Owls and “Mouseterious” Happenings

Guest Blogger, Sue Fehsinger of New Hampshire

Mice got into the hybrid system of my Prius and destroyed it. They also got into our greenhouse and ate some important seeds my husband  Bob was growing. These critters are a common problem, but we have always used live traps; after all, they were here first and are just doing what they need to do to survive. That is until they crossed the line and, reluctantly, we declared war and the snap traps and peanut butter came out.

Once a nature lover, always a nature lover, though, and hoping that some good can result, Bob puts the dead mice out in places where they will be found by “someone” looking for an easy meal.

Yesterday he had an amazing experience. He had caught a couple of mice and put them out but yesterday afternoon no one had taken them, so he moved them to a more open place. As he was crouching down, he felt something soft. An owl swooped down and took the mouse while Bob still had the tail in his hand. The owl remained still in a nearby tree, for the rest of the afternoon while the second mouse stayed on the ground and we waited to see what would happen next, but nothing happened before dark. This morning both are gone.

We have hosted at least one pair of Barred Owls for many years. We rarely see them, so yesterday was a real treat, but we regularly hear them (“Who cooks for you?”) Since mice are the secondary host for deer ticks (those are the ticks that carry Lyme disease) these owls and the yearly expanding family of hawks which also lives here are very welcome.

Be sure to take in the International Owl Center in Houston, MN, this winter. Their Owl Festival is scheduled for March 1-3, 2019. Whooo’s up for it?

Mice! Keeping them Out of the House

After a balmy fall, the television weather report promised near record cold and snow in three or four days. Mice don’t have televisions but somehow, they knew this because several of the tiny mammals successfully entered our house just before cold arrived. One scurried across the floor as we were reading the morning newspaper.

Years ago we read our then young children a delightful book about a mouse in the house. The story goes: “There is a mouse in the house. It is a very nice mouse.  It has a long, long tail and shiny eyes. My mother likes the mouse. But, she says, ‘A mouse does not belong in a house.’”

We agree and have developed a strategy to keep them out – at least most of them.

One tactic we do not do is poison. Karla Bloem of the International Owl Center in Houston, MN, reminds us that poison spreads.  When a predator eats a poisoned mouse, it absorbs the poison.  Over time, the poison builds up and kills the predator. People end up with more mice that can cause problems.

Here’s what we do at Winding Pathways:

  • Encourage predators. We love to hear the barred owls call on dark evenings, and occasionally we spot a red-tailed hawk in a tree out the window. Both are outstanding mouse catchers. Owls work the night shift and hawks the day.
  • Keep food secure. If mice smell dinner they’ll come right in uninvited and help themselves. It’s important to never leave food out unprotected. We store grain, flour, pasta, cookies and other foods in metal or stout plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. We don’t leave fruits and vegetables on countertops.
  • Tighten up the house. Before it gets cold, we check our house over carefully. Any narrow cracks get filled with caulk.  If we find a wider crack, we fill it with expanding foam. Often entry points for mice and insects are around pipes and wires leading into the home. Caulk and expanding foam help seal off the entry.   Drain pipes sometimes are entry points. “Chore Girl” type metal cleaning pads work great for filling pipes where liquids or air needs to come and go. Wad up the metal pads and jam them into the pipe. Spaces in the cleaning pads let air and moisture enter or leave but keep mice out.
  • Bring out the traps. Despite our best efforts, some mice make it into the house. Usually, we don’t see them but do see their calling cards – their tiny black droppings.

Effectively setting traps

Old fashioned mouse traps still catch mice efficiently, but a few tricks make success more likely. (With the exception of the poison information in this website, we have found this information to be appropriate.)

Bait. Probably the best bait is peanut butter. It just takes a tiny dab on the trigger to work.

Placement. Where you set traps is important. Mice naturally run along walls and dart under counters if they can. Traps set in the middle of a room are less likely to catch mice than those set along a wall with the trigger on the wall side.

Mouse traps

Place several mouse traps where mice tend to enter.

Double up. It’s usually most effective to set several traps in the same spot. So, set two or three touching each other. The first trap or two might not catch the mouse.  Usually one will

Keep setting the traps until you catch no more mice. Often people assume they have one mouse, but likely, there are more.  Keep trapping until they’re all gone. We dispose of dead mice by simply tossing them outside for our local opossum to eat. They can be flushed down the toilet.  Always be sure to wash your hands after handling mice or traps.

A Mouse in the House

A long-ago children’s story began something like this, “There is a mouse in my house.  It is a very nice mouse. It has a long, long tail and shiny eyes.  It pops out of its hole and runs. My mother likes the mouse, but she says, ‘A mouse does not belong in a house.’”

Well, guess what, a sure sign that fall is approaching is “a mouse in the house.” These tiny mammals realize that shorter days and cooler temperatures beckon winter. Finding a safe warm place to live with an abundance of food helps them survive the tough season.

At Winding Pathways we expect mice to appear with the first cool weather in late August or September. Once in a while we have seen one scurrying across the floor, but more often we have found their tiny black droppings on counters. Sometimes we have heard them scurrying about an upstairs closet.

Two types of mice inhabit houses. Both gobble birdseed and will eat nearly anything people do. They capable of doing damage and possibly spreading disease.

The common house mouse is a gray mammal native to the Old World that is now found everywhere people live. They like houses, barns, garages, and sheds but are rarely found far from buildings and live indoors all year round.

