Mouse Hunting Tips

By Mike Tucker —

Mice love to chew.   In fact, if they don’t, their teeth will grow too long and they will starve. Mice damage is the number one non-warranty issue for the RV Industry and most car manufacturers. A friend had his camping trailer burn up this summer due to an electrical short created by a mouse and last year a 911 ragtop owner paid over $12,000 for repairs to his electrical system due to mice. Are you now paranoid enough to take the steps to prevent damage from mice?

Newer cars are at much higher risk because the wire industry has been changing to more environmentally friendly soy-based insulation. Germany has very aggressive environmental laws, which is why our Porsche’s are at risk.  Not to mention, the flat 6 and 4 engines make great nesting places. 

In Upstate New York exterminators like to say there are two types of people… those who know they have mice… and those who don’t know.    

Mouse damage to homes, automobiles, and equipment is a major problem. Mice also bring diseases into homes and there is research that are the major transporter of Deer ticks which carry lyme disease. They create the top non-warranty expenses for RVs and automobiles.  They damage homes, food crops and have even cause home fires by chewing live electrical wires. They have flexible bone structures and can squeeze under doors and through very small holes. If the space is enough for a pinky finger a mouse can get through it. Wire mesh is a great way to fill holes around pipes and electrical entry points.

There is a lot of information about stopping mice from companies selling traps, poisons and other tools. While this information is useful, independent research and information from professional exterminators is usually more accurate.  Having read everything available and testing a lot of the techniques and equipment has resulted in some tips I am happy to share. These are some of the highlights:

Most people will tell me they don’t have mice because they don’t see mouse turds, this is an error because if you see turds you have a lot of mice. If you see no evidence in the Northeast you still have mice, you just don’t know it.

The good news is mice spend their entire lives within a 50-70 foot area and do not migrate. They live within this area all their life unless relocated by a bird of prey or human. This means if you get rid of all of them you should be rid of them forever. Of course, I will caution that that is next to impossible, so it’s better to keep up the fight to be sure.   

Best trap — Victor wood spring trap with the plastic cheese pad. Inexpensive, available at hardware stores and can be reused many times. This trap can be tricky to set because they are very sensitive. More conventional spring wire traps can work also, but mice can sometimes rob the bait so one trick is to tie peanut butter smeared yarn in the bait area so the mouse will chew and pull the trap trigger.

Electronic mouse traps – I have tried several brands and types and they do not work well.  Electronic radio transmitters which are supposed to drive mice away, do not work. I have caught mice under them.

Mouse Magic pads – Available at feed and ag stores, the ingredients indicate they utilize peppermint and spearmint scents to keep mice away. The paper pads appear to work, but are expensive and only last 30 days. A much less expensive alternative is to make your own with cotton balls and buying essence of peppermint and spearmint from a health food store. Place 1-3 drops on a cotton ball and place them around areas where you do not want mice. Change or recharge them every 30 days. This works well, but the odor is strong so not good for areas where you live or enclosed spaces, better for garages, barns, sheds, etc. Wear plastic or rubber gloves or you will smell like the scent for a long time.

Poisons – Most of the stuff available from hardware stores is ineffective. Professionals use more powerful poisons and often more than one type in the same bait station. This is because mice do not eat meals, they snack and go and forth to the food supply many times. If they start to feel sick they quit eating whatever made them feel bad. This is why poisons sometimes are eaten and then are not touched giving the impression they worked and killed all the mice when they are just ignoring it.  Pro poisons are available over the internet, but you must buy a large quantity so need to team up or stock up. The highest rated brand is “Final” by Bell labs which Pros rate 5 out of 5. Bait stations are needed if the poison will be used in areas where other animals will be around. In areas where there is no concern for other animals, you can place it in the open. Research has concluded animals that eat mice do not die from eating mice that have been poisoned. They can die from eating the poison directly so I always use bait stations designed for mice. The major issue with poison is if mice eat and die in your walls or other places where you cannot get to them. This happens frequently so I don’t recommend poisons if you hear mice in your walls or attic until their access has been solved.    

Cats – Cats can do a good job (or a poor job) depending on their inclination.  They also can catch, play and release them, so a cat does not always work. When they sleep the mice do their thing.

Location of traps and bait stations – Mice run along walls and corners, they leave a scent for other mice to follow so even if you get a few, more are likely to follow. Snakes also like to follow the scent to try and get the mice, so if you find snakes in your building you have mice in your building. They prefer to be under cover so my most effective trap locations have been along walls with a board covering the trap leaving room for the trap to work under the cover. Peanut butter and mouse attractants work better than cheese which dries out quickly. Mice like fresh bait so you need to change it every 1-2 weeks depending on the environment.  Traps should be set in pairs so that if the mouse is working on getting the bait without setting off the trap the backup trap will catch them if they step on it.

Food inspectors require that facilities processing food set traps and bait outside. I do this at my house and garage and it’s made a huge difference. Since doing this I have caught one mouse in my garage, whereas before it was 6-8 per year. The issues outside have been that the wood traps corrode faster and the traps and bait stations can be stolen by larger animals. I had to start attaching the bait stations to wood blocks to keep them in place.    

Mice population control takes hard work and diligence. Always handle dead ones them with gloves and wash afterward. Clean areas where they have been and keep poisons away from kids, other pets and animals you don’t want to harm.

Photo:  Mouse nest in 944 Turbo airbox with no wiring damage.

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