Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You wake up in the morning and head to your kitchen, eyes still bleary from sleep. Suddenly, something catches your attention – a furry blur scurries across the floor and dives behind a large appliance. Now your heart is pounding, and you’re wide awake. Was that a mouse? As you freeze or flee, you might think about some of the warning signs that have been there – curious smells, skittering sounds at night, gnawed cereal boxes. But this first visual confirms your suspicions: you have a mouse. What should you do?
First things first, don’t panic, and don’t blame yourself. While rodents do thrive in what many people consider “filthy” environments, maybe your home is quite clean. The fact is, having mice is not always an indicator of poor housekeeping. What it means is that your home is a source of food and warm shelter from predators, and it is especially attractive in the winter. If you were a mouse, wouldn’t you want to live there too? As cozy as your home might be for you and the mice, you want to get ahead of the problem before it escalates. One mouse can quickly equal dozens. What are some of the kinds of mice that may try to make a home in your home? And what are some effective baits you can use to entice and get rid of them?
Types of Mice
About 60 species of rodents can be found in North America. Most are native species, such as the cotton mouse, which lives in the woodlands of the South. The white-footed mouse, also known as the woodmouse, can be found everywhere except the West Coast. These indigenous mouse species prefer to live in their habitats in the wild, but they are not above making inroads into homes, garages, and barns. However, the most widespread mice are not an indigenous species but rather an export from the “Old World” – the Mus musculus, the common house mouse. It is the most common mouse species in the world, found everywhere except Antarctica. This is the species of mouse used in laboratory testing, and these are the mice sold as pets. But if the mice in your home are pests and not pets, what baits and rodenticides should you use to get rid of them?
Baits and Rodenticides
As with other rodents, mice are effectively killed with anticoagulant and non-anticoagulant substances. Anticoagulants cause internal bleeding in the animal. Non-anticoagulant substances work by creating too much buildup of vitamins, which throws off the body’s chemical balance and causes death. There is a newer type of poison on the market that is made with indigestible ingredients, such as corn gluten mixed with sodium chloride. Because mice cannot digest corn, it coats their intestines and blocks the signal to the brain that the animal needs water. Eventually, the animal dies of dehydration in its sleep. This rodenticide is touted as being more humane than traditional anticoagulant and non-anticoagulant poisons. Unlike rats, most native North American mouse species have not yet developed a resistance to warfarin, which is the active anticoagulant ingredient in many poisons. But the evidence does seem to indicate that warfarin resistance is becoming more common among house mice. Checking the active ingredients of a rodenticide will ensure that you pick one that is effective and, if you are concerned, humane.
Mice are omnivores and prefer a wide variety of foods, with a preference for juicy sweet items such as berries and other fruit. Nuts and nut butters, meat, grains, seeds, pet food, dry cereal, and even meat entice mice. Mice do not need a direct water source to survive. If they can get enough moisture from their food they can survive easily. Poison baits are already made with attractive food materials, so adding them to food is not 100% necessary for them to work. But it often doesn’t hurt, especially if there are no other food sources and there is no risk of children or pets getting into them. If you do have children or pets, a better solution is to use refillable, tamper-proof bait stations such as the ones sold by Eco-Pro.
It can be alarming at the least and terrifying at the most to see a rodent scurrying in your home but rest assured; you are neither alone nor powerless. Identify any open area that could be allowing the mice to access the home, and close or seal them off. Remove all food scraps and trash, and securely store food. In addition, educating yourself on which baits and poisons to use will help you to confront the issue head-on and prevent a full-blown infestation. You can eliminate mice from your home and walk into your kitchen bleary-eyed in peace once again!