When fall and winter arrive, the cold weather motivates us to find warmth indoors. But we’re not the only creatures who seek such comfort. Mice and rats prefer a toasty environment over the shivery outdoors, too – and if they can find a way into your toasty environment, they will. The problem, then, is how to keep these rodents from coming in and setting up housekeeping.
As with other pests, a lot of rodent pest control problems can be solved by employing two simple principles: exclusion and sanitation. The Clark rodent control approach is anchored in Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, a process that seeks to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and to the environment.
Let’s start with rodent exclusion, or keeping these animals out. A house mouse only needs a 3/8-inch opening – less than the circumference of a dime – to get in; a Norway rat or roof rat needs a 3/4-inch opening, which is less than the circumference of a quarter. So, to rodent-proof your home effectively, you’ll want to close off anything larger than a 1/4-inch opening.
We’ll start with doors, one of the most common points of entry. Gaps along the bottom edge, ones big enough to let rodents in, can be eliminated by installing brush strips, usually made from nylon or polypropylene bristles. Garage doors can be fitted with compression seals that perform the same function. Also, check window screens to make sure they are not torn or otherwise compromised, and make sure that basement windows, if you have them, don’t provide a way in.
Once all doors and windows are secured, you’ll want to examine the walls and foundations around your home for cracks and holes, which can be blocked temporarily with copper or steel wool wire mesh until more permanent repairs can be made.
Look for other potential entry points, too – specifically, holes where utility lines or pipes enter, which can be blocked off with wire mesh and caulking or plastic foam. Vents and ventilation openings will need to be covered by secure screens.
Rats are excellent climbers. If you have a chimney, it should be rain-capped with a spark arrestor, and think about other places high up where a rat could get in – roof defects, gaps between roof and structure, attic vents. Also, make sure you’ve trimmed any overhanging branches that might provide an easy route for rats to access your roof.
The other principle to bear in mind that should keep your living space rodent free is sanitation. While rodent exclusion measures will help keep them out, good sanitation practices will eliminate many of the causes and conditions that help rodents to thrive.
Every pest, include rodents, needs food, water and harborage to survive. Outside, things like unsecured garbage cans, pet food left in the open, or overgrown patches of weeds, are like hanging out a sign that welcomes rats to your yard. Make sure your garbage is kept in cans or containers that can’t be accessed by rats, along with raccoons and opossums.
Keep any pet food in secure containers, too, and pick up pet dishes and empty the contents once your pets have finished feeding. Remember that if your yard is acting as a rat magnet, when a cold snap hits, you can bet those rats will try to find a way into your home’s more comfortable interior, should they be presented with the opportunity.
Inside, clutter is the enemy. Mice, in particular, will thrive in harborage provided by randomly scattered items. By cleaning up any areas in basements, garages or other rooms, if mice do find a way into your home, they won’t have as many places to set up housekeeping.
Solving rodent pest control problems isn’t rocket science. Putting the common-sense ideas we’ve outlined into practice in your home will help you make it through the winter months without unwanted guests.