Winter is Coming: Is Your Home Rodent-Proof?

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mouse in hole in wall

As temperatures continue to drop this time of year, rodents such as mice and rats start moving indoors more aggressively in search of a warmer environment to ride out the winter. Now is the perfect time to have a good look around your home to make sure there are no indications of an active rodent population, and the house is adequately protected from a potential rodent intrusion. Paying attention to the following four things will help ensure you enjoy a rodent-free environment through the cold weather and beyond: 1) sanitation; 2) habitat modification; 3) population reduction; 4) exclusion.

1. Sanitation

As with many pests, sanitation is a key factor in reducing the likelihood of mice or rats setting up camp inside your home.

Areas such as garages, basements, attics, and crawl spaces are often directly connected to an outside point of entry and may serve as an ideal rodent nesting habitat.

  • In these areas, take a close look at storage practices in an effort to minimize the number of boxes, bins, or other clutter that may act as shelter, harborage, or nesting materials.
  • Because infrequently moved or disturbed items will be attractive to mice or rats, consider repositioning things that cannot be discarded. Not only will this movement likely cause any existing populations to scatter, but it will also help identify potential evidence of rodent activity such as droppings, gnaw marks, rub marks, stains, or other indicators.

Because kitchens and pantries often contain food items, these areas should be carefully inspected as well.

  • As a best practice, dry goods such as pet foods, grains, nuts, and others should be removed from their original packaging and stored in sealed, air-tight containers that cannot be easily gnawed through. Not only will this habit minimize risk of exposure to rodents, but it will also reduce the likelihood of outbreaks of various types of stored product pests such as weevils and beetles that commonly infest foodstuffs.
  • Any spillage from foods or liquids should be cleaned as quickly as possible as not to attract rodents or other types of pests.
  • Be sure to inspect beneath kitchen appliances such as stoves and refrigerators, as food items may have accumulated in these areas that may be attractive to nesting or foraging mice or rats. These areas also often have conduits such as plumbing or electrical lines that may serve as rodent runways.

2. Habitat Modification

The environment around the outside of your home not only has an impact on the extent of rodent populations that exist, but also on the likelihood of rodents gaining access to your home.

  • Be sure to keep all foliage including bushes, trees, and shrubs adequately maintained so as not to become overgrown, particularly foliage that is in proximity to the home. Limbs or branches touching the side of the home, or the roofline above may provide direct access to the structure and can increase the potential for rodent intrusion.
  • As piles of debris from lawn clippings or other items can become ideal rodent nesting sites, it is important to eliminate these whenever possible.
  • Decks and sheds on the property, particularly those that are near the home, should be inspected for evidence of rodent activity.
  • Firewood should be stored away from the home and elevated off the ground, and decks attached to the home should be inspected beneath (whenever possible) for indications of burrowing or nesting.

3. Population Reduction

If an active population of mice or rats is known or suspected inside your home, you’ll likely want to begin an active trapping and removal campaign. Although there are many different types of rodent trap devices available, proper setting and placement may make all the difference. Many homeowners find it advisable to consult a licensed pest control company to assist with mitigating active rodent populations.

Outside the home, an aggressive rodent reduction program is generally advisable as an ongoing, long-term strategy to population reduction. By proactively reducing populations of rats and mice in the exterior environment outside your home, your home will become much less susceptible to ever experience a rodent intrusion. If one does it exist, it is much less likely to become severe or widespread.

4. Exclusion – Rodent Proofing

Once you’ve cleaned and organized critical areas inside your home, modified the habitat around the outside, trapped and removed and existing rodent populations inside, and set up your exterior rodent reduction system, it is now time to consider potential or likely points of rodent entry.

  • Keeping in mind that mice can squeeze through openings about the size of a dime, it will be important to look for even small holes, gaps, or compromises to the structure. Pay special attention to the corners of doors and windows, as broken or missing seals or door sweeps might make it very easy for rodents to get in. Holes around plumbing, electrical, or other utility penetrations can be sealed with steel wool, copper mesh, caulking, or other suitable materials.

In most instances, exclusion should be considered a complement to a rodent reduction program, as opposed to a resolution in and of itself. Because rodent entry points are not always readily visible or accessible, even professional exclusion companies may not be able to completely seal off the structure so that mice or rats have no way in. Additionally, if the rodent pressure around your home remains high, the potential for rodent intrusion is likely also to remain high.

Consider A Licensed Pest Control Provider

If rodents are a problem or concern around your home, it may be advisable to consider the services of a licensed local pest control professional that is trained to deal with rodent populations in your area.