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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Mouse in the House.

It is that time of year when everything seems to be looking for a place to stay for the winter.  I haven't shared too much from my friend lately, but here is a little story about mice and how you might consider keeping them OUT this fall and winter.  You can find his other posts on the Between the Barb Wire Pinterest Board. -A Kansas Farm Mom

Did you ever have a story you wanted to tell but you believe the people who the story is about may disown you? So in an effort to protect the innocent, we will just say there were two sisters, one of which I do not call by her first name. I can say no more for I wish to partake of all the good things that come at Christmas. If they learn of this, I will bear the consequences in order for you to enjoy this article.

It was a typical 4-H meeting held in an old school building south of the thriving town of Neutral. I was seated toward the south side of the building, while the two sisters were sitting on the north side, on a bench, with their backs against a window. It was a tall window that had curtains that nearly reached the floor. The meeting was progressing as usual with the constant chatter and someone making the occasional motion to keep the meeting from becoming stalled.

I looked over at the sisters and noticed that a mouse had appeared, I think from the ceiling, and was clinging to the top of the curtain. It began a track down the curtain, unnoticed by the sisters. Who was I to tell them? It was a cute mouse. It had little ears, a wiggly nose and was small enough to fit in a tea cup. It did not pose an imminent threat. About the time the mouse made it to the ladies’s heads, they became aware that they were no longer alone.

Discussion halted as two quiet ladies suddenly shrieked and left their place of residence at breakneck speed. It was a very audible shriek. Apparently the mouse heard because it quickly found a new hole to hide. After a few moments, the sisters’s hearts finally slowed and they were able to be seated. The rest of the meeting they kept looking up at the curtain expecting the mouse to return. It was a long meeting for them. It was one of my fondest 4-H memories. I don’t know what the big deal was. There was no way that mouse could have eaten them both.

Living on a hog farm mice were quite common, so I really do not have a fear of them. Now when they get into the house, war is declared. With the onset of cold weather, mice may be looking for a new habitat.

Mice can be annoying little pest. They are most active at night and during meetings. They can cause damage to property, contaminate food, and even carry diseases. House mice have a musky odor that identifies their presence. They have a relatively short life span, usually nine to twelve months. However, during their life they can have five to ten litters of mice and five to six young each time. The young can reach puberty in six to ten weeks. Therefore, it does not take long before you have a mouse epidemic. So how do we keep them outside, and if they make it inside, how do we get rid of them?

Build them out is the best. A mouse can squeeze through an opening a little larger than 1/4 of an inch in diameter. Plugging openings and cracks will go a long way in stopping them. Steel wool is a good temporary material to plug holes. Latex, rubber, plastic, wood and other gnawable materials would not be a good choice.

Sanitation is another important line of defense. Mice can not survive if they have few places to hide and little to eat. However, sanitation alone will not eliminate mice, but will control their numbers.
Trapping is an effective control method. It does take some time, but is the preferred method in homes, garages, and other structures where only a few mice are present. Trapping has several advantages: 1) it does not rely on hazardous rodenticides; 2) it allows the user to view his or her success; and 3) allows for the disposal of the mice, eliminating any dead mouse odors.

There are several different styles of traps. A simple wood-based snap trap is very effective. It can be baited with a variety of things but peanut butter is popular because it is easy to use and attractive to mice. An alternative to the snap trap is a glue trap. They will catch the mouse and hold it in place until you dispose of them. The downside to this trap, is that the mouse is generally not dead when you find it. Multiple-capture live traps are also available.

They can catch several mice without having to be reset. When placing traps, set them behind objects, in dark corners, close to walls and where there is evidence of mouse activity. Another option to eliminating those unwanted cute mammals, is to use rodenticides or poison. Rodenticides are very effective as long as the mice consume them. There is some drawbacks to using them: 1) Children or pets may come in contact with the rodenticide. If using poison make sure only the targeted species have access to the poison. 2) You cannot control where the mouse will die. This may lead to an undesirable odor that you have problems eliminating.

Mice are not the most popular of house guests, though they are in many homes. If you have any questions about eradicating unwanted guests (mice not relatives) contact the Cherokee County Extension Office. As always, as life continues; keep looking between the barb wire.

Dale Helwig
Cherokee County Ag Agent

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