Of mice and mice traps
There is a mouse population explosion this year.
Everyone I have talked to reports their traps clicking and clacking on a regular basis. My own traps are singing loudly and more often than in recent years.
The worst thing that can happen during a mouse outbreak is encountering the critters nose to nose. And, my nose met a mouse nose the other day.
I am not frightened by mice, but it was disconcerting when I opened a cupboard door and found one staring at me. Bulbous, penetrating eyes locked onto me demanding: “Who are you and why are you here interrupting my business?”
I don’t have any government studies or statistics to report how bad this year’s outbreak is. I don’t really care about the numbers. One mouse is one mouse too many.
Mice are believed to have a population cycle of four years. Their numbers hit a peak on Year Four then drop drastically before beginning a new cycle. The last major outbreak in Ontario was in 2014.
Milder winters and warm and dry summers also can be factors in increasing mouse populations. Mice are really into love making and breed as many as 10 times a year, producing six to eight offspring each time.
Mice are cute in photos. They can be dangerous, however, especially in cottage country. Deer mice, the species found in cottage country, carry Hantavirus which causes serious respiratory disease in humans.
Small numbers of deer mice carrying Hantavirus have been found in northern Ontario, including Algonquin Park.
Hantavirus in humans is relatively rare. Health Canada reports three or four cases a year across the country. However, it is out there being spread by mice and it can be extremely debilitating, even causing death.
Hantavirus is most commonly spread through mouse urine and droppings. The greatest danger to humans is in cleaning mouse-infested areas by vacuuming or sweeping, or other forms of raising dust. The virus is in the dust, which is inhaled into the lungs.
Experts caution that mouse messes should be cleaned with extreme care and face masks and rubber gloves always worn. After clean-up, the area should be washed with a strong disinfectant.
Keeping mice out of a building is near impossible. They will find entry through the smallest crack or cranny.
Trapping is the most effective, albeit often unpleasant, solution to mouse problems.
There are dozens of different mouse traps, many touted by their manufacturers as magic solutions to mouse problems. The absolute best in my view is one that you make yourself.
It is the rolling log mice bucket. You drill holes on each side of a bucket rim and run a piece of dowel through the holes. Partly fill the bucket with water and coat the underside of the dowel with peanut butter.
Place the bucket in a spot where mice can climb onto the dowel. They walk the dowel, lean over to get the peanut butter, the dowel rolls and they tumble into the water and drown.
Car windshield washer or anything containing some alcohol can be used instead of straight water to slow the rotting of the dead mice. It also can prevent freezing if the bucket is used in an unheated area during winter. (Do not use washer fluid around children or pets. It is poisonous.)
The beauty of the rolling log bucket trap is that you never have to touch a dead mouse. Just dump the bucket, refill and reload and it is ready to trap more of the little beasts.
Mouse poison is not a good idea. Poisoned mice will crawl behind walls or other hidden spots and rot, spreading horrible odours.
Also, poisoned mice can get outside where they are easy targets for birds of prey such as owls, hawks and eagles. When these birds consume a poisoned mouse they are a getting dose of poison.
Some people on my lake have noticed an increase in raptors this year. One cottager has reported seeing three young bald eagles and in fact has a photo of one.
An increase in the number of birds of prey might be connected to the increase in mouse populations. These are magnificent birds and we need to do whatever we can to keep their populations safe.
Let them eat mice (unpoisoned)!