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Monday December 26, 2005
Building a Better Mousetrap
I called my brother in Ithaca on Christmas Day to wish him and his family a Merry Christmas. It was a little after 6pm here in Utah, so I figured they'd all still be up, and I was right.
As it turns out, he'd been up almost all night Christmas Eve emptying mousetraps. He explained to me how they modified an ordinary spring-loaded mousetrap so that the clever, bait-stealing mice will die every time. I was surprised at the ingenuity, at the horrible simplicity of his modifications.
Me, I use peanut butter on the trigger, and I only use a tiny bit. I tuck it into the fold or curl of metal at the end of the trigger tab, and greedy mice usually set the trap off trying to get every last bit of peanutty goodness out of the crevices. But only usually. Sometimes we get a mouse who is so delicate with its touch that the trap has been licked not just clean but SHINY, and remains un-tripped in the morning.
My brother's solution (and in the spirit of giving credit where it's due, it may have been his wife's solution) was to take the hot glue gun and affix a shelled peanut to the end of the trigger. A dab of peanut butter is then applied to the nut, peanut butter being a better attractant, and the trap is placed where the kids won't play with it but the mice will.
And play they did. The trap kept waking him up, and he kept resetting and emptying it. They killed five mice on the Night Before Christmas, which was obviously a terrible family tragedy for the mouse clan, but was cause for celebration at Chez Tayler East. Each victim got its fill of peanut butter, licking the nut clean, and then couldn't resist trying to remove the final prize from the trigger. Ah, greed. It's such a simple point of leverage, and yet so deadly.
Here at Chez Tayler Central (I've got a brother in NY and a brother in LA -- that means I get to be "central") we haven't had mice in months. Part of me hopes they come back this winter. We've been selecting for mice with a soft touch in the past... now we're going to start selecting for mice who can figure out that it's a trap, and they just need to leave it alone. I don't expect there to be many subjects left after the first generation. Evolution in action!