of the cabin. Bad idea! We were literally driven out of the cabin as the peppermint smell permeated everything. Peppermint is a pleasant odor, but not one you want to smell all day long. So I gave up on that plan too.

Special adaptations. The truly puzzling thing is that I cannot find any place around my cabin where mice might be gaining entry. No holes, no cracks, no seams they can slip through, yet, there is always a mouse or two present. They seem to be able to get through holes that are nearly invisible.

Mice also have an incredibly high reproductive rate. Since they are near the bottom of the woodland food chain, nature has equipped mice with a hyperactive reproductive cycle.

There is no question in my mind how predators survive in the north woods because they certainly have a plentiful food supply all around them. In years when the mice crop fails or is reduced, the predators decline accordingly.  

The final solution. What I finally settled on were live traps. Baited with peanut butter, these traps are designed to catch multiple mice. This works because the trapped mice keep calling for help and others enter the same trap.

I’ll generally haul them a couple of miles away from my part of the woods and let them go. I’m happy to report that I have reduced the population so that I seldom have any in the traps these days. But, on occasion, one straggler does get through and sooner or later wanders into one of the traps.

Walt Disney made us believe that mice are cute. Well, they are. They’re also destructive and, mostly, a nuisance. But they certainly have a place in nature’s grand scheme of things so I will put up with an occasional uninvited guest. Generals can’t win every battle!

Lars F. has refused the 12-step plan to control his cabinitis. Only his first name is used to protect his identity.

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