When rodents come to mind, it’s usually not beavers, woodchucks or prairie dogs. While there are hundreds of different kinds of rodents, the most common we encounter in our homes are rats and mice, called commensal rodents, or those found living in close contact with humans.
Rats and mice frequently find their way into our homes, especially when the weather gets cooler and they begin to seek warmth. Roof rats, Norway rats, and house mice are the most common, but any rodent will find your house very comfortable. Making your home uninviting for the little critters, sealing it up and removing all possible food sources and shelter sources work well for preventative measures, but if you have an existing rat or mice problem there are many methods and products available to control rodents.
Norway rats, roof rats and house mice are nocturnal and breed all year round. Since these animals mature very quickly, it takes only a few months for a few rats or mice to multiply into hundreds. These two factors make rats and mice difficult to control if you aren’t sure what you’re up against.
Rats and mice are extremely destructive pests. They eat basically anything they can find. They gnaw and chew on corners, walls and doors and eat insulation. Rats and mice can enter your home and living space through extremely small spaces; rats can fit through two-inch gaps, and mice through one and a half inch gaps. They often contaminate food in your home, as they can chew through virtually any plastic or paper package. Rats and mice can spread diseases and parasites, so always wear gloves when handling them.
While sanitation efforts will not eliminate your existing rodent problem, it will make your yard and home less attractive to rats and mice in the future and will keep them from getting inside. Here are some steps to keep in mind:
1. Make sure you are practicing proper food handling techniques - always sweep crumbs and put food away every day.
2. Remove heavy vegetation and any organic debris away from your home’s foundation, which reduces cover and makes your yard void of shelter.
3. Seal all gaps, focusing on windows, doors and any entry point of cables and pipes. Use strong materials that resist gnawing, like concrete, sheet metal and hardware cloth.
Once you have cleaned your home thoroughly, removing all possible food and water sources and clearing debris, you can begin your control method. Toxicants with bait systems and trapping are the most commonly used and successful methods of rodent control, but they are very different. Choose your method carefully, considering whether pets or children may encounter the poison or traps, and what would work best in your home.
Poison baits (toxicants) are very powerful tools against rats and mice. Anticoagulants are the most commonly used and now most humane. You can purchase ready-to-use baits and these can be placed in wall voids and burrows. Bait stations help increase the effectiveness of baits and keep them in an enclosed space for greater safety. Be aware that this type of bait does not instantly kill the rodents. They may die inside walls or other hard-to-reach places and if not found quickly may start to decompose.
Trapping is a good choice if you do not want to use baits in your home. Trapping allows you to monitor your control method, since the animals will die in the open, which allows easy detection, clean up and disposal.
* Mice are very curious and are not wary about new items in their habitat, so they will readily take the bait. Rats, however, are much more cautious. Pre-baiting (or putting food on the trap without setting it) will help the rats get used to the trap in their territory, and once they are used to a constant food source, you can set the trap and easily catch them.
* Nutmeats, chocolate, dried fruit, bacon and marshmallows work well as bait. Peanut butter works great as well, but goes bad quickly and needs to be changed often.
* Traps should be set under cabinets, close to walls, behind objects and in the travel lanes.