A GROWING CONCERN: ‘Drew the destroyer’ — a mouse tale of battle

SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE been quizzing me about mice because this menace has descended on their gardens. With that being the case, let me tell you once again about “Drew the destroyer,” a tale recounted originally in my April 19, 2015, column.

A huge ornamental garden that I designed and built was finally overrun by mice this late winter after vermin had been amassing for more than a year in the surrounding acres of Sequim hay fields.

The problem was the fact that a dear family pet resides among the gardens as well.

Although kept out of the actual flower and ornamental beds by the modern technology of an electric (invisible) fence, poison was nevertheless not an option because the mice, succumbing to the deadly bait, could have staggered out into the clutches of Rosie, the beloved canine, and caused catastrophic collateral damage (a dead dog).

Yet something had to be done because the bulbs were being devoured and I, being fully aware that the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, was still determined to rid the 72,000 bulbs in the spring garden from the gnawing teeth of the gluttonous mice.

I was ready to seek out better well-being for the garden.

I had no love of soft furry things if they endangered the flowers, and so many local Olympic gardeners have expressed their same worries revolving around the ever-so-hungry mouse. I set out to find an effective solution.

For whom the bell tolls? It tolls for the mus musculus, the common mouse.

I knew that to fight these vermin, it would be a brutal war, two factions fighting over and for the same garden.

Absent poisons or dynamite, behind the enemy lines I had to go.

Good old-fashioned snap traps were the mechanism of destruction, baited with chunky peanut butter as any experienced camper or cottage owner will tell you.

Chunky peanut butter is cocoa chocolate, Maine lobster and tenderloin steak all wrapped together as far as a mouse’s pallet is concerned.

Mice cannot resist chunky peanut butter. It sticks incredibly well to the flapper of the trap; thus the mice cannot pull away the bait before the slamming spring-loaded bar whaps them hard.

Chunky peanut butter also lasts for days on end, is an attractive and fragrant lure, and is therefore very cost-effective.

The garden was massive, and estimates from myself, the owner, workers and a fellow gardener put the count estimates between 62 to well over 200 mice.

Needless to say, not only could this have become a fur-laden folly, but at what cost would near-eradication have been in money and ever-so-precious gardening time? If it were even possible.

I wanted to see how effective trapping could be, how much time it would require and at what efficiency rate time, traps and dead mice would end up being.

I’ll jump in here to say it was about 98- to 100-percent effective at getting mice at brand new holes within 48 hours.

How did I get such a dramatic eradication rate?

The trapping, which spans four phases, started by going first to the front garden, which had well over 200 mouse holes, and laying down 48 baited traps around the entire area.

The next day nine mice were caught on the front line. The traps were then increased to 100 and spread out over the entire garden, where the next two days each yielded 11 mice.

The following day another seven, and then a severe drop-off to five mice, but still 42 mice caught in five days.

Phase two began with going over the entire garden, filling in all holes, raking the ground level and placing 40 traps around old multi-hole areas.

As new, dug-out-of-the-fresh-ground holes appeared, a trap was placed next to that hole.

The next four days yielded 27 mice, a definite uptick in the otherwise declining previous two days, and with fewer traps.

Then the numbers dropped off again.

Phase three involved a “search and destroy” regiment.

The garden was visually inspected and all holes were again filled in and all rocks were peered around.

The next day, as a hole appeared, two, three or even four traps were laid around that new hole, much like land mines in a war zone.

By this stage in the campaign, there were now only eight to 10 holes a day, not hundreds.

By the end of phase three, we were down to one, two or three new holes a day and a capture rate of 80 percent per hole was achieved on the first day (sometimes a trap was sprung and the bait gone) and 100 percent within 48 hours of trap deployment.

Now we are in perpetual phase four, which is “persona non grata.”

Every five to seven days, I looked carefully around the entire garden to scope out any new holes. There were never more than two new spots in three weeks.

When a hole was found, four traps were placed around it. Complete capture in 48 hours occurred with this method.

The bonus was that I got to, very carefully and with real scrutiny, look over every square inch of the garden.

In mouse lore, I will be known as “Drew the destroyer,” “Rescuer of the garden,” “Protector of the bulbs” and “Purveyor of the peanut butter.”

To the owner I’m known as “Job well done.”

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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