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Mice/Orphaned Baby Wild Deer Mice

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QUESTION: I have a bit of a sad story but hopefully with a happy ending. I was helping my boyfriend clean out an outdoor shed where we moved a heavy oversized crate to the corner of the room. Once moved my boyfriend noticed a nest of baby mice in a bowl sized trench in the dirt. They were about an inch and a bit long at most, grey fur and with their eyes closed. Through a series of google searches and noticing their two toned tails we determined they were baby deer mice.

Seeing that they were startled by being uncovered and clumsily trying to wobble away I placed the lose babies back with their siblings by gently picking them up with two wood shims and covered the exposed nest with a small rubber mat leaving an air hole near the entry. We did not see the mom so left the babies with some bread a piece of sesame snap and a shallow water bottle cap filled with water. The next day the food was undistured and no sign of mom. We thought there were at least five but on the second day we counted only three babies. We found 3 wandering or sitting blindly on the ground in the shed alone througout that day and put them back with the siblings. The next day we found 2 more and did the same then it occured to us that they probably got stirred up and came from under the crate we moved. We lifted to see if there were any more and then we saw one little one not breathing and the mom who had unfortunately been crushed accidentally when we moved the crate.

I'm already a pretty passionate animal lover but the guilt of accidentally orphaning them put me over. Seeing how helpless they were but unsure how to proceed we left them one more day with food before deciding it would be safer and warmer for them to be transfered to a small box where they couldn't stray away and get lost. Unfortunately they got a little less wobbly by that point and during the  transfer while trying not to handle them directly one went off in one of many directions and we lost it. I feel terrible we couldn't capture all 8, we looked for several days for him but with no luck, he was faster and well hidden than the rest so maybe he was a tough one and is surviving on his own in there somewhere, ulikely but I like the way that story ends better. Not having much for them it was a diet of wet pumpernickle bread for another day before we did our research and found out the urgency of there situation.

At this point all there eyes were half open. We got them a large clear platic tote with a lid that snapped on which we drilled full of air holes, lined the bottom with toilet paper and in it we placed a rodent igloo from the pet store which we turned over and filled with cotton hamster bedding then put a lid of bedding overtop so they felt safe and hidden and also a VERY shallow rock dish for water. We mixed half kitten formula and half water into a nursing bottle but they would just bat and squeak at it when the end of it intruded their nest. A qtip dipped in the formula over and over worked much better, they would grab the end and suck on it. All seven seemed to be doing well so we added mouse and rat seed to the bottom of the tote, a water cap full of apple and blueberry baby food and filled the rock dish with fresh formula mixture for about 5 days. It was be empty every morning so they are being very active leaving the nest at night and able to lap of the liquid even bringing seed and dried fruit inside the nest to eat.

There's the long story, Here's the question.: So they got fairly big and faster but are still not full grown obviously, yesterday we decided to release them and I'm worried was it was too soon? They had opened their eyes a week before we released them so we estimated 14 days at that point plus another 7 days makes best case scenario 21 days? I also worried if they were kep any longer they'd grow too dependent.

In the container they had their eyes fully open now and were eating solids and lapping up the formula/water mixture. Some had even left the igloo and started building a nest out of toilet paper and bedding behind it. We took them to a field away from the shed and buildings and dug a small hole in the middle of an area covered in tall grass for yards and yards and full of crickets. We then gently flipped over the igloo right side up with them nestled inside the bedding and placed it over the hole. We then scattered the huge bag of mouse seed we had remaining about five feet away from the nest thinking other deer mice (which I read could be aggressive) may come too close to eat and get to them. We left the rock dish with water in it a foot away. They are well hidden and have the plastic igloo as a shelter from birds and the elements we figured until they get a bit bigger and braver to go off on their own permanently. They will have a bit of food scattered around to last them and water until it rains tonight. We also tossed the remaining Toilet paper a few feet away to encourage them to explore for nesting materials of their own elsewhere. I really don't know if we can fix the fact that we orphaned them and removed their best teacher in life but we tried. Nature is nature but I still feel like a mom sending her kids off into danger. We may never know but do you think they have a chance at 18-21 days?

ANSWER: Dear Lita,

...

It was too early. I don't have a lot of hope for them.

I am sorry. Maybe some of them will actually make it.

Thank you for rescuing the little tykes. You did save them from starvation and you did your best.

Squeaks,

Natasha

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

This is the first box we put them in
This is the first box  
QUESTION: Oh my goodness Natasha what a rollercoaster! I read your response and had to go have a cry in my work's washroom, but I have good news.

As you noticed from my first post I have a tendency to ramble and an inability to be concise. What I left out for simplicity's sake is that when referring to "we" eg. "we released them" and "we were feeding them" I mean "my boyfriend" was. I was present up until 3 days ago. I went out of town on Monday and my boyfriend has been taking care of them since then but he was noticing how fast they have grown and thinking they were ready, big and hardy enough to be independent so he said yesterday would be the release date. I talked to him yesterday morning and begged him to make it easier for them by following my instructions. After reading your response and not talking to him since yesterday I frantically texted him saying "they weren't ready and they are too young" he responded "stop panicking, I didn't have time to do it last night, I still have them."