Several species of native mice live outdoors most of the year but move inside each fall. These are normally called deer or field mice and are beautiful tiny mammals with shiny eyes and white feet.

They store food, while house mice don’t. Find a pile of sunflower seeds in a shoe and the culprit is a native mouse.

We love wildlife but don’t tolerate mice in the house. So, each fall we plan an eviction campaign.

Here’s how we reduce mouse problems at Winding Pathways:

  • Tighten up cracks and holes. Every fall we arm ourselves with a caulking gun and can of expanding foam and inspect the house from the outside and inside. We fill in any likely entryway for mice, which can squeeze through tiny spaces. Caulking also helps keep insects and cold air out of the house.
  • Set up a trap line. Old fashioned mouse traps efficiently catch and instantly kill mice if set properly. Here are some effective trapping tips:
  • Buy many traps and set them all at once. Try to catch all or most mice in one night, rather than just setting a few traps.
  • Bait traps with peanut butter and set them with the trigger side against the wall where mouse evidence is noticed. Mice tend to run along walls, rather than across the interior of a room, so trapping success is usually best near a wall.
  • Set traps in tandem. Instead of just setting one trap here and there along a wall double or triple them up side by side, again with the trigger side facing the wall.
  • We don’t use poison. It seems cruel and inhumane and poisoned mice tend to die in inaccessible places and stink to high heavens.
  • Encourage predators. We don’t have a cat but encourage raptors to visit our yard. They work year round reducing rodent numbers.
  • Mice are encouraged by food. We keep all food in sealed metal containers or in the refrigerator and wipe up any spilled food. Wild bird and pet foods are loved by mice. Keep them in a metal can with a tight lid and dump out the dog or cat’s food dish in the evening so there’s nothing for nocturnal mice to eat.

 Mice are fascinating animals that play an important role in nature, but they belong outside.  It’s probably not possible to entirely eliminate them from a house but simple techniques will encourage them to stay outdoors.



You have to give mice credit. They’re survivors. As days shorten the tiny mammals seem to know that spending the winter in a warm home with bountiful food left out beats eking out a grim existence in the cold and snow.

Each fall mice move into houses to enjoy free meals and warmth. Human residents often aren’t aware that they’re sharing their home with these tiny residents until droppings appear on the kitchen counter.

There are two general types of mice that enjoy indoor winter life.

The common house mouse is a gray animal native to the Old World. It was brought to North America soon after European settlers arrived centuries ago. Now found all over the world, this mouse almost always lives near people and is rare out in the woods. It often spends its entire life in a home, dining on easily accessible food, and even having babies – lots of babies – inside. Catching sight of a mouse scurrying across the floor is rare, but the shy animals leave their calling cards as droppings that look a little like grains of pepper.

Several species of native mice, often called white footed or deer mice, also enjoy wintering indoors. These beautiful native rodents usually spend the warm months outside, have their babies there, then enter a home in the fall. As the name implies, the animal’s feet and belly are white.

White footed mice cache food. Find a pile of sunflower seeds in an old shoe, and you’ve found evidence of this animal. House mice don’t cache food but eat it where it’s discovered.

Hardly anyone wants to share their home with mice of any species. Here are tips for keeping mice outdoors where they belong:

• Fill exterior cracks and holes with caulking and weather-stripping to make entry challenging. Tightening up the house reduces the unwelcome entry of both tiny rodents and cold air.
• Eliminate food sources inside the house. Never leave pet food in open dishes overnight. Clean up spilled human food, even tiny crumbs. Store sunflower seed and pet food in metal containers with tight lids. Keep all human food inaccessible.
• Encourage and appreciate mouse predators. If owls wake you in the middle of the night with their raucous calls, just thank them. They are the midnight patrol eagerly converting mice to dinner. Many hawk species work the day shift seeking rodents. Snakes are also effective mouse predators but are only active during warm moths. Some cats catch and dine on mice but a pampered declawed tabby isn’t going to dent their numbers.

Despite the best efforts to discourage mice, some are bound to get into the house. Here are tips for getting rid of them:

The old fashioned mouse trap can be amazingly effective in catching and immediately killing mice. Buy a bunch of traps. We have about a dozen at Winding Pathways. Bait each with a dab of peanut butter or margarine, making sure that the bait gets pushed into the tiny circular piece of metal attached to the trigger. Mice almost always run along a wall or partition. Set traps against the wall with the trigger side nearest the wall. Set a bank of three or four traps side-by-side and against each other, all with triggers facing the wall.

We set the most traps close to where we see mice or their droppings, but also set some in rooms where we haven’t seen mice. Sometimes we catch them there. Even after we’ve caught a few mice we keep traps set until none have been caught for a couple of weeks.

Some traps claim to either catch mice alive or in a way that a human doesn’t have to touch the dead animal. We shun both. Supposedly the live traps are humane, but what do you do with that scrappy animal? Let it go outside? If so it may beat you back into the house, freeze to death, or be quickly caught by a predator. We consider a quick death by conventional mouse trap more humane.

Poisons and glue traps work but we also avoid them. Poison seems cruel and often a mouse dies a slow death behind the refrigerator or hidden in a wall. Soon the stench wafts through the house. Glue boards are pieces of cardboard or paper coated with amazingly sticky stuff. Any mouse that steps on it sticks. Trouble is glue boards don’t instantly kill the animal. Often in its effort to free itself the unfortunate animal gets completely stuck and a human needs to decide how to humanely dispose of a living but very stuck mouse. If you don’t want to live with mice as house guests, traps are better.