August 11, 2007
The House With The Mouse
So there's this house. And in this house, there is a mouse. Or should I say, mice. Plural. Because there's never just one.
Unfortunately, this house has been unoccupied for almost a year, and it's in the woods. So all sorts of little critters couldn't help but move in. Within the first week, we encountered a bear eating from old bird feeders left out all winter, mice, bats, and a nest of baby squirrels in the attic.
As much as we like mice and squirrels and bats, we don't particularly want to live with them. I could tolerate a few (not an infestation) in a barn or something, but not in my house with my food and future kids and toothbrushes.
So it seems like this house needs to be de-moused before anyone moves in. I don't like the idea of poisoning very much, unless there is a serious infestation, which there is not.
So I've been doing some research in order to have "options". Keep in mind none of these are going to do much about the existing problem, but it will deter and prevent future issues.
Patch every single opening to the outside of the house. Don't just check around the base of the house. A mouse can scale a wall, or jump from a tree.
We got lucky. We found the squirrel entry point and we closed it up, covered it with hardware cloth, and cut back the tree limbs. We did it whilst the two baby squirrels were out playing for the day and they haven't been back since.
We sprayed this hardening foam stuff to close up some of the gaps, but they just chewed right through that. Now we're going with concrete to patch some floor cracks.
Mice thrive in clutter. Piles of wood, piles of grass. Keep these away from the house. Organize your kitchen and your attics so there are not a lot of nice places for mice.
The basement had piles of wood, which we moved out of the house to the shed. We moved all scrapwood out of the house as well. Just cleaning this up helped a lot. You also want to avoid keeping dead wood in the house because it can carry in carpenter ants - another lovely woodsy friend you'd rather keep outside.
When we first got to the house, I bought some nice 1x1 foot self-sticking linoleum squares. They are meant for making cheap flooring, but I cut them to size for underneath every sink cabinet. White was cheapest, but it also allows easy wipe-downs underneath the sink, and I could see immediately where the mice were at.
Starve 'Em Out
Review your food storage. Make sure pantry items are well sealed. Don't leave pet food out for other critters to sample.
If you use birdfeeders with seeds, make sure they are well away from the house and clean up beneath them to avoid attracting unwanted pests.
The previous owners of this house left gallons of sunflower seeds strewn about the perimeter of the house. I'm sure it was great for the birds, but it also advertised the house for a warm shelter to every critter in the nearby area - including a local black bear, who paid our property a visit.
Scare Them Off & Possibly Attract Some Outdoor Wildlife
Depending on your level of tolerance and the scale of your pestiferous problem, you may need to actively hurt some mice. However, if you do it right, you should only have to do it once. From then on, you use the deterants above, as well as consider introducing some real or imaginary mouse predators into the mix.
You need to get the population down before the critters manage to burn the house down. We found two lovely dead mice in a junction box - trying to keep warm through the winter, they had zapped themselves.
Releasing a mouse outside doesn't work, generally, because they will just run right back inside again. They can get through areas the size of a pencil. I've seen them do it now and it's amazing.
Remember Jerry Always Got The Best Of Tom
Everyone always says Get A Cat. As I'm allergic, that's not an option. Also, I've been reading that cats are not really effective as house mousers. Sure, they'll catch some, but its not enough on its own. On boats in past years they were more effective, partially because the cats were not fed and had to rely on the mouse population for their dinners. It was a closed ecosystem. Your house isn't.
Encouraging Wild Predators
Since we want to be able to attract wildlife outdoors anyway, we have some interesting alternatives to look into.
I've read that bobcat urine powder makes a great indoor mouse deterant. I'm not sure if I'm allergic to this, but supposedly it is odorless and not harmful to anyone but it scares mice right out of a house. Sounds good, and I wonder if it works. I also wonder if I can attract some wild bobcats with it so I can have cats without having cats. Here, kitty kitty.
I've also been looking into building some owl boxes on the property overlooking the open field. Many species of owls, including Barred and Screech Owls live in the area surrounding the house. Now I know what to do with my webcam.
Another owl you can attract is the Barn Owl. One study I saw showed that each owl consumes an average of 2000 rats and mice a year, or about five to six rodents a night.
At the end of the day, you need to get rid of the mice. Everything I've seen shows that the old fashioned snap trap is the quickest, cleanest death you can expect. Glue traps seem to catch more mice on a single sheet, but they are a terrible way to die. Just because you're getting rid of them doesn't mean you shouldn't do your best to do it humanely.
I have never used a snap trap before now, but I have found them very successful when baited with a tiny bit of Trader Joe's crunchy organic peanut butter - only the best for their last meal...
Posted by sorsha at August 11, 2007 5:52 PM
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