Winter’s return means more time inside, but you’re not the only one seeking shelter. As temperatures drop, mice and rats head indoors in search of food and warmth.
“There isn’t a home in this world that doesn’t have mice,” says Robin Wilkes, owner of Critter Control of Indianapolis. “Everyone has at least a few mice coming in and out, or living there.”
Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil eraser, while rats can fit through one the size of a quarter. They’re both strong swimmers and can swim through sewer lines or climb up drain pipes to enter homes.
Most people realize they have a rodent problem by seeing the critters’ waste, evidence of nesting, gnaw marks on doors and furniture or damage to packaged foods and dry goods.
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Mice and rats leave dark brown or black droppings in their walking path, around food sources and nesting areas. The droppings are granular in shape and range from 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch. You can gauge the extent of the infestation by the number of droppings you find.
Other signs include greasy tracks along the floor, or footprints and tail tracks in dusty areas, especially along walls. Activity increases after dark, so you might have more luck looking at night. Listen for squeaks, movement and unexplained sounds coming from behind your walls.
One of the main reasons they take up residence is the abundance of food. Mice prefer grains, so you’re likely to notice tears, rips and bite marks in bags of rice and cereal.
Rodents also chew on wires, PVC piping, furniture, bricks and anything made of wood. They’ve started house fires from chewing through electrical wires.
The greatest threat mice and rats pose, however, is contact with disease and bacteria transmitted through droppings and bites.
Pest control experts say to evaluate the exterior of your home twice a year for new holes or gaps where rodents can enter. Look for cracks in the foundation, gaps around doors and windows and where the gutters connect to the fascia board.
Pest control pros say bait boxes and traps are effective in removing rodents, but there are several options available, from traditional traps to no-kill methods that allow you to release them back into the wild.
Bait boxes contain a rodenticide that kills the mouse or rat in a few days. The boxes shelter the poison and keep it out of reach of children and pets. Place them in areas where you’ve seen rodent activity, and in their natural walking paths, such as along walls or corners.
Don’t leave food out on the kitchen counter, and make sure all dry goods and grains are stored in sealed, secure containers.
For large infestations, or if rodents simply make you squeamish, consider hiring a pest control company. Wilkes’ inspects for entry points, makes improvements and comes up with a removal plan that meets specific needs.