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Mice are common visitors in Pittsburgh area homes

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Thursday, March 21, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

Unless their names are Mickey and Minnie, mice remain among the most unwelcome visitors to our homes.

That doesn't stop them from inviting themselves in for a long stay if they can get away with it, which they often do, especially in the Pittsburgh area, according to information just released in the Census Bureau's American Housing Survey.

That report found the seven-county Pittsburgh metro area had the fourth-highest percentage of homes with signs of mice among the 29 largest metro areas in the country. The results don't surprise Ian Ferguson, owner of Critter Control of Greater Pittsburgh, or Shawn Linnan, CEO of Affordable Extermination Services, Ross.

This is their busy season. “I know when it is mouse season, because the phone doesn't stop ringing,” Ferguson says.

The number of older homes with cracks, crevices and gaps in roofs, and the number of heavily wooded areas in the region keep them busy. “Anywhere they can feel warm air coming in from the outside, they will come in,” Linnan says.

Give mice an opening as small as a quarter of an inch, and they'll not only take a mile, but often grab an all-access pass to your home, Ferguson suggests.

“You've got to know your enemy,” Linnan adds.

If knowledge is the key to regaining control of your home, here are tips from those on the front lines to lock and load in this battle:

• Clean up inside and store food in glass and metal containers. Human and pet food should not be left out overnight unprotected.

• Mice hoard food in inaccessible areas, so removal of supplies may not reduce infestations immediately.

• Traps should be placed flush to walls, with trigger plates facing wall, and in paths where the rodents travel. Study details of a variety of traps for pros and cons.

• Popular bait includes peanut butter, pineapple, nuts, doughnuts, cake, fried bacon, raisin, chocolate, gum drops.

• Leave traps unset until bait has been taken at least once.

• Rodent-proofing plays a vital role. The goal is to close all present and potential openings that may serve as entries for unwelcome visitors.

• Never underestimate a determined mouse. They have capability of chewing through wood just to get through an opening, and they can jump 12 inches high, run up the sides of buildings and cross cables and wires.

• Thoroughly inspect your home and locate openings larger than a quarter of an inch (Rule of thumb: if a pencil can fit into it, a mouse probably can, too) and openings where utilities enter. Check floor drains and sewer-pipe grates. Make sure doors, windows and screen are fitting tightly.

• Use rodent-resistant material, such as sheet metal, heavy wire mesh, concrete, brick and mortar to close openings. Steel wool can be a temporary substitute when other material is not available.

• Mouse tracking: Check for mouse tracks by dusting suspected areas with light coating of unscented talcum powder or mason's chalk dust. Wait a day and shine a flashlight across the area.

• Don't forget outside: Eliminate weeds around the outside entryways, keep all drains covered and secure, make sure hoses are not leaking, repair defective pipes and drains and remove junk, old boxes and other items.

• Place garbage in trash cans with lids.

• Eliminate all sources of water, such as condensation or leaks from faucets, pipes or other sources.

• Rodents are potential carriers of disease. To avoid sending dust containing viruses into the air, do not sweep or vacuum mouse droppings until you have wet the affected area with detergent, bleach and water.

• Wearing protective gloves, place a dead rodent and/or droppings in a plastic bag and seal it; then place it in a second bag, seal and dispose in the trash.

• One pair of mice may produce 200 offspring in four months.

• Don't expect your cat or dog to keep mice away. The best way to control mice is to keep them out in the first place.

Sources: Allegheny County Public Works Department,, New York State Department of Health, Terminix, Orkin

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or

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