Check That Your Mousetraps Are ‘Bird-friendly’ This Spring

Mousetraps are a humane tool used with reluctance but out of necessity in my greenhouse, especially during winter and spring. A recent unintended ‘catch’ is a melancholy tribute to the determination of our wild birds when the going gets tough.

My lean-to greenhouse runs the full length of one side of my cottage. When I open the doors at each end, as well as getting freshening air blowing through, I also get a stream of wildlife. Some is welcome, some isn’t – mice and squirrels ignore ‘keep out’ signs. The one thing they all have in common is they’re looking for something to eat.

This great tit joined the influx of wildlife passing through and came off the worse for it: even though I thought I’d hidden the mousetrap well out of sight under my potting bench, this determined bird, unfortunately, found it. Robins show equal levels of resolve, especially if I let my feeders run low, and blue tits and wrens are masters of flitting into every nook and cranny after a stray peanut or sunflower heart.  At least this great tit knew little about its demise; birds that get caught by a wing or leg inevitably suffer.

The lesson here, if you do have to resort to mousetraps to protect young seedlings, is to put them where inquisitive birds can’t see them or physically reach them. Never leave a set trap out in the open because birds have sharp eyesight. I now make sure any traps are hidden under flat pieces of stone or slate resting on bricks, but you could use pieces of upturned guttering at least 30cm (12in) long, with both ends part covered with stones or pieces of wood, leaving gaps big enough for mice but too small for even the diminutive wren.

If you have other ways of making mousetraps bird-friendly – other than not using them at all – you can leave a comment below. Why not go and check yours now?

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12 Responses to Check That Your Mousetraps Are ‘Bird-friendly’ This Spring

  1. Simon says:

    The choice of bait on the trap may well help to prevent a recurrence. Tits are used to seeing peanuts as a free meal. Try bacon rind or lard (something with a strong odour) or something less attractive to our feathered friends.

  2. John Walker says:

    Thanks Simon, but I have to say I don’t think the choice of bait is the answer: most birds outside my window (from tits to the greater spotted woodpecker) will feast happily on the blocks made from animal fats. I think the answer is to thwart their inquisitiveness that’s driven by hunger, and the best way seems to be to make mousetraps inaccessible (or use the ‘live catch’ type).

  3. Ken says:

    Sadly while trying to keep a raccoon away with a small mousetrap overnight to keep it away from feeder…my wife spotted our favorite female bluebird struggling with trap attached to her leg..late in the day…my ill-advised solution has left me a basket case…won’t eat tonight ..don’t make this stupid mistake…please..


  4. Lance says:

    How about setting these traps at night, after dark, when presumably our friendly birds are sleeping soundly? Any thoughts about this strategy?

    • John Walker says:

      Thanks Lance. That’s a thought, but I fear birds will be up and about at the crack of dawn – long before the majority of us? Since my original post I’ve more or less eliminated the risk by screening my greenhouse vents with fine wire mesh so it excludes wrens, and also bumblebees. Read more here:

  5. G.Allen Boyd says:

    I saw a mouse in my bldg & set the mouse trap baited with cheese. Got the mouse but thinking there has to be a mate. I reset & the following day while I was feeding the wild birds my heart dropped when I found a dead wren in the trap. I said I would Never do that again. Then 6 months later :yeap,another mouse.
    What bait can I use that Won’t attract the birds? SoS! THANKS

    • John Walker says:

      Thanks for commenting. There’s no bait that won’t attract a bird’s curiosity. You need to put the traps away from the reach of birds (see my original post). There are traps available that trap mice (and other rodents), which can then be released, but you MUST check them regularly and diligently, or there’s a risk they’ll die of starvation/exposure.

  6. Angela Craig says:

    I used a live catch rat trap and caught a Robin, it’s lucky it was unharmed (from the spring loaded door).I think I would only use the trap again in a shed or building.

  7. tamara l dehnert says:

    I think I would die if I caught a squirrel or a bird in a trap! Those spring trap humane traps could also injure a bird’s wing like Angela above said. I was wondering if I put my trap out only at night and put an amazon box over it with a small opening – the birds would just look at it and think it was part of the landscaping? I am in the process of cardboard mulching much of my yard so maybe birds wouldn’t notice this box among the other uncovered cardboard? Comments PLEASE!!

  8. Philip says:

    I use upturned guttering or a 12 inch long piece of 4 inch diameter tubing to hide the mouse trap from birds. The mice still manage to find the bait of cheese or a peanut and trigger the trap. Tubing works well as you can pick it up easily and move it about with the trap still inside.

  9. shae says:

    I put small boxes over the top of my snap traps with a brick on top and a very small mouse size hole. I have never caught anything but a mouse this way. Hope that is helpful.

  10. Cooker says:

    Shae is correct! This works well. Birds typically will not enter a small hole in the box covering the snap trap but mice and chipmunks will.

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