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What’s a Homeowner to do?

As nights grow colder, little field mice or house mice who may be cute when you see them in your yard can turn up in your kitchen. What’s a homeowner to do?

There’s a great blog post from Terminex with a comprehensive list of ideas. I have a couple of properties in the White Mountains of NH that are pretty popular with the varmints so here I’ll share my experiences.

Do I have mice or something else?

  1. The thing about mice is that like success, they leave clues, mostly in the form of turds that look like little black rice. They also run along walls and you can sometimes see what looks like a greasy smudge along baseboard moulding and kitchen counter backsplash.
  2. In general, mice are nocturnal: they prefer to be out after dark. If you think you see something running by while you’re eating lunch, it’s most likely something else. I was cleaning the kitchen in the Huttwil House, one afternoon and heard a noise coming from the stove. I lifted the burner and looked into the eyes of a surprised flying squirrel calmly chewing on crumbs.
  3. Mice like to nest, but they’re small. If you notice large items disappearing, you may have a squirrel or another larger animal in the house. In remodeling a house in Roslindale MA, I found a squirrel’s nest with a man’s T-shirt and boxer shorts along with a bunch of newspaper and what looked like synthetic stuffing from a quilt or pillow. No mouse is going to make off with your boxers!

What’s the big deal about mice? Why should I worry about a little mouse?

  • Mice are very sociable creatures. If you see evidence of one, you more than likely have at least one family.
  • For little guys, they can do a lot of damage. They will sample everything in your home for a possible meal including electrical wiring and wallboard.
  • Mice can carry disease – or carry insects that carry disease like fleas and ticks.
  • They don’t always have the decency to die responsibly. When mice go into your walls to die, they can cause a stink that extremely difficult to locate and eliminate.
  • It’s kind of icky to be living with non-potty-trained rodents.

So how do I get rid of them? Good question!

  • The best thing is to figure out where they’re getting into the house – but that’s not easy. Mice can fit into a 1/4″ opening. If you can stick a pencil in it, they can fit through it. Especially if you’re living in a condo or apartment, it can be hopeless.
  • If you can’t keep them out of the house, try keeping them out of your living area by stuffing steel wool into any cracks or openings that you find – especially around pipes and wiring.
  • Get a mouser. A young, energetic cat can get rid of your mouse problem very quickly. My friend, AnneMarie, borrowed someone else’s cat for a couple of months to help with her mouse problem. Some dogs are also good mousers.
  • Use traps. It’s sad to kill the little buggers but sometimes, it’s us against them. I like the wood traps. You can get them four for $1 at Dollar Tree. My mice seem to really love peanut butter. It’s good because it’s sticky and it’s hard for them to get the peanut butter without setting off the trap. When I catch one, I often just throw away mouse and trap rather than trying to separate the two.
  • Use glue stickies. Some people love these things, maybe because they’re squeamish about the idea of a traditional trap but the thing is, it doesn’t kill the mouse. If the mouse manages to get him- or herself stuck to the glue, it will just stay there stuck until it has a heart attack and dies or until you come along and see the poor thing stuck there looking up at you with those big black eyes. I don’t love this option.
  • Use poison. There are two big problems with poison. One is that a person or animal other than the mouse may eat the poison – like your dog or your child. The other potential problem is that pesky habit that mice have of dying inconsiderately, mentioned above.
  • Use a combination. Most people should be able to solve their problems with a few well-placed wooden traps and that’s how we had always dealt with them. Then we had a guest at the Huttwil House who didn’t dispose of the trash in the metal can provided. In the couple of days before the cleaners came, there was a wild mouse party going on. They had invited friends from four counties. In desperation, we tried a hybrid solution. We bought a mouse hotel, In theory, these can be humane traps, see below, but we were taking no prisoners. We put a carpet of glue on the bottom of the trap and poison-laced peanut butter inside. Results were good the first time but we haven’t caught any mice after the initial four.
  • Use a humane trap. I put this in grudgingly because I have had no success with this method. When we had the flying squirrel, I was determined to catch him alive and relocate him. We bought a Havahart trap and put it where we knew the squirrel was hanging out. He loved it, it acted like a feeding station. The little guy would go in, eat whatever we had left in the trap to attract him, and leave – sometimes setting off the trap on the way out, sometimes not. Mice don’t seem to have any qualms about resorting to cannibalism so if you don’t check the trap daily, you may find something very unpleasant.
  • Hire a professional. Make sure the company offers a guarantee and that they’ll try to figure out where the mice are getting in rather than just baiting and poisoning them.
  • Mice supposedly don’t like mint but we’ve used live mint and found mouse evidence right next to it.
  • You could move to another house but this is a drastic option and may not wok.

Don’t be an attentive hostess. Even though mice can survive on something like 3 grams of food a day, try not to leave out what they may consider a welcoming snack. I put my nuts and grains in glass mason jars and use a metal can for garbage. Mice can gnaw through thick plastic easily and cardboard boxes are no barrier at all.

Most likely, when the warm weather returns, your mice will head back outside. If you’ve successfully rid yourself of mice, please let me know how you managed it. I’ll update the blog with your info. Thanks!

Image courtesy of David Bartus


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