Thursday, October 10, 2013

There's a Mouse in my House! A firsthand account of rodent infestation

By: Elisa Sparkman, Education & Outreach Specialist

I want to share my own experience about mice in my home. But first, let me give you tips on how to keep my experience from happening to you.

Tips for Rodent Prevention

  • Seal openings larger than one quarter of an inch using rodent-resistant materials such as wire mesh, concrete, sheet metal, brick, or mortar. Some spray expanding foam may work for really small openings.
  • Check your home for cracks and openings. These are likely to occur around the foundation, attic, vents, or places where pipes or cables enter the building.
  •  Keep the space under doors less than ¼ of an inch and cover the edges of doors to prevent gnawing.
  •  Keep food, including pet food and bird seed, in rodent-proof containers. Do not leave pet food out over night.
  •  If you have rodent problems, don’t feed the birds.
  •  Rodents love insulation for nesting. Cover or remove fiberglass insulation from areas accessible to rodents.
  • Keep shrubs and other vegetation two to three feet away from building walls and keep them trimmed.
  • Avoid stacking firewood or other materials against building walls. Rodents and insects find them very appealing.

I was never really afraid of mice. That is, until I was traumatized by a complete infestation. Once upon a time, before I worked for Thurston County Public Health, I had come back to Olympia from working a year in the mountains after college. It was late winter and my mother and I started to pick up on the telltale signs that we had mice in the house.

  • The scampering sound on the wood floors and in the walls at night.
  • My cat would stare at the bottom of the kitchen counters for hours. She was on “mouse watch.” (She never caught any.)
  • We started finding mouse droppings in drawers.

And then the worst sign of all: lentils. Yes, lentils. We started finding dried lentils in drawers and closets. This meant they had chewed through a bag of dried lentils in our pantry and were taking them back to their nest… wherever that was.

We knew we had a problem and needed to get some traps. While we debated what type of trap to use, how many to get, and who would do the trapping, our problem got worse. The mice were no longer invisible creatures leaving traces of their existence. One morning I opened the pantry and for a box of cereal, and mouse jumped out at me. Naturally, I screamed and ran. Another morning, while brushing my teeth, one squeezed out from the tiniest hole at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet! My screams forced it right back into the hole.

I came home one day to find the vacuum out on the front porch and I asked my mom why it was left outside. She answered, “I accidentally vacuumed up a live mouse and it’s still in there.” Guess who had to take the vacuum apart to get it out? 

That was it. We really needed traps. But I didn’t want to kill the little creatures. When they’re not jumping out at you from the pantry, they are kind of cute. So I got live traps. The problem was, my mom and I were too wimpy to pick up the traps with our bare hands after mice were trapped. I decided that I could live with myself if we killed a few of them.

Photo of the lentils that the mice had hoarded
We got down to business with real snap traps. And we started going through and cleaning every closet, every drawer… until the nest was found. I wasn’t home (thank goodness) when my mom and her friend found the nest in a box full of old clothes inside a coat closet that we rarely used. About four mice had scampered out of the box. I arrived home to find the box on the back porch and two big piles of dried lentils. I couldn’t believe how many lentils the mice had hoarded! We continued to go through every room, closet and cupboard to clean up after the mice and we continued to find scattered lentils. We got the house sealed up by professionals and they installed more traps to get the last of them. 

Mice can fit through holes as small as ¼ inch! They can spread disease, destroy things in your home, and chew through electrical wires. Although my story may be humorous and I can look back and laugh now… we are lucky to have had minimal damage and that my mom and I remained healthy throughout the ordeal.

It’s been awhile since that dreadful experience. My husband and I live in a new house and we follow the precautions listed above. My old cat that couldn’t catch a mouse if you dangled it in front of her has passed away and now we have three active young cats that keep the outdoor rodent population down. And I have not bought or cooked lentils since.

For more information visit Thurston County Environmental Health's website on Rodents, Bats, Insects, and other Vectors.

1 comment:

  1. Yuck! I feel your pain. I had a rat in my laundry room a few years ago and ended up throwing out a newish dryer because it was full of rat residue (it came in my house through the outside dryer vent). You can be sure that I subsequently had everything sealed up much better and trimmed lots of vegetation around the house.