There’s a Mouse in my House

Hingham Real Estate News: November 20, 2015

2015-11-19 19.27.17

There is most certainly more than one mouse in your house!

It is that time of the year in New England when the temperatures edge downwards towards the darkest days. For many of us, this signals a need for increased carbohydrates just to keep our spirits up in the absence of the sun’s light. For animals living in the wild, the cold and darkness signal numerous biological processes and urges that have been in place for tens of thousands of years. We may be rid of the ants and house flies, but rodents and mammals are knocking on our doors.

Wild animals are much more attuned than we are to what goes on outside of our cozy, protected houses here on the South Shore of Boston. But we can educate ourselves and become attuned to their behaviors too. This will help us deter them from coming into our houses and garages, or even discourage some critters that might have already taken up residence.

By far, the most common critter complaint are the mice. The House Mouse, or Mus musculus as it is formally named, start exploring their options when it cools down and the fall weather turns wetter. They like to stay warm and dry too, and will go to extreme lengths to find a safe spot away from the elements. Mice have been known to chew through electrical wiring and wood just to get to that “special spot” in your attic.

To prevent mice from seeing your house as a nice real estate option, there are things you can do. We can call at “anti-mouse staging.”

Keep food and crumbs off the counters.

Throw out old newspapers and boxes of clothes that provide nesting materials.

Seal up holes and cracks around your house, especially where cable lines and plumbing enter.

Make sure your chimney caps and vent covers are secure.

Now is the time to clean out sheds and garages as mice love to snuggle in piles of stuff.

Use an arenal of the natural methods listed below.
Mice are a hardy and adaptive species. If there is an opening, they will find a way in, and then you’ve got to get rid of them. If you hear scratching inside of your walls at night, chances are, the mice have taken up residence and you are past the opportunity for preventative options.

Mice have a gestation period of only 20 days and as a result, the problem can become bigger, quickly. They can have up to a dozen litters per year, and up to a dozen baby mice per litter. Mice are about three inches long and weigh less than an ounce. Mice are speedy, agile and have impeccable balance, making it easy for them to climb. They have exquisite hearing and sense of small, but terrible eyesight. Because of this, they use urine or pheromone pathways to find their way around to food and nesting sites.

If you have a suspicion that mice are moving in, inspect your home for their presence. Perhaps you will find that the dog biscuit box has a hole in the bottom right-hand corner, or some little pellets of excrement, small clumps of nesting materials or even chew marks. If you can identify the scat, congratulate yourself and try to follow the trail to see about locating a nesting site. If you can’t go that far, don’t worry. The most important thing is to find the mouse highway.

When you have a general idea about where the mice are, or where they travel, find all of the open holes and gaps that mice could be using to get into your house. This includes vents, eave gaps, roof lines, loose siding, areas where pipes enter home, basically any small hole or gap. Check from the ground up, and definitely the entire roof. Be sure to look for areas as small as a dime, since mice can squeeze through very small holes. Mice can fit through holes as small as 3/8 inch. If a mouse can fit its skull through a space, the rest follows.

When all of these entries are located, use steel mesh to seal the gaps. You can go one step further and use a sealant to hold the mesh in place, and to block the flow of air. If you skip this step and go right to trapping, your mouse problem will remain.

Once you feel confident about your job sealing all the possible entrances, you have to set up traps to remove the mice. If you catch the problem early, a dozen or so traps will do. There are multiple styles of mouse traps but the preferred method by most exterminators, and the most humane, are the standard snap traps. Use snap traps with sensitive triggers so that they are more likely to kill quickly. The critical part of setting your traps is that they must be on the mouse pathways where you found feces, and where the mice probably travel many times each day. Set the traps about 2 to 3 feet apart and put the baited end against the wall. Be sure to se gloves or else your scent on the traps may make them ineffective.

Usually a mouse will get caught on a snap trap on the first night, but sometimes it takes a few nights. It is very important to check your traps daily and also look for new mouse droppings. If dropping decrease and eventually stop, then you can be fairly confident the mice are no longer in your home. But if, after a few days, it starts back up, don’t be too discouraged as this is a common problem. If it fails after your second round, it might be time to save yourself some aggravation and call in a professional.

