There are over 4,000 U.S. Patents for mouse traps. The history of the modern mouse trap admittedly pre-dates patent archives, but evidences the modern extension of warfare between human and rodents that span the entire recorded history of humans.
The oldest patented mouse trap in the US Patent office was a spring loaded jaw trap, the Royal No. 1 (1879), that functions much like a smaller version of a wild game trap (think old foot hold trap) with, perhaps, the jaws starting in a more closed position. It was probably effective on both the mouse and the user’s fingers.
The classic spring-loaded mousetrap came about in 1894, followed by different patented variants up to 1899 when the design was patented specifically so that the trap can be set or adjusted with the safety of the user in mind. The idea was that striker would not catch or injure the user if accidentally released.
Parallel the snap and kill traps were a variety of no-kill traps designed to with a variety of doors designed to close when the mouse enters. The non-lethal bucket trap is usually designed to have floors that drop out when a mouse enters, dropping the mouse into a bucket.
Other successful mechanical kill traps that have come about: choker traps, twist traps, and the lethal bucket trap. The choker trap generally relies on a loop that spring loads up while a mouse is within a tube or tunnel and the mouse hits a trigger at the end of the tube or tunnel. The twist traps typically have an opening to the bait between two spring loaded cylinders. As the mouse enters the twist trap and hits the trigger, the cylinder twist in order to close the openings that were originally aligned. The lethal bucket trap works much like the non-lethal bucket trap but simply the bucket is filled with water.
Beyond the mechanical traps, we now have poison, sticky or glue traps, and electronic lethal and non-lethal traps. The electronic lethal traps may use an electric shock to dispose of the mouse, and/or an electronic sensor or motor to activate devices similar to the mechanical kill traps. The electronic non-lethal traps intends to use electronic sensors, actuators, or motors to trap the mouse.
Why so many devices? Mice (and rats) are quite intelligent and can become accustomed to one or more trap designs. Nothing is more frustrating than to find out that the field mice in your attic have somehow gotten a rodent version of a Ph.D. in trapping technology. Some tips for the frustrated are:
- Read the instructions for the traps. Some traps like sticky traps may come pre-baited. If bait is added to the trap, the mice can actually use the bait’s oils to escape from the trap or prevent themselves from sticking to the trap. This is usually evidenced by tiny foot prints of bait on the surface of the sticky trap.
- Be patient. Sometimes the trap has to be baited but not set a few times to make the mice comfortable with coming and taking the bait. Once the mice are taking the bait, then the trap can be set.
- Bait carefully. Field mice that may not be accustomed to humans may avoid bait that has human scent. It’s recommended in this case that the bait (typically peanut butter) be placed on the trap with a utensil, not your hands. Also, the bait and trap may need to be handled with gloves.
- Try a variety of traps. Rotate the traps.
- Sometimes the traps need to be secured or weighted. Many traps are designed for the domestic house mouse, but larger varieties of mice can actually drag away traps and pull themselves free. The trap may need to be tied (with floss for example) to a nail or a weight (a block of wood or a brick).
If all else fails, there are always professional exterminators that can be hired to assist.