Mice/Keeping or releasing orphan wild mouse
QUESTION: I read your other answers regarding keeping wild mice, and I agree they are happier in the wild. My question is the opposite. I'm wondering if it is cruel to release a wild mouse that was raised from infancy. I found a tiny, baby mouse in a window well in our sunroom. He or she (not sure which) must have followed a tiny pathway in the cement between an area under the deck and the window well. I heard the little mouse squeaking unbelievably loud, fetched it out with a butterfly net we keep on hand for injured birds, and put it in an aquarium with a heater, etc. Fed it every two hours and gently wiped the underside after feeding and all that. It grew, opened its eyes, got furry, and is seemingly very healthy. I toyed with the idea of getting an aquarium topper and keeping him (I will call it a him as "it" doesn't sound very nice!). But he jumps up and runs across the underside of the aquarium top over and over after waking in the evening and after eating. It seems so clear to me that he wants to go back to the wild. I would like to keep him safe and warm and well fed for all his life, but I cannot give him companionship of his kind, and if I let him run loose in our home, there would be many hazards. He seems to be yearning to be free. The mice outside our home have many very protected areas (the deck, wood piles, corrugated tubes, tunnels I've seen under trees and shrubs and garden areas. That doesn't mean he would have it easy -- there are snakes on occasion and heaven help him if he visits our idiot neighbors down the hill who puts snap traps outside and sometimes inside his garage and leaves the door open on purpose. If he stayed up here where his family is, he'd be ok. I know I can't keep him safe. I can say my prayers and hope he stays and lives a wonderful life with his siblings and so forth. What is your opinion on this? I know it must seem so silly to be worrying so much about doing the right thing for him. But he is wonderful. Thank you. Oh, and I put a little bird seed and apple on our porch every night along with fresh water, and the mice come and gather it up, so he would be supported with food here. It is an almost completely naturalized yard, larger than average, and there is at least 1/4 acre between us and neighbors. Do you think he would stay by our house? The weather is good, and there is a ton of acorns that will be ripening soon. I am including a picture of his aquarium setup though he is asleep in his toob yet. He has a sand bath, a rope ladder (what used to be my yoga belt), and other things. Nice, but still a poor substitute for the natural world, I think.
ANSWER: Dear Dorothy,
No wonder he wants out. His cage is tiny and he doesn't even have a wheel! Poor little guy!
Get him a nice 30 gallon tank. Get a bird playground like this one:
or maybe even several ones-- you can find all sorts of different designs-- so it isn't always the same. Get at least one wheel, probably 6" is best, though mice like having two sizes to choose from, so you could get a 5" and a 7". Here is a 6" of the type I like best:
Get him a bunch of different houses, toys, things to chew, etc but **most of all**
Get him 2-3 GIRLFRIENDS! He needs someone to talk to, to cuddle with, to groom and to groom him.
He can't mate with them as long as he is a field mouse of some sort and not a house mouse.
You do want to quarantine the new girls unless you can get them from a repeatable breeder. This means a friend of yours has pet micd for at least two weeks (two parts of the same house don't work)! It would be an absolute travesty if his little life got cut short because of a nasty virus from a pet store. These little guys can make amazing and loyal pets and live up to five years!
Take a look at this video I made a while ago:
Note the other two cage options I show in the video are great too. You would absolutely need the smallest distance between bars as possible if you go wire.
You can see more of what I have done with a 30 gallon tank in this mouse intro video on my Facebook page:
I run a rat and mouse group which you may join :) but even if you don't, this document will be useful:
Friend me and send or post photos!! -- And I can also help you decide if he is a she or vice versa :)
Squeaks n giggles,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi, Natasha. Yes, the set up is small, but that is because I did not intend to keep this mouse. We would, if keeping him, make a much better home and offer free-running time in a bathroom that is free of the hazards the rest of the house has. Your response still leaves me wondering, however, if it would be ok to release him outside, and whether he would stay close by with the other mice of his kind who live around our house. I doubt that a wheel and a larger set-up is going to satisfy his desire to be a natural mouse (which seems to be very strong), and I would NEVER buy a mouse or any other animal from a breeder! If I did get another mouse, it would be from the shelter or from a small animal rescue. My question was not how to keep him. It was actually would he be ok being released outside after being raised by me from before his eyes were opened, and would he stay close to the house as the main threat to his well being would come from the neighbors I wrote about should he travel the 1/4 acre or so to their areas.
ANSWER: Hi Dorothy,
Sorry about the misunderstanding!
My scenario was intended to keep him safe and happy with you. Most people who hand raise keep them as pets. These guys really don't have the skills they need to survive out there.
My philosophy is always to give being a pet a chance. Instead of assuming the mouse won't ever be happy I would try. And once the mouse has a nice cage, a friend, etc, and it still keeps trying to escape- and doesn't want to be held-- then I weigh that against safety. And I do believe to a large extent a short happy life is better than a long, frustrated one. The question is, what will make him happy?
