People aren't the only ones who value a dry, cozy home in cold weather.
Rodents do, too.
To avoid unwelcome furry houseguests, prepare your house now.
Because it's so cold outside “everything that was out tends to want find some sort of harbor inside,” said Paul Matusiak, senior service manager at Batzner Pest Management in Milwaukee. “Mice, rats, roaches, spiders: They want to find someplace that's more controlled in temperature.”
The most common invader is the house mouse.
“As long as a mouse can squeeze its head through an opening, the body will very easily follow,” said Kim Kelley-Tunis, technical services director at Orkin, a national pest-control company based in Atlanta.
That means mice can enter a home through openings smaller than a dime. After the house mouse, Norway rats and roof rats are the most common rodents likely to take shelter in a building.
Besides being a nuisance, rodents can cause structural damage and health problems, which is why it's important to take preventative measures.
“House mice are known to carry a number of different diseases,” Kelley-Tunis said. “Their droppings and urine can cause any number of issues.”
Rodents also can be a fire hazard. Nesting material and wires damaged by chewing can lead to household fires.
Rodent-proofing involves some common sense. For instance, experts say to make sure all holes and entry points are properly sealed. Try the following additional tips to keep the critters from spending the winter at your house.
» Pay careful attention to the natural holes in the home, such as where electrical wires go out and air conditioner plumbing comes in.
» Install door sweeps and gutter guards to reduce potential entry points for rodents.
» Keep plants and branches hanging over the home trimmed and don't store firewood next to the house. And, Matusiak said, “Don't prop the canoe alongside it for the winter.” If rodents have a safe place, such as a pile of firewood, next to the house, it's easier for them to hide and chew.
» If you do see a mouse in the house, setting up several snap traps is a good idea, Matusiak said.
» After the traps are out, if you catch mice more than a few days in a row, he said, “then you've got a serious problem and you should contact a professional.”