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Learn to Build a DIY Mousetrap

When you’re hungry, it’s difficult to focus on most tasks. All you can think about is your empty stomach and where your next meal might come from. These feelings are compounded during an emergency situation. The blood begins to lack the nutrients necessary to feed your muscles and organs. You begin to fade, lack good judgment, and give up hope.

Survival is about returning your life to normal or maintaining a quality of life in an adverse situation. To do so, you need to eat. Although mice and small rats would be difficult to swallow if you were flush with many food choices, the fact is, if mice and small rats are your only food choice, it changes everything.

Learning how to forage for food in a dire situation is a very important skill. The grocery stores may be closed; the food might be gone from the camp larder—or even worse. The ability to keep yourself or others alive also means you need to sustain your own existence until you find rescue.

Prepping is a great addition to your survival strategy, and planning ahead for any circumstance is always the best option. However, all provisions will eventually be consumed. They will need to be replaced—or you’re not going to make it.

Why Mice And Rats?

In West Africa, rats are a major diet item. The giant rat (Cricetomys), the cane rat (Thryonomys), the common house mouse, and other species of rats and mice are all eaten. According to a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report, they now comprise over 50 percent of the locally-produced meat eaten in some parts of Ghana.

In the small-animal kingdom, mice and rats are plentiful and virtually everywhere man has ever gone, from the big cities and small countryside villages to seemingly deserted islands and remote outposts.

They multiply quickly and in great numbers and, according to, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of adult rat meat contain 638 calories, 32.0 grams of fat, 61.0 grams of protein, 303 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement and 262 percent of your daily calcium requirement, not to mention ample quantities of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Furthermore, mice and rats are easy to catch with minimum bait, simple to skin and prep for cooking, and don’t require a lot of fuel to cook thoroughly.

Not only can you eat mice and rats (and other small rodents such as dormice, marmots, voles, chipmunks, and small squirrels), you can use them for bait to capture larger animals.

Building a Mousetrap

One of the downsides of the human race is that it leaves its trash everywhere. One of its up sides is that it has the ability to fashion useful tools out of most anything.

For this mousetrap, all you will need are a discarded soda/water bottle with a decent-sized opening, a wire coat hanger or sturdy twigs, twine and a multi-tool.

If you are lacking these items, it is easy to improvise: Pieces of wire, nails, screws, shoelaces, different plastic containers, scissors—use whatever you can to make this simple mousetrap, and you’ll be picking rat gristle out of your teeth in no time.

Most states have laws that not only prohibit trapping animals but also trapping them with primitive traps. Please check your local trapping regulations, and make sure you use this mousetrap only for preserving your life.

1. Discarded trash, especially plastic bottles, can be found everywhere.

2. The tools of the trade? A simple multi-tool.

3. Start by piercing the shoulder of the bottle with three equally spaced holes about an inch from the top.

4. Using the pliers of the multi-tool, snip from the coat hanger four equally sized pieces, each about 4 inches in length. Try to cut the wires at a sharp angle if you can. If you have a smaller bottle, you can use just three.

5. Place the wires into the pre-punched holes.

6. Using the cordage, tie and secure the wires in place. You may need to hold the wires in place while you tighten your wrapping. It is easiest to individually secure the wires one at a time to lock them in place.

7. Carefully cut off the top of the bottle. Try to be neat with your cut line, because this is important for the top to fit snugly.

8. Fit the top of the bottle inside the body of the container. If you’ve cut the top off correctly, it should fit snugly. Make sure there are no gaps around the cut edges.

9. On two sides opposite each other, punch two holes through both the main container and the inverted top.

10. Place the remainder of the coat hanger through the
opposing holes. This will secure the lid to the container.

11. Bend the top of the wire over to keep the trap
from pulling off the wire stake.

12. Place the trap on the ground in an area you feel will have some rodent traffic. You should also secure your trap by tying it off to a tree or rock. This might keep larger animals from stealing your trap and the delicious meal inside.

Tips and Tricks
  • Rodents are not finicky eaters. You can find local food sources to bait them: pine nuts, acorns, berries and any roadside trash. Even the dried-up sweet syrup from a soda bottle or can might entice a rodent to enter the trap.
  • More mousetraps equal more food. Trapping is a numbers game. Play it.
  • Even if you do not choose to eat the rodent, you can use it to trap larger prey; alternatively, use its entrails and skin for bait for fish, birds of prey, and land predators.
  • Small rodents are easily caught. Using what you have on hand could mean the difference between life and death.

How It Works

Placing the mousetrap in an area where you suspect rodents travel (between a field and a source of water, for example) will greatly increase your chance of catching something.

Use any sort of bait, especially bait that is strong smelling, such as peanut butter or old, rotting food. The rodent will enter the mousetrap through the bottle’s opening to get at the food.

Once inside, the sharpened wires will prevent him from escaping. This is why it is important to secure the top inside the container so the rodent will not be able to squeeze or push his way out.

With one tool and only a couple of discarded items, this mousetrap is easy to make and will provide you with either the basis for obtaining larger food or, if you’re hungry enough, a delectable meal all by itself.

How to Cook a Rat

There are as many ways of cooking rat as there are for cooking “regular” meats such as pork, beef, and poultry. In a survival situation, the easiest way is roasting them over an open fire.

1. Start by skinning and gutting the rodent.
2. Leave the head on, but you can remove the tail (because it will just hang into the fire).
3. Skewer it through the anus and mouth with a stick.
4. Spice or marinade to your liking (if you have the means).
5. Place the skewered rodent over the hot coals of a small fire.
6. Turn frequently until it is browned/blackened to your liking. As with chicken, the juices should run clear when the meat is done.

If you have access to more cooking equipment and a few extra ingredients, consider whipping up a dish called souris à la crème (“mice in cream sauce”), created by Farley Mowat, a Canadian environmentalist made famous in the 1983 movie, Never Cry Wolf.

1. Skin, gut, and wash some fat mice without removing their heads.
2. Optional: Cover them in a pot with ethyl alcohol and marinate for two hours (Note: Mowat was in the Arctic when he developed this recipe and lacked proper marinades—and it has been proven that alcohol dehydrates meat).
3. Dice a piece of salt pork into small chunks and cook it slowly to extract the fat.
4. Drain the mice from the marinade and dredge them thoroughly in a mixture of flour, pepper, and salt.
5. Fry slowly in the rendered fat for about five minutes.
6. Add six to eight cloves, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
7. Prepare a cream sauce, transfer the sautéed mice to it, and stir them for about 10 minutes before serving.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.