Identifying Mice Problems
Catching field mice are wild mice is a bit different than catching the common house mouse, so it's important to figure out what type of mouse you're up against. You need to approach the problem differently. The primary difference is the type of bait that you used to catch the mice, so if you're finding out that you're setting traps but the mice are taking the bait you may want to switch it up a little bit. The diets of wild mice consist of oats, seeds, or other unprocessed foods. This differs from house mice because they are not picky -house mice will pretty much eat just about anything they can get their hands on.
If you don't know whether or not you have a mice problem to begin with, you can look for some of these signs:
- Rod-shaped feces that tend to be pointy and each ends, up to a quarter or one half inch in length. If the feces is rounded in larger, you may have yourself a rat problem. I would suggest looking at some of the differences between rats and mice.
- If you hear mysterious rustling sounds that sound like they're coming from inside the walls, or in the ceiling, this may be rodent mice making its way between food and its nest.
- You may also recognize what are called mouse tracks along the edges of walls near the floor. Mice are generally blind and will rub against the sides of the walls to maintain their orientation. Because the mice are dirty, you will often times notice dirt smudges along paths that mice frequent. This is a prime location to place traps, so if you recognize this feature take note of it.
Understanding Why and Eliminating Their Food Source
Getting mice in your home or garage is often times unavoidable. As fall approaches and the temperature starts to drop, mice will especially start looking for warmer refuge nearer to a food supply. Mice do not stray far from their nests, so when they do find a food source, they are likely to take up residence nearby. Usually mice will go no further than 25 feet from their nest. If they find an abundant supply of food, such as pet food, cereal, or other easily accessible food, it is very likely that they will build a nest nearby.
The best way to eliminate this food source is to store it properly. For example if you have a large bag of dog food, don't just set it on the side of the garage in the back. Mice will very easily chewed through the bottom corner of the bag and have a virtually unlimited supply of food for the winter. Instead purchase a large, sealable plastic container and house the food in there. Cereal boxes or another likely target for mice because chewing through the cardboard sides is no match for their teeth. It is best to store these in an elevated location, that is not easily access but what mice. Note that this might not be enough because mice are very nimble creatures that can scale a vertical wall as long as it is porous enough for them to grab onto. Keep an eye out in the pantry because food that is stored in there for a long time without much human traffic is mice heaven.
It is also important to ensure that you maintain a clean household. Do not leave plates with food out in the open, make sure to immediately wash them. You'll also want to take care to thoroughly clean countertops if you have a mice problem because they are known carriers of several diseases. If you find that a food source has been invaded by mice, throw away the food immediately - do not eat the food. You want to systematically go through your house and thoroughly clean anywhere food has ever been. Check under your children's beds, look under the couch cushions, look behind the bar where you store your alcohol, just about anywhere food could be or has been, you'll need to clean thoroughly and ensure food is no longer there and if it is there make sure it is properly stored. The point of this step is to eliminate shelter for mice and remove their food source. This step will help prevent mice from coming in the first place.
Another step you're going to want to take after thoroughly cleaning everything is to remove all access points into your home. Mice are very small and nimble creatures and can fit through a hole the size of your pinky finger. Look around pipes or other places where the exterior of your home is breached for some access (cable, water, telephone, etc.). For permanent fix use some kind of sealant, or if you're looking for a temporary quick fix you can use steel wool or some other wire mesh. Mice cannot chew through metal, but they are able to chew through plastic, cardboard, or other soft materials. The point of this step is to eliminate access to your home or garage. It is extremely important that you isolate all possible entrances because if you leave just one this is all a mouse needs to get in. This is something you may want to do both inside and outside your home. Inside don't forget to look under cabinets as this is a perfect place for a mouse to hide and breed.
Exterminating Mice That Have Already Invaded Your Home
The wooden snap trap is probably the most common mouse trap because it not only works, it works well. They work by simply placing some sort of bait on a trigger and when the mice goes to take the bait it activates the trap which snaps down and breaks their neck. It's really simple how it works. You just lay several of these in the area where the mice are known to be, and they will hopefully take the bait if you choose the right one and they will die. The problem with this is that they can get messy at times - some people have reported that the mouse's head has been snapped clear off, but this is rare. It is best to place these traps along the wall where you identified the mouse uses as a trail to and from its nest or the food source. Remember the mouse tracks that I talked about when you identify the signs of mice.
If you don't like the possibility of breaking the mouse's neck to kill them, you can try deploying some of the electronic mousetraps that are on the market. These work in a similar fashion in that there is a bait placed in the electronic trap and when the mouse tries to take the bait it closes an electrical circuit that induces a fatal electric shock. Some people may find this inhumane, the most electronic traps subscribe to the international humane kill standards. Another nice thing about this trap is that it can be used to kill many mice, but if your home is overwhelms you may need more than one.
Live Catch Traps
There are also a variety of live catch traps on the market that work by luring a mouse into a container that has a one-way door. The mice can get in but the mice cannot get out. Some people prefer this method as they do not feel comfortable killing the mice or handling the dead mouse. They like this so they can catch and release it back into the wild. Of the problem with this is that mice have an instinctual homing beacon that will bring them back to their nest. If you do choose to catch and release them anyways, make sure that you release them at least 1 mile from your home otherwise you may find that they wind up on your front porch again.
Mouse Repellents and Mouse Deterrents
There are numerous mouse repellents on the market. Some of the most common you'll run into are the ultrasonic mouse repellents. These devices work by emitting high-pitched frequencies beyond the human hearing that are threatening to mice. One of the sounds they mimic is the sound of a dominant male and because of the territorial nature of mice they will move onward and look for another place to stay. People have reported varying levels of success with these devices, but it is my belief that the most common source of failure is the improper usage of the device. It is important to deploy these devices such that the sound they emit extends out into the zone from which you'd like to repel the mice. The most common problem with this device is placing them behind furniture in which the sound is absorbed, or purchasing a device that is too small to cover the desired area. Note that if you have any sort of rodent pet such as a gerbil, hamster, or other you will not want to use this device as this will essentially be torturing your beloved animal. It is safe to use with other household pets such as dogs and cats.
Another thing that doesn't mix very well is peppermint oil and mice. Mice detest the smell of peppermint because their noses are very sensitive and the scent of peppermint is extremely strong. The scent overwhelms them and helps to prevent them from entering the treated area.
Many people think that mouse poison is the easiest way to get rid of mice because it is simple and effective. While this is true using mice poison is dangerous to your own pets and other small animals such as squirrels or your neighbor's pets that may come across and eat the poison. Another problem with mouse poison is that when the mice either they do not die immediately. Usually when a mouse has finished eating he returns to his nest. Once the poison kicks in, he will die... most likely in his nest... Which may be in the wall of your home. That means the mouse will start to decompose in a location that is inaccessible to you and begin to emanate a putrid dead mouse smell. The thing you lose when deploying mouse poison over standard mousetraps is control - control over where the mouse dies.