Example. I had the very common problem once of a virgin birth in my cage of wall does. A wild boy had snuck in. First generation mixed wild/tame mice are notoriously crazy. Of the ten I had I ended up with two. As they reached about 5 weeks, Pip suddenly decided-- unlike any of the other 9-- to be a sweet pet and hopped onto my hand. Squeak however had started nipping hard. I decided that Squeak was just not happy in a cage. So I brought her outside on a nice sunny day and let her go. The first thing she did was to come back to me-- but as the guilt rose in me she then turned around and sauntered off into the fall leaves. I am sure she had a very short life. But it wasn't in captivity.
Pip on the other hand was a delightful pet.
So it depends on the mouse. These guys were not hand raised, and had only been held once a day, and were wild little buggers. It is very unusual that a halfbreed like that would be friendly. My point is however that the mouse has to tell you. Most hand raised mice are delightful pets. They can live to five years and be intensely loyal. For example, someone once wrote to me a few months after I had helped her raise a pup. She asked how to keep her from escaping the cage. I assumed that the mouse didn't want to be a pet and talked to her about the other side, the part where the mouse doesn't want to be a pet and prefers the short happy life out of the cage.
She wrote back to me and said, you don't understand. She gets out of the cage every night, and in the morning she is on my pillow!
I guess to make a along story short: I believe there is a large chance that the mouse wants to be a wonderful pet to you if you give him the opportunity. I say this from much vicarious experience.
There is a school of thought which is the idea that every wild animal should be in the wild, period. I don't agree with a broad philosophy which sacrifices individuals for purity. A mouse that wants to be a pet has a right to be a pet. It is like a divorce-- you have to ask the child rather than make a law to decide which parent always gets the kid.
So in sum-- if you don't want to try him out as a pet, you will let him out, he will be terrified.. and maybe he will end up liking it, maybe not; in either case he won't live long but he may be happy. I don't know how he will do. He may love it. I believe Squeak loved it and Pip would have hated it.
I am sorry if I am not giving you the answer you want.
If you do end up wanting to rescue a girlfriend I may be able to find some needy mice for you if you tell me where you are. Craigslist is a good place to look. People give away their beloved pets there and cruel people lie and take them to feed snakes with. That is definitely a rescue.
Apologies if this isn't what you area looking for. I simply can't tell you he would be happy outdoors. He would very likely rather be with you. He loves you. I am not anthropomorphizing at all; these little guys love like dogs do. He will be heartbroken to lose you and everything he has even known.
Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.
Squeaks n giggles,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: We are buying an aquarium top today that has tubes that run through it, yet the actual top remains firmly connected. This will give him some practice coming and going from the aquarium. When I raised him, he could not get enough of snuggling in my hand. Several days after his eyes opened, he seemed to have had enough of people! He has not been willing to be in my hand at all since. He dives back into his paper towel tubes every time I open the aquarium lid. He is bounding with energy and about as wild as it gets. I think release would not terrify him at all. I think it would be like the mouse version of the Shawshank Redemption movie scene where the prisoner finally breaks out and is overwhelmed by the joy of regained freedom. Also, our situation is unique in that we know where his family is, and the underdeck area is filled with wonderful "hidey" places. The rattlesnakes have already migrated. And there is a constant supply of high-quality seed from our bird feeders along with a ton of acorns this year. We also intend to leave the aquarium with the tubes coming out of it on the deck, so that he can return at any time. I will monitor it for as long as necessary. Years ago we rescued a mouse from a glue trap (an idiot had put it outside! -- using one is sadistic anywhere, but outside was just plain disturbed!). We used olive oil on a pint brush to get the little guy off. He immediately bonded to me, and I kept him as a pet for six years! He was fabulous -- we named him "Sticky." So I do have some experience with wild mice in captivity, but not with hand raising then releasing which is why I contacted you. I was hoping to know if, in your expert opinion, he would stay near the house, as the only real threat to his life are the two pathetic human bullies with too much time on their hands down the way from me (see information with original question). If it were not for my concern about him heading that way, he would have already been released. I will try to find information on the movements and patterns of wild mice and their territories elsewhere on the internet.
ok I see :).
If the aquarium can stay there to be his home if he wants it-- rather than just releasing him where he feels lost and afraid-- sure. You can just make it his choice. When you are ready for him not to be under your control you just leave the lid off. Sure.
Mice do get crazy, even hand raised ones from day one, a couple of days after their eyes open and they begin to focus and to learn that the world is three times more scary when you can see than when you can't. You won't know for another week whether he really isn't that much of a cuddler anymore :). It is really hard on folks when their 16 day old mouse seems to have lost its love for its humans.
Sounds like he will do great. He has a home and people when he wants it, few predators, plenty of food-- the only reason to wander is wanderlust and if he has that, he is as doomed as the rest of us are!
Tell him to send me a postcard!
Squeaks n giggles,