Are Mice Baiting You?

by Ellen

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I’m not ashamed to admit it:  We have a mouse problem in our house.   For years we noticed droppings in our basement — an inconvenience, but not yet an unmanageable problem.  Being generally kind-of-heart, we chose to rid our house of mice by using havahart traps, which carefully catch the intruders in their own little cages so that they can be taken far away from home and deposited near someone else’s basement in a new, outdoor, mouse oasis.

There were a few drawbacks to this method:

  • It is illegal in Massachusetts to relocate mice from your property.
  • If you don’t take mice at least 3-5 miles from your home, they will return.  (See how above point might make this action difficult…)
  • Mice multiply very, very quickly.  If you don’t catch the initial infestation right away, the resulting numbers will be too great to catch and release.
  • You can’t release mice in cold weather or they will die.

Despite these drawbacks, we persevered with the catch-and-release method in warmer weather for a couple of years (unaware of the law in Massachusetts).

Of course, we tried other methods to mouse-proof our home,  such as stuffing steel wool in the cracks in our foundation, cleaning any food areas meticulously, making sure cabinet drawers were tightly closed at night

When we could no longer keep up with the expanding mouse population, we knew we needed to pursue other options.

The diseases that mice can carry are nothing to sneeze at.  Mouse droppings pose a hantavirus hazard, especially if they aren’t cleaned up while still fresh.  Virus in the dried droppings can spread easily in the air, especially when the virus is disturbed via sweeping or vacuuming.   Never sweep or vacuum old mouse droppings: Spray old mouse droppings with a water/bleach mixture and then carefully wipe them up with towels.

Mice also carry Salmonella in their droppings, which are readily deposited on kitchen surfaces as they scurry across them in search of crumbs.  If you suspect that you have mice in your kitchen, it’s a good idea to wash your counters each morning.

Here some recommendations for dealing with mice that you can find all over the web:

  • fill holes, cracks, or any opening larger than 1/4 inch in your foundation with steel wool.  Mice can fit into a space the size of a pencil eraser.
  • plant mint around your house — mice hate mint.
  • cats and dogs can help eliminate mice.  Beware:  Mice do eat pet food, so be sure not to leave it out all night.
  • Clean, clean, clean.

Now, here are some of MY insights, learned the hard way:

  • Do not store birdseed in the house, even if it’s in a sealed plastic bag, unless you want to find sunflower seeds in little piles in a dresser drawer.
  • Store all chocolate, even baking chocolate,  in a jar with a closed lid.
  • Kindergarten macaroni art is delicious to mice.
  • Don’t leave used dishtowels, sponges, or bibs with food on them where mice can feast in the night.
  • Scrub the surface of your stove nightly.
  • Use strong-smelling peppermint oil to repel mice.   Put a few drops of 100% peppermint oil (strong!) on cotton balls and place them inside warm kitchen drawers, around baseboards, and wherever you suspect mice may be entering.  My uncle has been successfully smearing it around the foundation of his house.

Our house is too old to be effectively mouse-proofed.  There will always be a dime-sized hole somewhere that we miss.   Although we agonized about using poison bait traps, we did eventually end up calling an exterminator.  Mouse droppings in the kitchen posed too much of a health threat to ignore and the exterminator assured us that there could be no secondary poisoning of neighbor’s pets.

As winter approaches, we are  still uneasy about using poison.  We haven’t had our bait traps refilled yet.  We’re giving natural methods of mouse control a fair try before we revert to bait.   We now use peppermint oil liberally.  And, we adopted a kitten.

Check out our very strange yet true story of rodents in residence.

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