What’s the best way to deal with mice during the long winter in a winterized cottage?—Mike Miles, via email
The best way? The best way is to make sure that they can’t get in ever, by sealing up all possible entryways. (Remember that mice can fit through a hole as small as a pencil. Consequently, this amounts to a lot of entryways.)
You may believe that you’ve done this, but—in a quest to be hyper-vigilant—it’s common to overlook one or two obvious entry points, says Lauralee Proudfoot of Cottage Country Pest Control in Victoria Harbour, Ont. “Under the kitchen sink—or any place where water is coming in—is a good place to check,” she says. The attic is another one. Mice love insulation, “and it’s so easy for them to get into the soffits,” says Proudfoot. “People should really get their attics—and their crawlspaces—checked more often than they do.”
You say that your cottage is winterized. We assume that means you visit it during the winter. The happy news? You have an advantage over cottagers who leave their places vacant six months of the year. “Places that are lived in year-round, or almost year-round, have food, water, and heat available year-round, but they also have people to notice if and when pests try to sneak in,” says Proudfoot. “So things are less likely to get out of hand. Mice are so quick at breeding. Even if you get one or two a week coming in unchecked, you’ll never get ahead of them,” she says.
If you want to DIY your mouse control, our experts almost always recommend traps over poisoned bait—it can harm non-target animals, for one thing—and they usually recommend regular snap traps over the other options.
“Don’t use glue traps,” says Proudfoot. “They’re just terrible.” (Caveat: unless these glue traps are for cockroaches. “Cockroaches can die on a glue trap.”)
Peanut butter is the go-to trap bait. Cheese dries out (and who wants to eat dry cheese?). Other expert-approved options include bacon, chocolate, and Nutella—but heck, food is expensive! Don’t waste that good stuff on mice.
Don’t put too much bait in the trap, assuming that more food will be more enticing. It usually just allows the mice to eat the food without actually springing the trap. Place traps around the perimeter of rooms—mice like to hug walls—and in concealed areas, for example, behind the fridge. In areas where you’ve seen a lot of mouse traffic, place several traps close together, in a row. Wear gloves when you set the traps. This prevents you from leaving your scent behind for the mouse to detect.
Mice, like all mammals, are wary of new things. It could benefit you to, for several days, first put out baited traps that aren’t set. It’ll allow the mice to stop perceiving the traps, and the food, as a threat. This’ll take some patience on your part. But…dealing with wildlife—especially the pesty variety—takes a lot more patience than you’d ever expect. Good luck!
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