When the mice are gone, you will need to clean up the space where the mice were nesting. If their scent stays behind, new mice will actually be attracted to the scent and try to move in.

Many people use “natural” methods but misunderstand that they will not work to get mice out once they are inside. Maybe if you use an arsenal of these approaches mice will be less likely to move in, but it is no guarantee. If there is a tasty enough morsel or the scent of previous mouse tenants the natural solutions are not likely to override the powerful instincts of the House Mouse. Smells and sounds will not make a mouse family vacate. The mice know that they are safe and will die outside in the cold without the shelter of your warm house.

For preventive measures, here are some of the other solutions:

This is said to be a powerful mouse deterrent so you can try leaving a trail of Tabasco sauce around your home’s foundation. You can also dilute the Tabasco in a spray bottle with hot water and a little dish detergent and spray it around any nesting sites. Things like Cayenne pepper, or wrapping cloves in cloth are said to accomplish the same thing.

Mice have no way of releasing air from their stomachs, so the theory is that when they drink something carbonated they will die. Leaving non-diet soda (sugar attracts mice) out in a shallow dish makes it easier for them to drink. I think this is a cruel method that ensures that the mice will be in pain for weeks and continue to live.

You might have seen mint-scented trash bags at the supermarket. Mice don’t like mint, so you can clean with mint-scented products, or add a few drops of mint oil to your current cleaner. Some people grind peppermint Altoids, and spread the dust around mice nesting areas. Planting mint in the warmer months is another tactic, but mint is a fairly invasive species. Another alternative is to keep mint growing in pots outside.

The stronger the perfumed scent the better. Mice do not like any strong smells so you can put dryer sheets in areas where mice have been to prevent another family from moving in. The nice thing about dryer sheets is that you stuff them in cracks and underneath attic floorboards.

When animal urine breaks down, it produces an odor that is like ammonia. Mice avoid the smell because of the fear of predation by larger animals. Clean with ammonia and spray near past nesting areas, but be careful since ammonia can be harmful to animals and humans.

Mothballs are a weak deterrent near nesting sites but it cannot hurt to keep them near the wool sweater that your Aunt Tillie knit for you. Storing clothes in the attic should always include mothballs and sealed bags since mice will certainly find good use of any textiles.

Remove the freshener and place in a used can so that they don’t leak. You can leave the can wherever there is mouse activity, but of reach from curious children.

Antifreeze is toxic to all living things and exterminators strongly advise against using this.

You can buy sound products made specifically for mice at the hardware store. The result that the companies would have you believe is that the high-frequency sounds are so irritating to mice, that they will turn around and look elsewhere. If you think about how mice communicate through high frequencies, will understand how there is no evidence supporting these devices as effective deterrents.

Glue traps are ugly to contend with. The mouse enters and is hopelessly stuck, oftentimes ripping limbs from their body. Most homeowners then have to drown the mouse.

The farmhouse cat can probably catch more than a few mice in its lifetime since the cat is a mouse predator. But mice are notoriously good at hiding in very tight quarters so that cats cannot possibly get to all of them before they reproduce each time. And letting cats outside is not a good idea since your kitty can kill songbirds and ingest poison.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, and a heart for living creatures, a live trap is an option. Havahart has cage traps specifically for mice. Then you can take a long drive away form your home and set the mice free.

For decades, poisoning was thought to be the most effective measure to rid one’s home of mice. However, poison does not kill all of the mice since new mice will move in as the poisoned mice lay dying inside of your walls. The smell can carry on for days and if your house is on the market to sell, this is the last thing you want!

Ineffectiveness aside, poison is a cruel action to take and causes the animal an unnecessarily slow and painful death. Even in the case of mouse infestations, exterminators do not use poison. They follow the same procedures outlined in this article.

The Environmental Protection Agency moved to ban certain mouse poisons that are the most toxic in 1998. Those sold as loose bait and pellet poisons are not contained in tamper- and weather-resistant boxes, resulting in pets, wildlife and humans being poisoned. The EPA has also banned the use of anticoagulants that kill by causing internal bleeding. Licensed exterminators are still able to use these products.

Since the companies refuse to comply, the products can still be found on the shelves, and their inevitable removal could take years.

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