Dear Angie: I've noticed mice making their way indoors already this spring. It seems kind of early in the year to see them. Is there a reason for their presence this early? Is there something that could be attracting them, and what can I do to get rid of them? — Jennifer W., Indianapolis
Dear Jennifer: Mice typically make their way indoors during the fall, when temperatures drop and they're seeking shelter and food. However, many pest control companies have seen an increase in calls this year to treat for mice, rodents and other pests, primarily due to the mild winter and early warm spring. You normally need a solid month of freezing to see an effect on most pest populations. Because most of us didn't get that this past winter, pests and rodents have made their presence known earlier than normal.
Mice are curious by nature and frequently find crevices and openings to gain access to an interior structure. They only need a quarter-inch gap to contort their way inside and are adept climbers.
The best way to eliminate a mouse problem is through exclusion: Make sure all entry points to your home are properly sealed.
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Mice will eat almost anything, and they have a strong sense of smell and are attracted to pet and human food, and bird and grass seed. Keeping food and seed sealed in tight containers that can't be easily penetrated, keeping your lawn and landscape trimmed and manicured to provide a less habitable area for the mice, and eliminating any clutter can help reduce your risk of an infestation.
Mice can transmit diseases and bacteria, contaminate food and even create a fire hazard by chewing and gnawing electrical wires, so it is important to avoid an infestation. Mice also can reproduce quickly: A female mouse can give birth to more than 120 offspring a year. Be on the lookout for droppings and gnaw marks in garages, basements, kitchens, crawl spaces and attics in particular.
Because mice are so curious — and because they have poor eyesight — trapping them is fairly easy. A licensed pest-control professional should offer a number of options to best suit your needs and wishes; including setting traps, using poison bait (which might not be ideal if you have small children or pets) and live trapping, which has become a popular alternative.