Now that December is here and the temperatures have dropped, people can be seen bustling around in their parkas, scarves, and mittens. To get through these frigid months, we bundle up, turn up the heat in our cars and houses, and rely on lights to keep our homes bright when the sun goes down earlier and earlier. But what do mice do in winter? Reports of mice sightings increase exponentially during the cold part of the year. This rise in mouse encounters is caused by many factors, but the simple answer is that people see more mice in their homes because there ARE more mice in their homes.
The nuisance rodent population undergoes a huge boost in the winter due to mice who wouldn’t normally live indoors looking for shelter. When it’s warm outside, most mice will live in an outdoor habitat like the roots of a tree, bushes, tall grass, or hollow logs where nuts, berries, seeds, and other varieties of foods they prefer are easier to come by. But when the weather turns too cold to withstand and their food sources disappear, mice need to find someplace where they can survive until spring. Houses and other buildings offer warm, secure attic and wall spaces as well as access to food and water, which attracts these mice seeking a winter home. Even structures that aren’t temperature controlled, like garages and sheds, offer protection from the elements.
While most mice prefer to reside outside, plenty live inside year-round. Though one may have a mouse problem even in the summer, it might not become a noticeable problem until winter. Mice that have a permanent den inside a building will spend a great deal of time outside looking for food and water when the weather is warm enough. But in the winter, they won’t risk braving the cold to forage for sustenance, which means they’re much more likely to be spotted since they are indoors the majority of the time. Like most rodents, mice hoard and store material. They will create large caches of food in or near a structure so they are able to feed throughout the winter without leaving the security of their den.
Spikes in the number of indoor mice can also be caused by the birth of new litters. Mice mate throughout the year (up to 10 litters of 5-6 young each year), but breeding peaks in the fall. Mice take about a month to reach maturity, meaning that once winter arrives, there are large populations of newly adult mice entering homes to escape the cold. It also means that once inside, these mice are producing broods of their own that are then able to reproduce within a month. You can see how a very small number of mice can escalate into a huge infestation in little time.
Lastly, new entry points allow a much greater opportunity for mice to get into a home. Low temperatures cause building materials to contract. The winter can create cracks, crevices and holes that may not have been there before, meaning it’s simply easier for mice to get into your house when it’s cold.
If you see mice in your home, especially during the winter, it’s likely to be an indication of a much larger problem. Contact a professional rodent control company that has a thorough mouse treatment program. The most effective plans involve a complete inspection, placement of rodent bait stations in strategic locations, and several return trips to the property to monitor mouse activity. This should be followed by the sealing of all gaps where mice can enter the structure. While mice may merely be trying to survive the cold, they cause a great deal of damage to homes and are also carriers of disease, so don’t hesitate to act immediately.
Image courtesy of Ronnie Meijer via Flickr Creative Commons