Evicting Mice from Your Home
Mice may seem harmless enough, yet these tiny creatures, a mere 20 grams (1/16 of an ounce) or less, can gnaw through anything from wood to wiring, contaminate food stores, and spread potentially deadly diseases. Homeowners, who spot mice or the telltale signs of their presence, are well advised to take action. Where there is one mouse, there is bound to be more, possibly many more.
Why are mice such persistent pests?
A female house mouse can breed up to eight times a year and give birth to a litter of 4 to 10 young each time. Her offspring will be ready to reproduce in approximately 60 days. That means that two mice can produce at least 32 young every year.
Mice are highly adaptable - they will eat almost anything from tiny crumbs on the floor, dog food, the stuffing from sofa and chairs, etc. Many cabin owners have opened their retreat in the spring to find that mice have gnawed through everything from pillows to running shoes! Mice have an amazing ability to fit their tiny bodies through even the tiniest of spaces. Pest control companies have found that mice can a squeeze through a space as small as 1 centimetre (approximately ¼ inch)!
These pests are also quick and agile-two traits that have helped them escape predators over the millennia. Not only can they run at great speeds relative to their size, they can also climb rough vertical surfaces such as wooden or brick walls.
Common Mouse Species in Canada
When homeowners discover a mouse infestation, the perpetrators are likely to be one of two species: the deer mouse or house mouse.
A deer mouse's body is approximately 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) long from its head to the tip of its tail. It is brown or grey on top, has a white belly and feet, large ears, large eyes and a furry tail that is typically white on the underside. Deer mice are active all year. During the winter, they live on stored nuts and seeds much the way squirrels do. Deer mice construct nests under logs, in hollow tree cavities, or in abandoned bird nests. As the weather grows colder, deer mice look for shelter in houses, garages, storage sheds, and campers.
The house mouse is small and slender. It has a pointed snout, large ears, and its fur is grey to light brown on top, light brown on the underside. The house mouse was inadvertently brought from Asia in the cargo of ships in the 1800's. The great adaptability of this species has allowed it to thrive almost everywhere that people live. Although the house mouse usually lives outdoors in the summer, it will seek shelter indoors during the winter.
Damage and Dangers of Mice
In the search for food, mice often destroy the contents of cupboards, furniture, books, wiring in the walls, etc., through their gnawing, urine and droppings. They contaminate surfaces and leave an unpleasant odour.
Even more seriously, mice have also been linked to life-threatening diseases. Scientists have found a correlation between the presence of mice and the incidence of asthma, particularly in children. Mice can also carry the Hantavirus, a virus that can cause sudden and severe respiratory distress in humans and has resulted in deaths. The virus can become airborne when rodent droppings or nests are stirred up, as during cleaning. People can become infected by inhaling the virus or by handling infected rodents. Another disease associated with mice is Salmonella. A person infected with this bacterium (usually after ingesting food prepared on a contaminated surface) may suffer diareha, fever, and abdominal cramps that can last up to three days. If the infection spreads to the blood stream, it can be fatal if not treated promptly with antibiotics.
Evicting Mice From Your Home Permanently and Safely
There are three common lethal mouse control methods: poison, kill-traps, and glue traps. Aside from humane considerations, poison is not recommended because a poisoned mouse may die inside the walls leaving a very unpleasant odour. Likewise, a nursing female that is killed in a trap may leave behind babies that will die inside the walls. Traps and poisons will not stop a mouse infestation - only mouse proofing. Finding and eliminating mouse entry points into your home will solve the problem.
The first step in mouse proofing is to eliminate their food sources within your home. Sweep or vacuum up crumbs promptly and store food in glass or metal canisters. Mice particularly like grains, so store cereals in a high, closed cupboard or in canisters. Keep pet food, birdseed, and grass seed in tightly sealed, metal containers.
If you must leave food out for a cat or dog for long periods, make sure it is elevated. Mice are good climbers and can jump an amazing 20 centimetres (9 inches) or more off the ground. Pet stores sell food dish platforms that keep the dishes well off the ground.
The next step is to discover and seal all possible points where mice may enter your home. Check under kitchen and bathroom sink cabinets around plumbing fixtures for any gaps and signs of infestation. Slide out your oven, and check to see that mice have not been slipping through the electrical fixture opening. Crumbs that fall around the stove attract mice.
In addition, check vents air conditioning hook-ups, chimney flues, and weather stripping around doors. If you find a gap or signs of infestation, use flexible metal sheet or mesh (available in building supply stores) to seal up any holes. The metal can be bent and forced into holes around pipes as well as nailed onto a flat surface. For spaces that are too small for metal sheet or mesh, you can use pieces of stainless steel or copper scouring pads (the curly kind available at grocery or department stores), to stuff into holes. Never use steel wool as it rusts and falls apart in a short time.
If you find mouse droppings or expired mice in or around your home, be sure to spray with a disinfecting solution of diluted bleach before cleaning. This will reduce the amount of dust that is stirred up. Wear rubber gloves and a filter mask, and seal the trash in double plastic bags.
Although mice give the household cat opportunities to practice hunting, no homeowner wants these unwelcome occupants! Following these tips will help you protect your property from these persistent pests.