I am so happy but now I have so many more questions. Mostly what kind of timeline are we looking at:

-How long to continue formula feeding? (they are all eating solids now)
-How much should we be feeding and how often?
-They are currently in a 1ft Wide by 1.5ft Long by 1ft High tote right now should we transfer them to a larger one soon so they can play and explore?
-how often to clean the nesting material out? (It was replaced with fresh hamster bedding when we caught them but not since, just over a week)
-What age will they be ready and when to separate males from females? (I read they reach sexual maturity at around 50 days)
-How to help transition them to the wild before release and where is best would the same grassy area and the plan I described be good or can they go in the outdoor shed we found them?
(I know you deal with domestics but any ideas?)

I can't wait to get home and see them again! I feel obligated to do all I can for them.

Thank you so much for your help!

P.S.We are taking precautions, wearing gloves and masks when dealing with the nest cleaning. So far no issues but we are aware of the risks for disease and parasites with wild mice.

ANSWER: Dear Lita,

Well that is a relief! Good thing I didn't think "Well, it's over, I'll let her think she did the right thing.." and then have him do it after I said that.

Keeping them in the outdoor shed is a great idea, as long as no cats go in it. You can visit them! Maybe they or some of them will move out to find someplace better, and maybe some will stay to have you pet them and feed them. They are fine in the bin for the extra ten days, after that, you can use the original box, with some used litter and bedding, cut half of the top off, and put them in the shed so they can choose when to move out. You are fine not changing the bedding until then.

As for right now, you should leave food with them all the time. Soak Wasa bread or crisp bread in formula and leave it in there for an hour, as often as you can, rather than hand feeding. They only need another few days of formula anyway.

Female fancy or house mice can reach sexual maturity as early as 4-1/2 weeks but most males not before 6 weeks. I don't know about deer mice.

Hantavirus is the only thing a deer mouse can give you, and there have been only about 600 cases in the US in the past 20 years, most in the four corner states. Many states have never had a case. As far as I can find out, babies don't have it. I can't guarantee 100%, but if the gloves and masks are awkward, you probably don't need them. Myself I would not worry.

I am so sorry it took so long to answer this. I have been laid up in bed with a cold for a few days.

Squeaks n giggles,

Natasha



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Natasha,

Hope you are feeling better.
It's likely release day and everyone made it, 26-28 days old and they are lively and healthy. I wish I could keep all seven of the little ones safe for the rest of their lives but I don't have the space or the means unfortunately to raise a litter.

So a few updates: the outdoor storage shed we found them in is located in an outdoor baseball park that is slowing down before winter but is accessed by staff who maintain the park occasionally  as well as us, our business is in the same park and utilizes it more for storage than anyone else. However, I'm going to have to talk to the groundskeeper for the area where the shed is located because faint rumor is they have put poison out to deal with the deer mice going "indoors" in th past. That is unnaceptable for my new little friends so if it turns out to be the case plan B is to do a release in the brush and leave them with a shelter and  their goodies acquired over the last three weeks.

We haven't handled them too often but no doubt they have led a cushy life until now. They are skiddish, but not overly feral. It worries me to think of all the predators they will have to avoid but still I'd rather them succumb to nature than to poison or mice traps. We saw another deer mouse maybe only a week older than them living under an enclosed bench in the area yesterday and it put my mind at ease a little bit. Hopefully I get good news today that the shed is poison free and they can stay there undisturbed until they decide to venture off or outside.

I've attached some pictures of their newest  rescue container.They are not too photogenic ;) and are holed up in the wooden Kleenex box under their bedding. I'll try and get a picture of them with their big eyed and big eared cuteness  without teaumatizing them  before releasing them. Thank you for all of your help and advice. It will be later tonight we decide where/what to do so if you have any more crucial advice  it is always appreciated.

Many thanks,

Lita

Answer
Hi :)

I apologize for not seeing this question. I don't know how I managed not to check this forum either when I woke up or went to bed yesterday-- and usually I would check in between too.

In any case your plans are fine.

I wish them the very best in their new mousie lives.

Squeaks n giggles,

Natasha

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Natasha

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I can answer questions about raising mice and caring for them as pets, with knowledge from my 38 years of having fancy mice as pets. I have NO MEDICAL TRAINING and you should take a sick mouse to the vet; but if you simply can't, I will try to help you. I LOVE PHOTOS!!! I ALSO LOVE UPDATES! Let me know how the little tyke is doing later on, for better or worse, especially orphans. It also helps me to help the next person. Please first search first: use 'Natasha Mice Mouse' with whatever else your question includes. Or check out these links: **** YOUR FIRST MOUSE (my video; rough draft): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNK4uqNZTbA&feature=share **** TEN VIDEOS ON RAISING ORPHANS: http://www.youtube.com/user/CreekValleyCritters/videos?query=raising **** SEXING MICE: http://www.thefunmouse.com/info/sexing.cfm **** And some GREAT MOUSE INFO SITES: http://thefunmouse.com/info/index.cfm http://www.rmca.org/Resources/mousefaq.htm

Experience

I have had mice for 40 years (since I was 5!). I raised them when I was a child but now I keep all females, and never fewer than three so that if one dies the others are not devastated, because they have each other.

Organizations
I run Rats and Mice are Awesome on Facebook. The official name is Rats are Awesome.

Education/Credentials
B.A., M.A., M.A. in Linguistics: Yale University and University of Connecticut

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