Rodents are a lot like us; they want a nice warm, dry place to live.
That’s the main reason so many critters try to squeeze into our comfort zones during cold winter months. Our homes look (and feel) mighty inviting.
According to Terminix, December through March is rodent season. An estimated 20 million U.S. homes are invaded by rodents every winter.
Mice are the most common household rodent, according to Brad Carmony of Terminix.
“We get the most rodent calls in port cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles,” he said, “but we also get a lot anywhere near water such as Chicago.
“They’re nesting creatures,” he said. “Cold weather attracts them inside. Like people, they seek warmth.”
But don’t welcome these uninvited guests.
“The thing people don’t think about: Rodents can cause fires,” he added. “Three out of every five home fires are caused by rodents. They gnaw on wires. They also carry disease.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rodents carry about 35 diseases, including rabies, salmonella and jaundice. They also carry fleas and ticks and can trigger asthma attacks.
Here are some tips to keep rodents from making themselves at home:
• Attics, basements and garages are most vulnerable. Rodents like dark places. But they will forage for food in kitchens and pantries, too.
• Mice and rats are nocturnal. They are most active at night while your household is asleep. But they also will get busy during the day, especially to seek food.
• Look for signs you’ve had visitors and where they’ve been. One mouse can excrete 40 to 100 droppings a day. A mouse dropping is less than 1/4 inch long with one or both ends pointed. Rat droppings are 1/2- to 3/4-inch long. Roof rats scatter their curved, sausage-shaped droppings with pointed ends. Norway rats tend to leave their rectangular droppings, which have blunt ends, in small groups.
• Block any entrances. Rodents don’t need big holes to get inside. “A mouse can squeeze through a hole the width of a pencil,” Carmony said. “Rats need only a hole the size of a quarter.”
Fill those holes and gaps with steel wool, wire mesh, caulk or foam.
• Get rid of them ASAP. One pair of rats can lead to up to 1,500 young in a single year. They can reproduce at 3 months of age. A rat can have 12 offspring a litter and seven litters a year.
• Skip the cheese. When baiting traps, use food rodents prefer: dried fruit, unshelled nuts (such as peanuts) or dog food. With thread, fine wire or glue, attach the food to the trap so the rodent can’t free the bait without getting caught.
For more tips on controlling rodents and other pests, click on www.terminix.com.
– Debbie Arrington