The Mouse Wars usually start in September, but this year, they spoiled the end of August for me. I once looked forward to fall. Apple picking. Perfect temperatures. The smell of fireplace smoke. The mosquito-free hikes. Brilliant foliage. Now I dread the season because that’s when the Mouse Wars—the battle between the wood mice trying to get into our cozy home and me trying to keep them out—begin.
In my defense, the mice have an advantage. One dime-sized opening, easily found in a building this old, triggers their invasion. Yet I have to search out and close every single hole to stop the pitter-patter of their tiny feet. That hardly seems fair.
CALLING IN THE EXPERTS
Our family included two expert mice-catchers when we moved to this house, so Mickey and friends avoided us at first. By the time our cats passed away, though, my daughter had developed allergies that kept us from adopting any more. She no longer lives here, but streaming, itchy eyes would mean fewer visits and the chance of a cut-rate nursing home in my husband’s and my future. So—no cats.
After the local Peromyscus tumbled to the absence of predators, we hired human experts. Frankly, the kitties were cheaper and had the advantage of purring. The exterminators who told us we’d never be able to locate all the openings in our house suggested poison. I hated using it, but it worked, sometimes too well. Mice were dying before they could leave the premises, their skeletons forever entombed in the walls. So now we rely on…
Live traps don’t work. Massachusetts law forbids releasing animals on someone else’s property, and our land neither extends for 5 miles nor contains a river too large for them to cross. One Halloween night, I swear I saw the two mice I’d released that morning climbing up the siding on their way to the nearest entry hole. If my ears were sharper, I would probably have heard them giggling and joking about their day trip and bemoaning their sunburns.
I’m therefore stuck using snap traps and hoping the families of those I kill don’t hire a hitman in revenge. Or hit-rodent.
Of course, the best option would be to…
KEEP THEM OUT
Excuse me while I finish laughing. We have tried, but each time we close an entryway, they find another. So far, we’ve repaired holes in the wood, tears in the attic screens, and weather-beaten window frames. I’ve stuck copper mesh under the clapboards at the top of the cement foundation. My husband installed a fence around the bottom of the bay window. Still, every fall, I hear little teeth devouring acorns above my head at night.
But this summer, my husband renovated our porch and found evidence that they were entering through the electrical wire conduit. He sealed it, and giddy with hope, we went on a mouse-obstruction spree. We got rid of hiding places by trimming the foundation shrubs and raking the nearby fallen leaves. He sprinkled flour in the cellar to record their tracks and repaired the door they were squeezing under. I put up a trail camera at strategic spots and analyzed the results.
AND WHAT HAPPENED?
They kept coming in.
Then I tried different locations for the trail camera and found gravity wasn’t dislodging the copper mesh at the top of the foundation. Critters were. A few days after my husband secured it with foam, the traps I’d set were empty.
DID WE WIN THIS TIME????
I thought we’d won until an odd knocking started on one of the second-story walls. A woodpecker was hammering on the siding. I chased it away, but not before it left a hole in the clapboards.
A dime-sized hole.
My rational mind believes that this is a coincidence.
But my irrational, paranoid side demands further research. Are the mice now hiring mercenaries from other species?