Getting rid of unwanted house guests

Rodents are looking for a warm place to shack up this winter so plug those gaps

  • Dec. 12, 2013 7:00 a.m.

You’ll probably be seeing plenty of guests in your home over the holidays, but there are some house guests nobody wants to have pop in this winter. Trouble is, these pesky visitors don’t wait for an invitation, they just show up.

We’re talking rodents, of course, and just as you’re looking to stay all snuggly warm in your home as the temperature drops, rats and mice are looking for the same thing – under your roof.

Brett Johnston, from Assured Environmental Solutions, says rodents are a problem all year long. But when the cold and rain come, and the leaves start dropping to expose their usual hiding places, they tend to head indoors just like humans.

“They want to go where it’s warm and they can get in anywhere,” says this 22-year veteran of the pest wars. “A juvenile rat can get through a hold as small as half an inch, and a juvenile mouse can get through one as small as a quarter of an inch.”

Which means the first step in any battle against a rodent invasion is to seal up your home, says Josh Lowe of Aggressive Pest Solutions.

You do that by combing every inch of your home, looking for holes or cracks through which a rodent can penetrate the exterior of your home.

Key places to examine are any places where pipes or wires enter the building, to ensure they were caulked correctly.

Foam won’t necessarily stop them because they can chew through that, says Lowe.

Galvanized wire mesh and steel wool are good ways to block such access points because they can’t be chewed.

Check your soffits to ensure they are tight and sealed, and go up onto the roof to look for places where problems like siding not being properly sealed can occur.

Roof rats and squirrels can easily get in through the roof, especially if you have open air vents that haven’t been screened properly, and a roof rat can jump as easily as a squirrel from a nearby tree. The difference, Johnston notes, is that the rats tend to do their jumping at night when you’re not watching.

The next step in prevention, says Johnston, is to remove hiding places that are near the house.

Woodpiles stacked up next to your home and other clutter leaning against the building are prime hiding places because they’re warmer thanks to the heat given off by the house.

Also, keep bird feeders far away from your home, Lowe adds. They’re basically buffets for hungry rodents of all kinds, not to mention bears. Oh, and if you’re storing seed in a shed, keep it sealed up in a plastic tub.

If you end up with an infestation of rodents, the first step is to determine whether you have rats or mice. The first sign is usually droppings, and you can easily tell which you have by looking at the size. Rat droppings are typically the size of jellybeans, says Johnston, and mice droppings are the size of rice.

How you tackle the wee beasties depends on whether you have mice or rats, he offers. Due to their small size, poison is still considered a useful way to get rid of mice in the home, because even if they die in the walls you don’t get much in the way of a smell. Poison is rarely used on rats that have made it indoors because when one of them dies in a wall, you are guaranteed to notice, and there’s nothing you can do about it except wait for it to go away.

Snap traps are the preferred method for killing rats, says Lowe, and they work well with mice, too. Just bait them with a very small amount of peanut butter and they should do the trick.

“Don’t use too much peanut butter or the mice and rats will just nibble at the edges and never spring the trap,” he adds.

There are other tools to use, such as glue traps, but no matter which method you decide upon, safety is a primary concern as each method comes with potentially dangerous side-effects, especially when children and other animals are around. Always use the products as directed, Lowe warns.

“We have a saying in the industry,” says Johnston. “’Sanitation is the best pest control.’ Keep your home and yard clean and you greatly reduce the chance of rodents.”

Naturally, if you find the problem is something you can’t tackle on your own, both of these pest control experts are more than happy to suggest expert help is just a phone call away.

Robert Prince is a freelance writer who lives in Maple Ridge.

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