Tips help make your house unwelcoming for a mouse

December 16, 2007|By Alan J. Heavens | Alan J. Heavens,McClatchy-Tribune

It's getting colder outside, and no one knows better than the neighborhood rodents. They find it much more comfy to live in your floors, walls, kitchen drawers, name it, so it's time to come up with an eradication strategy. Here's some advice, provided with help from the folks at Terminix.

KNOW YOUR ENEMY -- Cooler temperatures limit rodents' natural sources of food and shelter. But they can enter houses through tiny openings and are capable of scaling rough surfaces and even tightroping wires to gain access to entry points. It's estimated that rodents will enter more than 21 million homes this winter.

OF MICE AND RATS -- The house mouse is the most common rodent pest on the planet. It's a nocturnal animal that can gain entry to human structures through openings as small as one-quarter inch. Common entry points include exterior vents, around cables that enter the home, and even under doors.

The Norway rat, also known as the sewer rat, is found throughout the United States. Norways are the larger urban rat, up to 16 inches in length, including tail, and just under a pound in weight. Norway rats prefer to travel across smooth, flat surfaces. They don't like to move across open terrain. Homes with thick vegetation or shrubbery near the foundation can unknowingly welcome this rodent.

Signs of invasion -- Dark-colored droppings, one-quarter-inch to one-half-inch long; gnawed boxes of food in cupboards; oily "rub marks" along walls, caused by the rodents' habitual use of the same paths; gnawed door frames or furniture legs; sounds of movement in pantries and ceilings and behind walls.

KEEP THEM OUT -- Eliminate safe harbors around the outside of your home. Store firewood as far from the house as possible (off the ground, too), and move debris, stones and bricks away from your foundation. Seal any holes or cracks in your house larger than one-quarter of an inch. Stuff large openings with steel wool or wire mesh before sealing. Equip attic and foundation vents with tight-fitting one-quarter-inch hardware cloth; rats are good climbers and can shinny up drain pipes and into openings. Regular insect screening will not deter rodents. Install a tight-fitting weather strip on the bottom of all doors.

TRAP DECISIONS --Mice are best controlled with traps: snap traps, live traps or a combination of the two. With snap traps, place traps where the mice are active, but where children and pets can't get to them. With rats, traps are best for control, because the bodies can be removed. If you use only baits, you run the risk of a rodent dying inside a wall or in a place where you can't remove it, and it may cause an odor.

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