Taking up winter residence

As we move out for the winter, our neighbours are looking for ways to move in. Mice and other critters are anxious to find a safe home in our cottages.

It’s not surprising. Deer mice are the most abundant mammals in the forest: in a good year, with plenty of seeds, there can be ten thousand mice per square kilometre of forest. They survive the winter by clustering underground, in piles of brush, or deep in the leaf litter, with a dozen or so mice sharing a nest.

While leaf litter is all very well, we have provided them with many much nicer options. Insulation in the walls and attic makes a fantastic mouse bed. Even better, if they can get in, is a nice closet full of towels or blankets, toilet paper, or anything else that they can shred into a nest.

Old-time cottagers just accepted that mice in the cottage were a fact of life. Cottages weren’t built to be air-tight, and since a mouse can get through a hole the size of a dime, they just knew that spring cleanup would include sweeping up plenty of mouse droppings.

Their solution was simply to let the mice have free reign, and protect anything that could be damaged by chewing. Metal was the ultimate mouse-proofer, and there are still plenty of old cottages that have tin-lined closets and metal trunks where the bedding could be stored when the cottage was closed up for the season.

That’s an approach that can still be useful in the boathouse or a shed which you know won’t be mouse-proof. Life jackets, ropes, or anything else that’s shreddable can be stored inside metal or hard plastic containers. Just be sure everything is dry before you seal it up, otherwise you’ll be dealing with mold issues in the spring.

Ensure that you’re not also providing mice with a reason to come into your space. Pest control experts say that nothing attracts mice like a garage or boathouse with a bag of bird feed, or seeds left over from spring vegetable gardening. With no bedding, no food, and no heat, mice will be better off wintering under the snow rather than inside the boathouse.

The heated cottage is a bit trickier. Even if everything is sealed up, the warmth alone will attract mice – as well as voles, shrews, and even raccoons, bats, skunks and squirrels.

Here, the best approach is to keep them out in the first place. Do a thorough walk around the cottage, looking for any kind of opening that needs to be sealed. Caulk, wire mesh, even steel wool stuffed into cracks can keep mice at bay.

All rodents are inveterate chewers. Their teeth never stop growing so, like beavers, mice need to gnaw just to keep their teeth from getting too long. Every year, fires are caused by mice chewing through the insulation on wires, creating a short circuit and a spark.

If mice are still getting in, poison baits are an unfortunate necessity. Professional pest control companies are your best bet, to ensure that the baits are used properly and pose no risk to pets, people, or other wildlife. Contact us for recommendations.


Posted in In the Garden.