Cottage Q&A: How to keep mice out of your ride

Updated: January 23, 2019

a-mouse-on-a-forest-floor Photo by Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock

How can I stop rodents from nesting inside my ATV? It sits in a shed over the winter. So far nothing that I’ve tried seems to have worked.—Sal Dunn, Riley Lake, Ont.

That’s because it’s very, very hard—according to almost every cottager, pest control expert, biologist, and ATV dealer we talked to. Completely sealing every opening in the machine itself is nearly impossible, says Mark Giesler of Giesler Marine in Powassan, Ont. “There are just so many places where mice can get in.” And we assume that storing the ATV in a building that’s more mouse-proof to begin with—a shipping container, for instance—isn’t feasible, or you would have done it already.

So you’re left with mouse-proofing the shed (blocking cracks and holes, covering windows with screening, eliminating food sources) and trying to get rid of the mice that still get in.

If you’re prepared to get lethal, ATV owner Paul Hill, who has a cabin in B.C.’s Cariboo region, swears by traps baited with Nutella. At least, ever since he lost a $45,000 Subaru to mice after they built a nest in the engine. (The car caught on fire while his wife was driving it.) “I’m not a friend to rodents, because they’re not friends to me,” he says.

Scented dryer sheets got the most votes as a humane deterrent. “They’re fantastic,” says Darren Strawson, the owner of Wild Country Powersports in Barrhead, Alta. He surrounds his ATV’s wheels with dryer sheets, stuffs them under the seat, and uses them to plug the air intake and exhaust. “When it comes to this stuff, more is better. I’ve used them with dirt bikes, ATVs, and my Camaro. They work,” he says. “And the machines smell April-y fresh in the spring.”

Keeping a pet cat in the building could help too, says Tom Sullivan, a UBC biologist who studies rodent pest management. But you’ll really need more than one. “The best cat-mouse management program is on farms where two or three cats may very well keep mouse numbers at a reasonably low level,” he says. Unfortunately, “reasonably low” might still to be too high to save your ATV.

A hungry, desperate mouse—and they’re always hungry and desperate—will put up with a shed filled with traps, strange smells, and predators if there isn’t a better option available. This is why Lake Vernon, Ont., cottager and ATV owner Daniel Drache purposely leaves his ride in a three-sided open structure. “It’s not warm. It’s not cozy. There’s no food,” he says. “I think I’ve solved the problem.”

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