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Questions and Answers About Mice

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Mice can get into homes and become a real problem. But to get rid of them, you need to understand them. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions -- and answers -- about mice.

1. How do I know if I have mice?

Photo courtesy Washington State
A. Signs of a mouse infestation are
  • live or dead mice.
  • nests or piled nesting materials.
  • gnawed holes in stored foods, piled papers, insulation, etc.
  • food scraps or wrappings left behind.
  • excreted droppings - 1/4 - 1/8 inch with pointed end or ends.
  • rodent hairs.
  • runways - indicated by narrow pathways where dust and dirt has been swept clean, grease marks are noticeable, urine trails seen under black light.

You might also hear it skittering on hard wood or laminate floors or smell the rank odor of a large infestation.

2. How do I know if it is a mouse or a rat?

A. Averaging 2 to 3 1/2 inches in length – plus another 3 to 4 inches of tail, mice are much smaller than rats. Their droppings are 1/4 to 1/8 inch long with pointed ends.

3. What do mice eat?

A. Mice prefer cereal grains and plants, but will feed on almost anything.

4. How long will a mouse live?

A. Mice have an average lifespan of 9 to 12 months.

5. I found shredded paper and black rice-like things in my basement. What is this?

A. It is very likely that you have found a mouse nest. A mouse will build its nest from about any soft material or finely shredded paper. And the little black "rice" is most likely mouse droppings.

6. Where should I put mouse traps?

A. Traps should be placed where the mice are. If you have found any signs of mice – shredded paper or cloth, droppings, urine stains, gnawed items – place the traps in those areas.

7. I know I have mice, but my traps aren't catching them!

A. Mice are very curious and will investigate new things. Thus, if mice are not caught within the first days of trap placement, the trap is likely in the wrong place and should be moved.

8. What is the best bait for mouse traps?

A. Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not the best bait to use on traps. Peanut butter can be very attractive to mice, but it needs to be replaced if it gets too dry or hard. Other good options are bacon, nuts, dried food, and sticky candies.

9. I think I have mice, but I never see any. Why not?

A. Mice are nocturnal creature, so they are most active from dusk up 'til morning light. They don't usually like bright lights, but a mouse may sometimes be seen during the day, especially if its nest has been disturbed, it is seeking food, or there is a large infestation

10. Why are one or two mice a problem?

A. In a single year, one female mouse can breed up to 10 litters of 5 to 6 young. These 60 offspring can begin to reproduce themselves in as little as six weeks. So within months, you could have a huge population of mice.

11. How do mice get in my house?

A. A mouse can slip through 1/4-inch holes and gaps - much smaller than appears possible. It can jump 13 inches high from a floor or other surface, and can run along wires, cables, and ropes. Because they are excellent jumpers, swimmers, and climbers, mice can ascend even rough, vertical surfaces.

12. What can I do to get rid of mice in my home?

A. There are a number of methods of control, including traps, baits, rodenticides, and professional control.

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