Winter is coming and the time to prepare is running out! As homeowners are getting their properties ready to withstand the onslaught of the worst winter storms, wildlife around the country is also preparing for the cold months that lie ahead.
When most of us think of wildlife preparing for winter, we imagine grizzly bears, groundhogs, striped skunks and chipmunks getting fat and stocking up on supplies so that they can hibernate during the coldest months. But while not all animals hibernate, most prepare for the winter in one way or another because they know that it will be hard to scavenge for food in the deep snow.
Rodents are well that in nature, food is hard to come by during the winter and that stockpiling supplies is essential to ensure their survival in our harsh climate. Even when there is no snow or ice blanketing the ground, there are still no nuts, acorns, berries or seeds lying around. Smart rodents, however, do know that where there are people, there is always a steady supply of food to be scavenged.
When and Where Will Mice Stockpile Food?
Mice, like many other animals, store food for when supplies are limited. And while food storing is not always weather-related the activity definitely ramps up as the months get colder. Generally, mice will take any opportunity to store food in caches near their nests whenever an abundance of food is available, regardless of the time of year. But as the temperatures begin to drop in the fall and mice realize that winter is coming, the size and quantity of their food caches will increase so that they don’t have to forage when it’s cold outside.
Mice will typically store food near their nests so that it is easily accessible, and they can eat it in a location where they feel secure and protected. Food caches are usually found within 10 feet of a mouse nest. In homes, stockpiled food is often located inside or underneath furniture, in the dark corners of cupboards, behind the kick plate under the sink, in kitchen wall voids, and under or behind appliances. All places that are hidden from view and where food caches can easily go undetected by homeowners.
Common food sources for mice that are easily available in and around the home include nuts and seeds, pet food, garbage, and birdseed. Bird feeders are a good source of food for urban-dwelling mice and any food that spills onto the ground is quickly taken back to the nest or stored in a nearby cache. Pet food is another great find for mice, and they will clean up whatever your pet leaves behind. Always pick up leftover food after your pet has finished eating and store pet food in a secure, mouse-proof container. Besides the mess caused by mouse activity and food caches, the stockpiles also attract insects. Beetles and Indian meal moths are drawn to these stockpiles and if the food gets damp and moldy, flies and mites will also be attracted to your home.
Food Caches are a Good Indication that There’s a Mouse in Your House
On a recent job one of our supervisors, Simon, located a big stockpile of food that had been stored by a colony of mice. The call-out was actually for a problem with squirrels call-out but while investigating one of the entry points to make sure that there were no squirrel babies in the home, Simon found the food cache underneath a squirrel nest.The majority of the food cache was a mix of birdseed from the customer’s bird feeder in the backyard. Finding this stockpile of mouse food under the squirrel nest came as no surprise to Simon as it is common for one animal problem to lead to another. We often find hidden caches of mouse food when looking for evidence of other wildlife activity in homes.
How Big can a Colony of Mice Be?
Judging by the amount of mouse activity around this particular home it was obvious to the Skedaddle team that there was not just one mouse but rather a colony of mice living in the house. Determining the exact size of any colony, however, is difficult. A mouse colony can range in size from ten mice to hundreds. While a colony typically starts out as just one family, new members from other families will soon join them, especially if they have found a good home with a steady supply of food. Rodents have a very keen sense of smell and are scent driven so mice outside the initial family group will pick up on the scent of other mice in the home and quickly move in with them.
Mice are typically active in a home for far longer than the average homeowner realizes and the damage that has already been caused can make it look like the invasion is worse than it currently is. In other words, the majority of the colony may have already moved on before the customer even realizes they have a problem. Looking at the amount of mouse damage and activity in this particular home, Simon estimated that the colony had a population of between 20 and 100 mice.
How did the Mice Gain Entry to the House?
Mice are natural climbers and they can easily scale brick walls to gain access to the upper levels of a home and find holes below the eaves or behind the fascia. In this case, the mice were taking advantage of a large hole in the soffit that had been made by squirrels to access the attic. After doing a thorough inspection of the property, the Skedaddle team located several other mouse entry points around the home, but the homeowner was not interested in dealing with them at the time and they were not repaired by our technicians.
Clear up and Cleaning is a Messy Business
Rodents and other unwelcome wildlife houseguests make a mess. They have no respect for your property and once they have been safely removed, the clean-up begins. Because urine and fecal matter contain bacteria that can lead to the spread of diseases, it is important to get professionals with the correct equipment and training to clear any debris and carry out the clean-up. In this case all the food cache material, along with the nesting materials from the squirrels, was removed from the soffit and disposed of. The area in question was then sprayed with a disinfectant to kill any bacteria and remove any scent that would attract other mice and squirrels to the house.
Hire a Professional Wildlife Control Company
Wildlife control is a job for the experts and homeowners should avoid using DIY techniques. If you hear or see any mouse activity inside your home, call Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control to take care of the removal, clean up and prevention. Our trained technicians have years of experience in the business and know all the best hiding places for mice in your home. We will carry out a thorough home inspection and design a customized removal and prevention plan to ensure that your house remains mouse free this winter.