Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
Can you suggest an effective indoor mouse deterrent that won’t endanger children or pets? What about “ultrasonic” devices?
Of all the rodents that can invade your home in winter, the house mouse is by far the most destructive: It can contaminate food, damage structures and spread disease. Don’t waste your money on “ultrasonic” rodent repellents for house mouse control, however. “There are a lot of electronic gizmos you can buy, but no sound or electronic field will reliably repel rodents from a structure,” says Robert Timm, center director and extension wildlife specialist at the University of California’s Research & Extension Center in Hopland.
Luckily, the old-fashioned mousetrap (also known as the “snap trap”) is a very effective way to control mice indoors, Timm says. While the prospect of removing a dead rodent from the trap may be unappealing, trapping works, and it lets you monitor your house mouse control efforts. It also avoids the use of potentially hazardous chemical rodenticides and the decomposing-animal odor associated with using such products. Recent and pending legislation is aiming to make rodenticides less dangerous — but even when prepackaged in bait stations, these mouse poisons could be toxic to children and pets who ingest them, as well as to pets or wildlife that might eat the poisoned mice. Other kinds of rodent traps (such as glue, electrocution and live-capture traps) are available, but they have drawbacks. So, snap traps are your best bet for house mouse control.
Position snap traps no farther than 10 feet apart along walls where you have seen evidence of mouse activity, such as droppings, tracks or gnawed areas. “Mice travel along walls,” Timm says. “Point the trigger at the wall. That way, the mouse will cross the trigger when it comes from either direction.” Peanut butter is a good mouse bait, but according to Timm, some pest control operators don’t use bait, because positioning the traps properly will work on its own.
Wear gloves whenever you remove a mouse or any droppings, and then clean the area with a disinfectant. Seal the dead mouse in a plastic bag and dispose of it with your trash.
Be sure to take steps to prevent new infestations: Secure all possible points of entry by closing any openings larger than a quarter-inch with metal or cement (mice can chew through foam insulation, plastic and wood). Filling openings with a stainless-steel scouring pad can be effective, too. Keep counters, cabinets and floors clean and free of food crumbs. A patrolling house cat can provide additional insurance against future mouse invasions.
Photo By Fotolia/Zerbor: For effective house mouse control. place snap traps along walls, where mice like to travel.
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.