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How to tell if there are mice in your attic

In a single year, a female mouse can reproduce every three to four weeks and give birth to five to twelve babies each time. Mice are more than just a nuisance. They eat and contaminate food and damage structures and belongings. They chew through insulation, paper goods, clothes and electrical wiring, creating a fire hazard. Mice can carry bacteria that cause diseases such as salmonella poisoning.

Removal of mice starts with recognizing the noise and other signs of mice. Here’s a checklist for how to identify and get rid of mice in the attic:

Identify the noise of mice in the attic. Listen for the scratching sounds of tiny feet. If you don’t hear sounds indicating mice in the attic, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. When they’re being “quiet as a mouse,” they don’t make much noise. Look for these signs of mice in the attic:

  • Urine-stained areas

  • Mouse droppings. (Look for a trail of tiny black pellets about the size of rice grains.)

  • Mouse nests made of shredded paper or other fibrous material in secluded areas

  • Mouse hallways (one to two inches deep) on the surface of the insulation

  • Mouse burrows (one-inch holes going down into the insulation)

  • Chewed items such as plastic or cardboard boxes or clothing

Identify the entry points. Examine your home to determine how mice get in the attic. Look for gaps and holes on the exterior lower level of your house first. A mouse may enter the attic through:

  • Openings around water pipes, utilities and dryer vents

  • Outdoor water taps

  • Air-conditioner connections

  • Loose siding

  • Gaps around windows or doors

  • Cracks or gaps in the foundation

Seal the entry points. Seal all holes and openings that are bigger than one-quarter inch. Use caulk and steel wool scouring pads to plug small holes. Use concrete mortar, sheet metal or heavy-gauge hardware cloth to patch the bigger openings. If you use plastic, wood or other chewable materials the mice will get into the attic again. Be sure windows, doors and screens fit tightly. Use weatherproofing strips around loose-fitting doors to keep the mice out.

Trim trees and bushes near your house. Mice climb the limbs to get to the roof or eaves.

Mouse-proof your food storage areas. Store dried grain and meats in metal canisters, glass jars or other tightly sealed containers.

Trap Them. Trap mice in the attic using a snap trap or a live trap. Don’t use cheese as bait because it goes rancid too quickly. Instead, use peanut butter, bacon or chocolate as bait. Set the triggers lightly so the traps will spring easily. Check the traps daily to dispose of mouse bodies and replace the bait. Wear rubber gloves and a dust filter mask or respirator when handling the dead mice to avoid contact with disease organisms. If you use mouse bait (containing food and a rodenticide) without trapping the mouse, the smell of dead mice in the attic may be a problem. Furthermore, rodenticides can be toxic to humans, pets and other wildlife. If you do use rodenticide, be sure your pets and children can’t get into it.

Hire a wildlife control specialist. If your do-it-yourself efforts to get rid of mice in the attic are unsuccessful, call a wildlife control expert to handle mice removal in the attic and other locations in your house. The Terminix wildlife control experts will look for signs of mice in the attic and determine how the mice get in. They will handle removal of the mice and seal, patch and secure the exterior of your home to get rid of mice for good.