Jun 17, 2009

Rodents

It would seem that mice like nice warm houses as much as we do. Go figure.

It would seem we are a trifle over-run. (Apologies to all those who have already heard me go on at length about our mouse issue - there's nothing new here, but I still have a need to get it off my chest!)

I knew we had a small mouse problem - the odd dropping here and there, the occasional full trap, that sort of thing. I figured this level of rodentry was acceptable, given that we have active compost heaps, chicken food, and a lots of hiding spaces in the garden. And no cats or dogs. Some mouse encroachment was inevitable, I figured, so long as it didn't get out of hand! About a month ago I made sure all the food was in mouse-proof containers, found one open box of cornmeal that was well-moused (which I got rid of), and figured that would keep their numbers down, or at least, easily managed by the one trap in the kitchen.

How wrong I was.

Our living area is semi-open plan. There are double french-type doors between the living room and the dining room, and an open doorway from the dining room to the kitchen. The french doors are usually kept open, except in really cold weather when we shut them to keep the heat (from the heatpump) in the living room - usually in the evenings and overnight. Yesterday these doors were closed pretty much all day as I and the girls kept the living room toasty warm. They stayed shut overnight too.

I have once seen a mouse run from the kitchen, through the dining room, into the living room and along the living room wall behind the sofa. I have no idea where it went after that - I couldn't find it. I didn't think much of it (except to go re-load the trap) - just "gosh the mice are getting brazen, time to step up the trapping". It never occurred to me that I had just seen a mouse using one of their super-highways.

This morning while sitting in the dining room with my morning coffee I noticed a large amount of carpet-fluff in the doorway to the living room. "That's odd," I thought, and went closer to inspect. Mixed in with the fluff was a considerable amount of mouse droppings. And on closer inspection I found that the little blighters have chewed the carpet bare along where the french doors close - apparently in an attempt to dig through and re-open their super-highway. I then noticed a similar, but much smaller, bare patch with associated carpet fluff at the other door out of the living room.

"How big is my mouse problem?!" I muttered to myself, and stalked through to the kitchen to investigate. One clean and empty trap. The mice have (once more) successfully removed the bait from the trap without springing it. Great. What about the bottom cupboard where the cornmeal box used to be? Oh. Oh dear.

There was a whole layer of mouse droppings in this cupboard (despite there being no available food in it), and in the adjacent cupboard (which has never had any food in it).

With brush and shovel in hand and droppings and carpet fluff cleaned away, I went on a further investigation of the super-highway.

The rubbish bin and paper-recycling area yielded further copious quantities of mouse droppings, and some nibbled cardboard.

sigh.

I turned to the internet for advice. It is not comforting. A house mouse can have a litter of up to 6 pups, each month. One mouse usually means a nest. They don't usually range far from their nests, so if you see a mouse the problem is likely to be yours - not your neighbours (not that I thought for a second that my neighbours, all of whom have large dogs, and are more obsessive about their sections than us, were the source of our infestation!). The advice boils down to: seal up all holes larger then 1.8cm (a U.S. dime was the 'measurement' given - so then I had to look up how big a dime was - annoying), trap, trap, trap the highways, poison in the roof and floor cavities, get rid of clutter (which is a nesting place haven) and if that fails, call in the professionals.

So we went out. I needed to run away from the problem for a little while.

And then we came back and the day continued along its happy course. We had dinner, we said goodnight, we put the kids to bed. I availed myself of the bathroom...

A mouse ran into the bathroom.

I could do nothing except lift my feet off the floor and squeek "eeek mouse! go away!" (I didn't want the kids to leap out of bed to investigate). It ran behind me, and I couldn't see it! And I am now hugely pregnant and can't twist around at all, so I was just stuck there with my feet in the air hoping the mouse would get back where I could see it, because I knew there was no exit at ground level behind me and I sure as heck did not want it climbing...

Fortunately it ran out to behind the door.

I made my escape with all due haste, leaving it an escape route into the laundry (and thence out the back door, I hope!).

I have since set all the traps we have - 4 of them - mostly in the kitchen and one in the living room.

I do not know the exact route the super-highway takes - it concerns me that there were scratchings at both living room doors - trying to get out of the living room. I have no idea where an entrance point in that room might be - unless there is a largish gap in the floorboards somewhere behind the couch or piano, or possibly through our disused fireplace. At 30 weeks pregnant, however, I am not shifting the piano to find out! (Merl can do that this weekend).

There is no earthly way of effectively sealing the underside of this house. We know one entrance point for the mice is in the kitchen, where the sink and dishwasher pipes exit the house, but there are nooks and crannies everywhere for them to come in.

Properly ridding the cellar of clutter is on our 'list of things to do'. The underneath of our house is packed to the brim with hoarded building, gardening, painting, you name it supplies from the previous owner. Loads of stuff that is just junk - it might have 'come in handy one day' if it hadn't been stuck in a damp mouldy cellar for 40 years. Now it's all just a rusted, rotted pile of junk. Which we bought with the house. At some point we will get around to hiring a skip and clearing it out, but thus far that has fallen into the 'not this weekend' category. This provides nesting-sites aplenty for mice - right beneath our floorboards.

And that's pretty much where our mouse situation is at. I heard one of the traps go "sproing" while I was typing this, and I'm in two minds as to whether to go investigate it this evening - giving the trap the chance to trap another mouse overnight - or to wait until morning and check all the traps at once.

I'm also not that keen on actually handling dead rodents. I don't know what diseases they commonly have in this country, but I doubt that they can be good for unborn babies (given that we're not supposed to deal with cat faeces, I can't see that dead mice is any better).

I'll need to find my disposable vinyl gloves.

4 comments:

cannopener said...

Gaaah, that sucks! Any chance you could get a cat or a dog? With an anti-histamine prescription on the side? or maybe borrow one?

Penny said...

Oh dear! Your post brought back all kinds of memories from our house in Dunedin (now rented and both lots of tenants so far have seen them, although not since the exterminators came last year). All familiar: our house was older (1930s) so had all the holes etc you speak of, a cellar left with lots of "useful" things but since cluttered up with more by David the Hoarder. I won't upset you further with the details because the last thing I needed was stories about where you might find them but if anyone tells you the mouse myths, don't believe them. They are more scared of you that you are of them (maybe, but I don't want to see them at all!), they can't climb (not true!), and my favourite: David trying to convince me they only come out to visit me in the living room after he goes to bed because "they like me"! Right now we are in a small, 10 year old sealed apartment building, and I appreciate it so much. I would love to go back to the house but not without some hefty evidence they are long gone.

Sorry to rant - terrorised me for 4 years! Good luck!

home handymum said...

I'm just going to have to step up the trapping I think.

They've mostly come in because of the cold weather - I've talked to quite a number of people in the last day or two who have ALL seen more mice around since the snow. Which figures.

There was one fatality last night - and it turned out to be not too gross to empty the trap, so long as I was wearing disposable vinyl gloves!

Penny said...

You are much braver than I ever was. The first time I saw one in the rubbish bin of all places, I was in hysterics on the phone to my mum at 8am on a weekday (because David had already gone to work). Could not put my shoes on alone for months after that. But maybe I am less rational than you...

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