The Great Mouse Invasion


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mouse sitting in a wall with nuts

‘Tis the season, as they say:  the Great Mouse Invasion has succeeded in getting numerous mice into the house.  This is nothing new, sadly.  It’s part of country life.  But this year they’ve been more invasive than usual.  The whole experience makes me feel for the Border Patrol.   I will warn you.  If you think mice are cute, you won’t like this post.

Evidence of mouse invasion.

I know that they are in the floors because down cellar the insulation is  coming down in tufts.  They are in the ceilings because I hear them gnawing to get down from the attic.  They’re in the walls and finding their way around in our spaces: I find their leavings.  And they are ending up in places I don’t want.

Our house was built of this and that, and gaps were left.  The mice have probably always been in here, but not in the 30 years we’ve been here have they been so obnoxiously present!

Over the summer we added material to our once-linen closet, threw out the contaminated old towels, washed the stuff worth keeping, and cleaned the whole closet.  Only to find last month that some mouse was gnawing at a corner of the closet from above, dropping sawdust and poop down into the closet.  In retaliation I deployed a cotton ball to that corner with a healthy dab of peppermint oil, jamming it into the space where the mouse was gnawing.  The runch, runch stopped for a couple of days.

Then the cotton ball dried out and the little so-and-so came back.  But then my dear husband found a piece of wood in the cellar that would block any more attempts, and the hole the little so-and-so made.  So he put that up in the corner of the closet, we cleaned again, and now we use it for paper products storage.  (The Good and Useful Linens are in totes in the guest room.)  So far, no more sawdust and mouse turds there.

But the mice were running into the living room as though they owned it, with us right there.  So we bought warfarin baits.  And sure enough, the mice munched down.  But they didn’t swallow.  We found out they were carrying the poisoned material off to what few little dens we came across, where they pooped and slept in it.  And they didn’t die in it or of it.

Change of tactics

Time for a change.  Now we were reverting to our redneck roots.  Time to kill the little monsters.  We got snap traps, the touchier the better, and baited them with provolone.

And did that ever work!  Five in one evening, and more each day by ones and twos, mostly.  That went on for a couple of months.  It got quiet.  Gee, could we have gotten them out of our space at last?

But it was not to be.  Next they turned up in my wool room.  I found mouse turds in the cashmere I’d been spinning, where one wouldn’t expect mice to be because there wasn’t anything climbable, or so I thought.  Yet it was so.  I got Ziploc bags for everything because I couldn’t figure out how to keep mice off things they couldn’t get onto.  And set more traps.  Even got one.

And I cleaned again.  And went on with my life, albeit with a “wall” of Ziploc bags between the mice and my expensive fibers and tools.

In fall, the Great Migration.

Along came the cooler weather.  And the familiar runch, runch, of invasive rodents trying to gnaw their way into the bay window from the attic.  And more mice running around pooping indiscriminately in the living areas.  One even ran down to the bedroom and disappeared in there.  Set another trap.  Rebait because that last batch of Provolone dried out.

Now, the new mice don’t die of the warfarin bait any more than the others did.  We use that to attract the mice to the traps and then the Provolone takes over.  Only now that fails, and so does peanut butter.  We are at a loss.

And then, disaster!  Last week, while emptying the dishwasher first thing in the morning, I opened the flatware drawer only to find mouse poop where the knives and forks go.  I cussed, washed the flatware holder and everything in it, and put a peppermint oil-dabbed sponge in the drawer.  It smelled up the whole kitchen and this process nearly made me late for work.

That night my husband and I took apart all the drawers in that stack.  The middle one is the breadbox.  Mice had been in the flatware above and the towels below as well as on top of the breadbox, trying to get at the bread, most likely.

There are spaces under the counter where the mice can go and get down into the drawers.  My dear husband blocked them with laths of wood.  That one’s solved.   The mice either get in via the dishwasher or through a hole they may have made in the wall.   In the 20 years since we remodeled the kitchen, this is the first incursion into the cabinets we’ve had.

Sweet revenge.

My dear husband recently had digestive trouble after eating cookies we’d made with Splenda in them instead of sugar.  We try stuff, what can I say.  And sometimes it doesn’t work out.  But my husband didn’t waste the experience.

Being a logical kind of guy, he thought that mice might eat Splenda and suffer similar consequences to the ones he’d had.  And maybe they’d die of dehydration or malnourishment if they ate enough.  So he’s feeding the little monsters on Splenda.  Thus far the mice seem content to chow down on Splenda and not scurry around where they’re really not wanted.

So we put Splenda on the traps.  And were rewarded with SNAP!s.  It’s an arms race, and we and the mice are adapting constantly.

IDEA happens.

Did you know that cats aren’t the better hunters of mice?  Sure, they have a good time with them, but they often lose interest if the mouse goes under the piano and holds still a while.  Dogs are more effective, if they take an interest, because they don’t play around, they just kill the mouse.  They’ll stake them out better, too, sometimes.  However, dogs are high maintenance.

Just the smell of a cat keeps most mice under cover most of the time.  We didn’t have near the mess we’ve had this year back when we had a cat living here.  So much better was it that my allergic husband has declared we need another one.  One, preferably, who will show us what inept hunters of mice we are.   Will let you know how that works out.

Do you have uninvited guests or migrant wildlife at home?  How do you cope?


mouse eating peanutstwo mice on a bedmouse in a wall with nuts

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