Published on 12/20/07

Menacing mice move indoors

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

As temperatures begin to drop, Georgia’s climate finally resembles what some call winter. It’s enough to drive people indoors to stay warm, and some unwanted guests, too.

“Mice can occasionally venture in this time of year looking for warmth,” said Jim Crawford, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Jefferson County. “It only takes a small crack or an open door to get an uninvited houseguest.”

Like many county agents this time of year, Crawford receives calls from homeowners who want to prevent mice from invading their homes, or they want to know how to get rid of them once they do.

“Grass, brush and woody areas around our homes provide nesting places for mice,” he said. “But they leave these nests and search for warmer habitats like inside our homes.”

That's not black rice

Most homeowners don’t know they’re harboring mice until they find evidence of mouse droppings, which resemble black grains of rice. Another telltale sign is chew marks on food containers and packages.

The first thing to do to rid your home of mice, he said, is take away their food source. Keep garbage cans covered and food items stored in tightly sealed containers. This includes pet food.

Next, remove any weeds, trash, boards, firewood or other debris located near the exterior of your home. “These objects provide excellent cover for mice in the winter and snakes in the summer,” he said.

Make sure all doors seal tightly and window and door screens are in good shape. Use caulk to seal cracks around pipes and utilities where mice can slip into homes.

Avoid using baits

Don’t use baits unless you feel you have to. “Baits can pose a threat to small children and pets,” he said. “Besides, mice will consume the poison and die behind walls and in other unreachable places and cause a terrible odor.”

The best way to get rid of mice, he said, is still the old-fashioned mouse trap. Traps should be placed next to walls, under furniture, in the pantry or behind the stove.

“Always position a trap so the trigger is next to the wall,” he said. “This way you get them from either direction if they’re running along the baseboard.”

Use cheese or peanut butter to bait the trap and check and reset traps often.

Crawford’s advise this year comes from experience. He recently gave chase to a mouse that escaped down a floor vent.

“I stapled some dental floss to a baited mousetrap and lowered it very slowly into the duct until it disappeared from view,” he said. “I tied the other end of the string to the leg of the nightstand. Sure enough, the little varmint was hungry.”

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.