As temperatures drop, mice look for places to get warm and well-fed -- like your home (can you blame them?). Here are some humane approaches to mouse control.
As the weather gets colder, our homes become a cozy and welcoming refuge. Unfortunately, mice feel the same way about your comfy abode. The very qualities that make our homes attractive to us – food, water and warmth – make our homes attractive to those furry little critters.
While retailers and pest control companies promote tons of mice-killing devices and services (like snap traps, poisons, fumigation and the dreaded glue trap), there are kinder, gentler ways to get rid of rodents -- by preventing the problem in the first place. Prevention makes sense when you consider the prodigious life of mice. In a single year, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) a female may have five to 10 litters of usually five or six young each. Young are born 19 to 21 days after mating, and they are mature in six to 10 weeks. The life span of a mouse is about nine to 12 months. That's a a whole lot of mice from just one trespasser.
The two key strategies for preventing mice are pretty simple: eliminate the food source and block entry into the house.
If prevention falls short and a mouse (or three) does invade, those of us averse to killing small creatures can trap mice live and relocate them to start over in more natural conditions. More on that later.
Eliminate Food Sources for Mice
The first line of defense against mice infestation is to keep the tasty morsels that attract them to a minimum. This includes storing food in mice-proof containers. Store all dried grain and meat in glass jars, metal canisters, or other resealable airtight containers. If you have pets, keep their indoor food dishes covered when not in use. Mice need very little food to survive, so keeping the floor clear of crumbs goes a long way.
A Mouse-Proof House
Even with the house is sanitary and food items in mice-proof containers, the job is still incomplete. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), "No matter how good the sanitation, most buildings in which food is stored, handled or used will support house mice if [they're] not mouse-proofed."
Mice are tiny and can fit through small openings. However, they cannot go through solid walls. Your job is to patch any hole into your house larger than 1/4 inch. As you know, mice will chew through just about anything, so simple caulk won't do the job. The IDPH suggests mixing steel wool with caulking compound for a good plug. For cracks and openings in building foundations and openings for water pipes, vents and utilities, seal with metal or concrete for the best protection.
Also, doors, windows and window screens should fit snugly. You may need to add metal edging to prevent mice from gnawing. Note that plastic sheeting or screen, wood, rubber or other materials that mice can gnaw through will not be effective for plugging small holes. The mice will simply gnaw through them again.
And for the most natural of all deterrents, get yourself a cat.
When prevention fails, trapping will be necessary.
As mentioned above, you can kill mice in many ways. Some methods, like snap traps, are quick and humane. But others, like glue traps and poison, cause prolonged suffering.
For those of us adverse to killing, it's possible (even for the squeamish) to catch rodent intruders and relocate them to a field 1/2 a mile or so away. Live traps usually include some kind of a pivoting ramp that leads into a metal box with air holes. Aromatic bait (cheese or peanut butter) draws the mouse into the box via the ramp, which pivots to let the mice in and then pivots back to trap the mouse. Many of these traps can catch several mice in one night. Your job is to carry the box to a field, open it and let the mice escape. Wear gloves, keep your hands away from the critters, and clean your hands thoroughly.
One note on live traps: When reading consumer reviews on live traps, you'll notice some products seem to work great for some people, and not at all for others. Could it be that mice in certain parts of the country, or certain neighborhoods, or even certain houses, fall for some types of traps and not others? One suggestion is to try several types of live traps if needed to find one that works.
Here are a few humane traps to consider:
1. Eaton Multiple-Catch Mouse Trap
This metal trap costs around $10 and you can use it over and over again to catch multiple mice. To release the mice, you open the lid and let them run out.
2. Mice Cube
This simple cube is about $10 to $12 for a pack of 4 and is simple to use. Once you have caught some mice in this plastic trap, you simply turn it upside down to allow the pivoting ramp to open and let your captives run free into their new lives.
Humane Mouse Trap
The makers of this little green house claims it will catch mice when other humane traps will not. it certainly is cute.
Do-It-Yourself Mouse Traps
The goal of most humane DIY mousetraps is to entice mice into a bucket or container too tall for them to jump out of.
One method suggests positioning an empty toilet paper roll with bait at the edge of a table and with a bucket beneath. When the mouse comes after the bait, the toilet paper roll pivots from the weight and dumps the mouse in the bucket. If your mice are good jumpers, shredded newspaper at the bottom of the bucket helps cut down on their jumping power.
For another type of do-it-yourself mouse trap, start with a 5-gallon bucket or a plastic trash can. Run a piece of thin string or wire through a paper plate or a soda can and attach the string or wire to either side of the bucket rim. Create a ramp up to the top with sticks or branches so a mouse can run up to the top of the bucket and toward the dab of peanut butter you'll put in the middle of the plate or on the can. When the mouse steps on the plate or can, it will pivot and dump the mouse into the bucket.
Note: After you live-trap mice, they cannot survive without food and water for longer than a few hours. And if you're averse to killing, you certainly don't want to kill your trapped mice, so you need to check the trap every few hours, or provide food and water until you can get out to a field. Make sure you release the mice far from your house or they'll just come right back "home".
If all this seems like too much trouble, and killing mice is not something you mind that much, you can find a plethora of mousetraps at your local hardware store.