Home A mouse infestation can happen to you

A mouse infestation can happen to you

by admin February 7, 2011
“We caught a few, but those fuckers are fast,” said Heather Leslie, who first tried dealing with her mouse problem humanely. She would set the slower fellas that she was able to catch free in a field by her Plateau apartment.

“We had so many with no end in sight that I stopped being able to be nice about it and just wanted them out. It was gross,” she said. “We were tired of mouse poop all over our kitchen counter and in our baking soda, so we just got traps and the problem stopped.”

While bedbugs are the worldwide home invaders du jour, mice present a tricky situation that Montreal residents like Leslie are having to deal with.

Recognizing the urgency in having an infestation

At first, Leslie didn’t want to hurt her freeloading mice, but after a while, it was becoming a health hazard so she had no choice but to turn to traps. Having worked as an urban wildlife helping specialist with McGill University for several years, Leslie’s story is a familiar one.

People generally understand that animals aren’t maliciously invading their homes to make their lives difficult. However, for Leslie and others, the problem can quickly became urgent. While humane traps are often preferred, they are not always an option especially if you don’t own your own home, as is the case with most students. This means you can often be limited in how you can deal with an infestation.

It is easy to feel for the little critters. They have chosen your space as a refuge from the elements and Montreal’s frigid temperamental winters. How cute. They have also decided that the electrical wiring in your home is a delicious snack, and for fun, they have sampled your rice and cereal, and left their poop all over your cupboards in thanks for the free grub.

According to Mary-Lynne Skyrie*, a landlord in Verdun who has had mice problems in her building, having mice in your apartment is as urgent as flooding and must be dealt with very quickly. “The tenants were messy, which didn’t help,” said Skyrie. “Mice cause structural damage, eat electrical wiring, decompose in the walls, eat the drywall, and multiply quickly,” she explained.

Mice are a more common problem than they let on, since they are so good at hiding. If you are tidy and don’t invite them in with food scraps left carelessly around the house, it might help minimize the risk of an infestation. However, even a spotless home can be a welcome space for mice.

Understanding the house mouse

Cities are interesting environments for animals because the local ecosystem has pushed the native fauna to the outskirts. Nature has been replaced with high-rises, concrete, and a swarm of decorative, non-indigenous trees. This means that the animals that live around us are skilled and have grown to know the best places to hide out for the winter.

Therefore the pestering habits of gulls, raccoons, skunks, cockroaches, and mice are partly our own fault. They are dealing with the cards urbanization has dealt them, and they should be applauded for adapting to what is essentially an alien world.

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is one rodent who has learnt this lesson well. They grow up to three inches in size and have grayish-brown fur, a naked tail and prefer living in buildings. If you release this breed into a field, you are not doing them any favours since they have evolved to live in the concrete castles we have constructed.

They make nests out of bits of paper, cloth, and whatever else they find lying around. They eat everything and the only evidence you will see of them is their cylindrical droppings and gnawed morsels here and there.

“My daughter actually found bars of soap that had been gnawed on by mice in her apartment,” said Skyrie.

They do not need a lot of water, especially if the food they are eating is moist, and they breed throughout the year. Since they are usually a source of food for carnivores like cats and birds, they have to make a whole lot of babies to make sure at least some survive. They start breeding at about two months and live for about one year.

House mice also carry diseases, like salmonellosis, a bacteria that can induce vomiting, diarrhea, fever and cramps. There has been the occasional Hantavirus scare, a disease similar to the flu spread by mice found in Montreal homes. (Although, according to Humane Wildlife Control, it is a disease transmitted by deer mice, who actually prefer fields to your apartment.) House mice can also give you tapeworm, ringworm and mites.

Informing yourself about the different mouse-ridding methods

As a landlady, Skyrie had to get rid of them quickly for the health and safety of her other tenants. “I called an exterminator. I wouldn’t take a chance on not using the most effective route. It’s not a problem that’s going to go away,” said Skyrie, who would have preferred the humane, no-kill route if it was within her means.

“I had to deal with them quickly and viciously. It’s the lucky landlord that can afford to do it the no-kill way, but I can’t,” she explained. “I’m not disagreeing with humane, ecological methods; they’re ideal, so I do as much research as possible so I’m not making things worse.”

Some of Skyrie’s research brought her to Humane Wildlife Control, an Ontario-based company that also works out of Montreal. HWC will come and inspect your living space free of charge. They will let you know where your animal problem is coming from, and give you a quote for how much it will cost to fix the problem. Their typical estimate is usually in the thousands, but this figure depends on the home. They give a guarantee that if you have a re-infestation within a certain period after their work is done, they will fix it free of charge.

HWC’s standard method is to install a one-way trap that lets the animals leave on their own and leaves no way for them to get back in. The mice then find themselves a new home, which is the ultimate result in humane animal control. While the cost of this method is more expensive, it ends up saving you money in the long run since it is guaranteed to prevent future pest problems.

Relocating an animal yourself is a waste of sympathetic energy. By placing the mice in an unfamiliar environment where they don’t know where to find food or shelter causes the animals a sense of disorientation. They will especially panic if they have been separated from a litter of babies.

As Skyrie explained, while she would have preferred to use an environmentally-friendly, humane approach, sometimes one has to put their health first. “What is the “eco’ way to get rid of them once they have eaten your wiring, are decomposing between your walls and you have droppings all over the floor? Even if you sweep everything up, you have to cover your mouth because there are loose particles in the air from their excrement. It’s bad and just not worth it,” she said.

Although she could not afford HWC’s services, she learned a lot and chose the best method within her means to deal with the problem. “Mice can squeeze in a space smaller than the size of a dime!” she said. She ended up employing an extermination company that blocks the points of entry and set out a food-like substance that dries the mice out from the inside. “There is no rot that way, and it is supposed to kill them quickly and not leave any leftover poisons. It was the best I could do,” she lamented.

For information or to receive a free quote call Humane Wildlife Control at

514-395-4555 or visit www.humanewildlifecontrol.com/montreal-wildlife-control.htm

More Information

Know your rights – The Concordia Student Union’s Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank offers students legal information, handouts and referrals to students dealing with infestations. They highly suggest going in for a visit as they can make the necessary paperwork available to you so that you can deal with the problem effectively. They are open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Email: hojo@csu.qc.ca

Phone: ext. 7935. Visit hojo.csu.qc.ca more information

Tell your landlord: Skyrie was stern when explaining what should be done if you find a mouse or evidence of one in your apartment. “First, tell your landlord. If they don’t respond, call the Montreal rental board to find out your options,” she said.

R̩gie des Rentes РIf your landlord is being unreasonable or inactive, you can call the board at 514-873-2245 or toll free at 1-800-683-2245. The board exists to oversee the laws and regulations that govern landlord-tenant relationships. They highly suggest doing all the communication with your landlord in writing, as this can be used by the board to render a decision for you if your landlord is unwilling or unable to act. For more information visit them online at www.rrq.gouv.qc.ca

*Mary-Lynne Skyrie is a real landlord in Verdun. She asked that her name be changed to protect her identity and her building’s reputation.