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Mice/When to release a wild orphan?

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I apologize in advance if you've answered this question before.  I'm having an incredibly hard time with searching the answers...I'm not sure if it's my iPad's search function? Anyway, we found an orphaned deer mouse baby on our driveway.  She was tiny, with fur, and eyes closed.  We searched for a nest and found nothing near by.  Sadly the next day we did find another baby that had passed away, near my car.  It turns out the mother had laid a nest under the hood of my car, and we were unable to ever locate the mother.  

As for the baby that lived, we took her in and figured out she was approx 10 days old.  That was 7 days ago.  She has since opened her eyes, is eating a combination of mush (kmr & whole grain baby cereal) and solids (grains, mouse blocks, dried corn, carrots, chicken, and berries).  I have no intention to keep her, and want to release her, so I've kept handling her to the minimum....which is easier now, then it was while feeding her every 2 hours ;). Starting today she's become very active, squeaking like crazy, scared of me (??) and even nipped me pretty good.  Not breaking the skin or anything, but sure scared me!  I'm the quintessential oxymoron with mice 😜 I think they are adorable, I couldn't imagine not trying to save her, but mice and their teeth scare the crap out of me! Lol!  So now that she's so active, I'm to chicken to hold her.  (Just starting today...before the nip I was fine) Our arrangement seems to work for us.  Every 3-4 hrs I put a new lid of mush, fresh solids, and a lid of water in and she runs over and eats it. :). I chose to not to give her a water bottle as she won't find one in the wild ;) I should mention she looks great, not dehydrated, and is eliminating and cleaning herself very well too....but by my best guest, she's only 17 days old.  Should I be carrying for her more then I am?  When is it safe to release her? Is their a sign that's she's ready?  And how would you suggest doing it?  I've read everything I can find, and its overwhelming.  I will give her a prey-proof hide box and a small supply of water and food, and pray for the best.  I don't want to think of something happening to her "out there", but also living in a cage, untouched, isn't a life either :(. Thank you so much for your help!  You have no idea how much I appreciate any help you can give me!  Shelli

Answer
Hi Shelli,

She will need to continue eating "mush" until she is about 4-5 weeks old, at which point she can safely be released.  You are welcome to offer a water bottle, too (after all, she won't find mush in the wild, either), but she probably will not learn how to use it until it's time to release anyways.  You can also offer pieces of stale bread soaked in water or KMR as an additional hydration source.  As long as she is gaining weight - you are doing great!

I usually use water bottles as a good indicator of when a mouse is ready, since it means they are attempting to find their own resources and succeeding, but since you are doing things a bit differently (but still very well!), I'd suggest waiting until 5 weeks of age to be safe.  At that point you can bring her to a location away from houses, look for a shady spot safe from aerial predators, and just let her go.  She will very quickly get her bearings and find a safe spot to live on her own - instincts run pretty deeply in wild mice and take several generations to breed out.

Best of luck, and let me know if you have any other questions!
-Tam

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Tamarah

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I can answer questions regarding mice as pets, mouse behavior, color and coat genetics, breeding techniques, and general health questions. I can help with caging and setup, nutrition, social issues, and what to do in most mouse emergencies (such as unplanned litters, injuries, fighting, etc.). I can also assist with questions pertaining to orphaned mouse pups, weaning litters, and questions of mating and birthing. I cannot answer questions about exotic or wild varieties of mice such as spiny or pygmy mice. *****FOR EMERGENCIES, anything requiring immediate medical intervention, PLEASE take your mouse to a professional veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator who works with mice as soon as possible! IMPORTANT RESOURCES: Raising Orphaned Mice: http://www.rmca.org/Articles/orphans.htm Orphaned Mice Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/CreekValleyCritters/videos?query=raising Natasha's Your First Mouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNK4uqNZTbA&feature=share General Mouse Help: http://www.fancymice.info/ Mouse Info and Exotic Breeds: http://www.hiiret.fi/eng/species/

Experience

I have enjoyed the companionship of mice nonstop since 2004, and spent a year caring for them in a lab where I learned a great deal about their breeding, social needs, and health. I spent a few years breeding them, specifically working with albinos, marked mice, angora mice, and satins. My education never stopped - I am learning something new every day from current and well-established research thanks to the wonderful folks at the Jackson Laboratory, as well as from my wonderful mousey friends online. I also love learning from my terrific questioners here on AllExperts - you folks keep my passion for these amazing animals alive and well!

Organizations
East Coast Mouse Association - expired, American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association - expired

Education/Credentials
Partial University for a B.S. in Microbiology, Partial University for a 2-year degree in Veterinary Technology (RVT cert), C.E. classes in pathogens, aseptic technique, genetics, and applications

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