Mice/Release wild baby mouse at the zoo?
QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
I recently caught a baby mouse in a humane trap.
At the time, I estimate it was between 2 and 3 weeks old. I had originally planned to release any caught mice into the park, but live in New York, and we had a terrible blizzard this past weekend. As such, I have been taking care of the mouse for 5 days now.I still hope to release it into the wild, but I have a few concerns. I've listed the questions below in an attempt to make them as clear as possible. Any advice you can provide is *highly* appreciated. Thank you for everything that you do!
1. It's cold in New York. This week, the weather is supposed to be relatively mild (40 degrees), but next week is going to be in the 20s and 30s. Can the little guy (or girl) survive in that weather? This question is especially important considering that the mouse was likely born in my apt. building and has never been outdoors.
2. Although not completely tame, the mouse is becoming more and more comfortable in its cage every day. I see it becoming bolder, more curious, sniffing around, approaching my hand etc. Have I kept it for too long? Will it be able to take care of itself in the wild?
3. How young is too young to release? It's probably approximately 3-4 weeks old at this time.
4. What are your thoughts on keeping it as a pet (and assuming it's female- I have yet to find out), introducing a new mouse to it? I would, of course, take it to the vet to get it inspected for any diseases. But can a wild mouse be happy in captivity? Can they adapt to other "store- bought" mice?
Thank you again!!
ANSWER: Dear Jill,
I basically live in NY too :) just over the Hudson in Jersey City. Yup we got a lot of snow. Of course my parents in CT got three feet, so I'm not complaining, lol.
I myself do not release mice in winter. I keep them till spring when the coldest it gets at night is 45 degrees. I can't be very comforting about their chances of survival in the cold.
I don't handle them. However, that isn't by philosophy; it is just my choice. I don't need more mice-- I have my pet ones! I am not in the least against keeping wild mice as pets. Many people have the philosophy "wild animals are meant to be in the wild and should never be kept as pets." I say bullpucky. Meant by whom? Unless the worry is of going against God's plan for mice, it is silly. It is a theoretical philosophy that is easy to comprehend and say. It is not, however, true.
The ONLY thing that matters is whether the mouse is happy being a pet. If it spends all of its time trying to escape, or hiding (don't expect it to come out in the day- it is nocturnal), or does not let itself be held-- it wants to be free. If it becomes tame and happy in its nice *big* cage-- no problem.
If you want to tame it, these are baby steps that I have written out to do so for any wild or scared mouse. They may go quickly or slowly-- I'm guessing quickly, with such a young one.
"Bucky Goldstein" has a cute and informative site about wild mice, and this is what he wrote, with a video of a wild mouse enjoying a scritch on the cheek.
As for survival if you release, you are right that a younger mouse has less chance of survival- I usually suggest waiting till they are 5-6 weeks old. But by that time you will be in love.
And as for diseases, it is a house mouse (mus musculus), and doesn't carry anything dangerous to humans. Of course a bite needs to be cleaned out with antibiotics like with any other animal (including human). To be super careful you would get a tetanus shot. If you are careful you shouldn't get bitten. Don't act like you are afraid to be bitten. In fact, if you can-- accept the possibility, and don't react to a bite. That way it learns there is no point in biting. 'Bucky" says actually if you act confident, it won't bite. If it does, it is scared or hurt; the best thing it is it learns that even when scared or hurt, there is no point in biting.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Natasha,
Awesome that you live in the area! I agree, no complaints here about the amount of snow we got. Friends and family of mine upstate are still digging out, lol.
I was hoping you could help me with a follow up question.
When I originally wrote to you, the mouse seemed content in her cage. Lately, however, she has begun to spend *all* of her time trying to escape. I tried distracting her with toys and a wheel, but she is too small (read: doesn't weigh enough) to use the wheel and she takes little interest in toys. I am considering getting her a friendly female mouse as a cage mate, but I don't know if that will solve the problem. It's clear she's not happy in this cage so, out of fairness to her, I plan to set her free.
My concern however, is, again, the weather. You mentioned above that you don't release caught wild mice until spring. Would you make an exception if the mice seemed miserable (like my little one)?
I'm at a loss for what to do with her. I know releasing her into the wild is not in her best interest, but keeping her in a cage, when she is clearly unhappy, is not in her best interest either. Releasing her back into my apt. is not an option. What are your thoughts on releasing her near the central park zoo (or somewhere similar where she is likely to find shelter and food?)
Any advice is appreciated. Thank you!
That is a terrific idea. Actually, a woman in Arizona has been writing to me about releasing mice in a botannical garden, but the zoo is even better. In either case, warm buildings, people dropping food, lots and lots of places to hide, and people who, loving animals, would hopefully not set out a trap for a mouse. Very cool idea.
I wish her luck!
Squeaks n giggles,