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Mice Facts

     House mice followed the first Europeans to the New World and have since become established almost continent-wide.

     The house mouse is 2-3 inches long, gray-brown, with an almost naked tail as long or longer than its body.  They are often confused with native species such as white-footed and deer mice or meadow voles.

     House mice prefer to live inside buildings.  Much of its life is spent between walls and behind cabinets and appliances – the only sign of mouse occupancy being the evidence of gnawed foods and droppings on floors, shelves and countertops.

     Mice are omnivores and eat a variety of foods preferring seeds, grains and nuts.  They require only about l/10 ounce of food each day and can live without access to fresh water if the solid food they eat is somewhat moist.

     House mice breed year-round and can raise as many as eight litters annually.  Reproductive life begins for females at one and a half or two months of age.  One year is about the longest any wild mouse can expect to survive.

Problems and Solutions

     When mice are present in large numbers, they can and will consume considerable quantities of stored seed and grains.  However, they contaminate much more food with urine and feces.  By gnawing wood, paper, cloth, books and insulation on wiring, mice may also cause property damage.

     With any mouse problem, it is important to recognize signs of mouse presence early, identify the source of food that attracts them, remove it and the mice and, after the mice are gone, keep others from gaining entry to the house.

     Unfortunately, the most common method of rodent control is to kill the animal and usually this is done in an extremely cruel manner such as glue traps or poison.  This killing must be repeated again and again as the rodent population cycles back because the homeowner does not take steps to improve sanitation or exclude the animals from the home.

Use Humane Mouse Traps

     Never use glue traps or poisons to kill mice.  Live traps are usually available at local hardware stores.  You can also purchase a Humane "Smart" Mousetrap from PETA.  This particular trap is baited with a saltine cracker smeared with peanut butter.  Once the mouse enters, the door closes behind it.  You can then take the trap outside, remove the plastic wall against the cracker and the mouse can chew its way out to freedom.   When using live traps, be sure that you check them every day.  In addition, when relocating the mice, be sure to release them in an area that provides some cover for them.  You can also try making your own humane trap.  Bait a bathroom wastebasket with bread, sunflower seed, or peanut butter and put it in a place where mice are known to be present.  Put it along a wall, rather than in the open.  Tilt the basket on its side with a "ladder" of bricks or books that the mouse can climb to get to the rim.  From there it will jump or slide down the side of the basket and will be unable to climb back up the slippery surface.  Set the trap before going to bed.  Check it early the next morning.  If the mouse is caught, transport it outside and tip the basket over gently to release it.  Don’t worry about it jumping out of the basket at you – it will not be able to get out on its own.  The wastebasket should then be washed thoroughly with a diluted (l:30) solution of bleach.

     Once the mouse has been removed, you must thoroughly search all possible points of entry around foundations: where utility pipes and wires pass into the house, where siding has deteriorated and holes occur, cracks in foundations or any other places where an entryway might be suspected.  Baby powder or talc that will show tracks where mice are active, can be sprinkled along the inside perimeters of walls and thresholds.  Yes this is difficult and time-consuming, but the process of excluding mice nicely complements the examination and sealing of a house that would be done for good summer or winter insulation.  The two can simply be done hand-in-hand.

     Many different tools can be used to exclude mice from buildings.  Wire mesh or quick-drying cement can plug cracks around drainpipes and small openings where mice may gain access.  Galvanized window screening can be balled and stuffed into larger openings that are then finished with caulking or cement.   Expanding foam insulation is excellent for filling small to medium-sized openings and has the advantage of being available in commercial kits for larger jobs.

     Next it is essential to remove food sources through proper sanitation.  Because mice eat so little, attention should be paid to both obvious and not-so-obvious sources of food.  A small amount of spillage from birdseed stored in a garage or shed can be more than enough to sustain a mouse.  Dry dog or cat food left in the garage overnight or next to an appliance behind which there is access from the wall is a bonanza.  Appliances also offer security from which foraging trips into the kitchen can be made to pick up tiny amounts of spilled food that make a meal.

     Household food items that are accessible to mice should be stored in metal or plastic containers.  Outside the house, protective cover can be eliminated by removing weeds and trimming a vegetation-free perimeter for at least 18 inches out from the foundation of the house or building to be protected.  Companion animals should be fed indoors and uneaten food picked up where mice are known to be a problem.

     Ultrasonic devices are commercially available and some people claim success in using them, however, there are no credible scientific studies to validate the effectiveness of any such device.

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