/Mice on the move

Mice on the move

By Jim Poling Sr.

And so begins the annual invasion of the mice.

They are on the move, searching for cracks and gaps in homes, cottages, garages, sheds and other buildings where they can find rent-free room and board for the coming winter. 

Early reports indicate an invasion of epic proportions.

Most years, people will have one or two mice show up as the weather cools in September and October. At my place, we have evicted 15 of the sneaky little critters in the past 10 days.

Some New England states are reporting increased sightings following large mouse outbreaks in the last two years. A University of Rhode Island mammalogy class reported trapping and releasing 24 mice in one night. Their capturing for study purposes typically gets only six mice a night.

On the other side of the world, Australians are concerned that an invasion that started in 2020 is continuing. By late last year, they were calling it a mice plague that had grown into the “many millions.”

Researchers say warming temperatures and milder winters have allowed mice populations to increase. They say our Great Lakes region has warmed almost two degrees Celsius since 1970.

Last winter was relatively mild, allowing more mice to survive and to keep reproducing. Experts say that female mice can begin having babies just 30 days after their own birth, and can produce three or four broods of four to eight babies every year.

Another factor is a banner year for acorns, a favourite food of mice. The warm summer with little rain has had acorns falling earlier than usual.

All this has created a well-fed and healthy mouse population that has become a robust baby-making factory.

And now, they are all looking for comfortable winter lodgings inside our buildings. Why the early start when the weather is unusually fine and outside food plentiful, no one seems to know.

There is the usual weather folklore that says an early autumn mice invasion means an early and harsh winter. The Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting a record cold winter with record snowfalls in Ontario and Quebec.

Keeping the mice out of your home or cottage is a near impossible chore. They squeeze through the smallest cracks that are difficult to find and seal.

Some people try chasing them out with electric plug-in units that emit high-pitched signals. An old-fashioned deterrent is to leave cotton swabs soaked in peppermint in areas where mice or mice droppings have been seen.

You also can hire one of the professional rodent control companies, whose numbers have grown significantly in the last few years. The North American rodent control market was valued at $1,596.2 million in 2020 and is expected to grow even more in coming years.

There are good reasons to keep the little critters out of your buildings. Health and safety are two good ones.

Mice transmit dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease and Hantavirus. They do not have to bite you to infect you.

Mice are natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria. Black-legged ticks that feed on mice can become infected, then pass it on to humans when they bite and burrow to get a blood meal.

Hantaviruses occupy mice urine, droppings and saliva and can be spread through the air.  They are easily breathed in during vacuuming or sweeping, especially in confined areas.

There is no known cure for Hantavirus and the death rate for persons infected is about 40 per cent. 

However, Hantavirus cases are rare. Canadian health agencies report only three or four cases a year.

Still, it is a deadly virus that must be taken seriously. Health officials advise wearing rubber or plastic gloves and using a disinfectant when cleaning areas occupied by mice.

Aside from posing health risks, mice also are a cause of house fires. They gnaw almost everything and electrical wires seem to be a favourite. When they chew through cable protective covering, they expose bare wires and cause sparking which can start a fire.

If you find a crack or hole where mice might get in, fill it with steel wool, then caulk it to ensure it stays in place.

Mice are good for the environment – out in the wild, not in any of our buildings.