It’s mid-October and among the many things October is known and celebrated for, rodent control isn’t usually one of them. Oddly enough October is also National Rodent Prevention Month, a departure from all things typically October like; raking and or blowing metric tons of fallen leaves, Halloween and your neighbors um, colorful if not over the top ways of welcoming the pagan celebration of all things frightful. There’s the bittersweet (literally) dilemma of how to dispose of at least half of the 10 lbs of candy the kids will no doubt bring home from trick-or-treating. And if you’ve ever experienced mice or rats where you live or work, they seem to always find us and what we eat, long before we find them.
Mice and rats, like many pests, don’t actually time their arrival for October, or any other month for that matter. Rather, the rodents’ primal drive for survival takes care of that. The push to find shelter near food and water tends to happen when farm fields are cut to prepare for winter, when food sources are no longer available, and when environmental conditions force mice and rats out of their habitats. This happens year round and unfortunately makes our basements, garages and storage areas seem like Club Rodent on the Riviera. In the meantime, mice and rats are making a home out of patio furniture cushions, breeding in the common wall between the laundry room and the garage, and in time, will make their presence known as they expand their territory for a growing brood that multiplies monthly and needs to keep pace with their food needs.
The entry way for rodents is something easily overlooked because of its size. For mice, a crack or crevice measuring a 1/4′” is all that’s needed to start the party. A rat needs a bit more room, so an opening of ½” will do nicely. If either rodent finds a hole too small, but the contents of the structure too valuable to pass up; a bag of bird seed or a bag of dog food sitting in a garage or basement, a rat or mouse can easily gain access by chewing. The telltale signs of such dedication and focus are called gnaw marks. Once inside, nature takes over and rodents quickly source the necessities; like food and water. Neither mice nor rats have good vision, but as necessity is the mother of invention, it must also be true of evolution, as all other mice and rat senses are of ‘super-rodent caliber.’
Rats are opportunistic eaters, but very cautious of new things in their environment, making control very challenging. Mice on the other hand, are inquisitive and will explore new objects in their territory which is established by urinating. This territory is then safeguarded while patrolling. This is a game of opportunity and accessibility meets edibility. Neither rats nor mice are picky eaters, so surprisingly, they will eat, well, what we eat. Mice do however prefer grains and seeds, but would be hard pressed to turn down something you’ve long forgotten about in a cupboard or storage area.
Old baits left over from last year won’t interest, nor harm a rat or mouse, and snap traps will sometimes provide a snack, but produce no rodents caught in them. Mice and rats can adapt their behavior and establish new feeding, water and nesting sites based on what traumatized occupants throw at them. For many, finding a mouse or rat and the calling cards they leave behind is a harrowing experience. Take away the diseases rodents carry, like salmonella and Weil’s Disease, and the fact that rodents contaminate our foods and living spaces, and you’re still left with a critter you should likely eliminate from breeding and living where you live, sleep and eat. So, if standing on the table, or borrowing your neighbor’s cat doesn’t do the trick, it may be time to call a professional.