Do you have a mouse in your house?

Mice are a continual problem for rural and urban dwellers. If mice aren't ruining the trees and shrubs by gnawing on branches, they are indoors feeding on stored seed, pet food, breads, dried pastas, spices and food stuffs and gnawing into stored clothing and boxes. They invade your home seeking food, water and warmth. One pair of mice and their offspring can reproduce up to 200 mice in four months.

Mice are offensive for many reasons.

  • Food contamination. They eat and contaminate all types of food. Each mouse can contaminate ten times more food than it eats. Mouse urine is considered potentially dangerous if ingested.
  • Destruction of property. Mice damage and destroy property.
  • Disease carriers. Mice carry serious diseases that may affect both humans and animals - such as typhus fever, trichinosis, plague, infectious jaundice, Salmonella food infections and possible Hantavirus.

Signs of mice habitation include;

  • Mouse droppings [feces]. Their droppings are small, black, oval shaped and about the size of a grain of rice. Large roach droppings look the same so be careful not to confuse the two. [Rats have droppings about the size of a black or red bean.]
  • Nesting areas. Mice will nest in dresser drawers, closets, ovens, under porch planters, and in garages. They have even been known to nest in car engines, causing considerable damage by chewing on wires.
  • Tracks, including footprints and tail marks, on dusty surfaces, in mud or snow.
  • Mouse urine is found along traveled pathways or in feeding areas. Both wet and dry rodent urine glows under ultraviolet light.
  • Runs or burrows next to walls, along fences, next to buildings or under bushes and debris.
  • Smudge or rub marks on beams, rafters, walls, pipes, etc.
  • Gnawing marks on doors or ledges, in corners, in wall material, on stored materials or on other surfaces.
  • Noises in the walls caused by gnawing, climbing, clawing, squeaks and fighting, particularly at night when they are most active.
  • Smell. You may even smell the presence of rats or mice in a poorly ventilated room.
Prevent mice from entering buildings, by covering all holes that are as big as a lead pencil. Place 1/4 inch wire mesh or smaller screening or use foam insulation around pipes, ventilation, and any other holes entering your building. Make sure that all doors fit tightly against the threshold.

If mice are already in the building, keep boxes 12 to 18 inches above the floor and stored materials several inches away from the walls to keep them from finding suitable nesting sites.

Trapping is the most effective method of getting rid of small numbers of mice. Use peanut butter, doughnuts, gumdrops or other sweet substances as bait. Change your bait daily to keep it fresh and inviting.

Place snap traps next to the walls where mice droppings are seen. Place at right angles to the wall less than 10 feet apart. Mice will stay close to their food source.

When you catch a mouse in a trap, dispose of it carefully in a sealed plastic bag, using gloves. Disinfect the trap or use a new one. Disinfect your gloves.

Non-toxic glue boards or sticky traps should be placed in similar places as the traps. Many people see these traps as cruel since the mouse gets stuck to the trap, it may scream, dismember itself, often dies slowly and leaves a unsightly mess.

Poison baits are not recommended if you have any pets. Your pets might eat the poison or the mouse that has ingested the poison and also die or get seriously ill as a result. It is also possible the rodent may eat the poison and die in an inaccessible location - such as within the walls, creating a noticeable odor.

Tracking powders are used by professional pest control companies. The toxic powder is placed into the walls and inaccessible areas a mouse may be traveling and living. It picks up the poison on its fur and later ingests it when grooming itself. Again, you may have a problem with the mouse dying in a wall.

Recommendations include the following:

  • Clean rodents out of your house and within 100 yards of all buildings.
  • Open doors and windows before cleaning areas where mice have been living. Run a fan to clear out the dust. [Do not stay in the room.]
  • Disinfect all areas where mice or rodent droppings have been seen. Bleach, will work fine.
  • Always wear gloves when picking up live or dead rodents, their droppings or traps. Disinfect gloves.
  • Put dead rodents and used cleaning materials in a sealed plastic bag and dispose in a sealed garbage can.
Editor note: Considering the hazards that mice bring into your house, you must do everything possible to keep them out. The suggestions above will help you keep your home a safe place. The one suggestion not mentioned above that has worked very well for our family is to have a family cat. Most cats will work hard to keep your home mice-free. We also use traps in the garage where our cats seldom roam.

Sources: Texas A & M Ag Extension; Orkin Pest Control; Winnebago Co Extension Service. Connie Eccles, Assistant editor of RAA & CEO, researcher and writer for ComPortOne.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is a rare but life-threatening disease which produces flu-like symptoms in a person 2 to 6 weeks after exposure. Exposure can be caused by breathing the dust that is contaminated with infected rodent feces, urine, saliva or through a rodent bite. House mice are not considered to be carriers, however deer mice may carry the disease. Deer mice are common in the upper Midwest, especially in the rural and wooded areas. Always take precautions when dealing with rodents or rodents droppings.

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