Don’t let their big eyes and adorable little ears fool you, deer mice are destructive and dirty! They can store loose food in tiny caches that can bring rot and more dangerous pests into your home at a rate higher than typical house mice. They are known to chew through electrical wires and make nests in wall insulation, which can increase the risk of a house fire. Additionally, if a mouse dies in your ventilation shafts, you will have to find and remove the body to remove the stench.
Worst of all, their droppings and urine can be quite dangerous. Deer mice are a significant carrier of the Sin Nobre virus transmitted via their droppings, which can cause Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). According to the CDC, HPS can cause fever and shortness of breath, similar to the flu.
Late symptoms of HPS can include having your lungs fill with fluid, leading to a mortality rate of 38%. Deer mouse droppings can contaminate your food with this disease, and their fecal residue can be unintentionally inhaled when dried. All in all, it’s safe to say that you really don’t want these critters in your home.
The deer mouse is native to the woodlands and deserts of North America. They can be found in almost every US state (you’re off the hook, Florida and Alaska), as well as large portions of Canada and Mexico. They aren’t common in urban areas, so they are typically a problem for homes with fields or forests nearby.
Specifically, deer mice are big fans of douglas fir trees, so keep that in mind if you live near the coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Deer mice are nocturnal, and typically won’t be found during the day unless actively threatened. They do not hibernate, so don’t let your guard down in the winter.
Ironically, the deer mouse is quite cute. They have 3-4 inch long, round bodies, with tails about 4 inches long. They are typically brown or gray with a white belly, and have big beady black eyes.
The deer mouse is remarkably agile; if you spot one, it’s likely that you’ll see it run away in a flash (hence the name deer mouse). It’s worth noting that deer mice are significantly faster than typical house mice. A normal person likely won’t be able to catch a deer mouse without some sort of trap, so don’t bother with your butterfly net.
Of course, the deer mouse is not to be mistaken for the equally cute mouse-deer of the Indonesian jungles, however unlikely a mouse-deer infestation may be.
To keep these ruinous rodents out of your home, take care to seal off small gaps and crevices on the outside of your home. This is the most effective way to keep them out, although it may not be an easy option for renters. Many states have laws that require landlords to practice due diligence to prevent infestations, and to cover the costs of extermination if the infestation is not the tenant's fault. Check with your state’s board of health for more information.
When sealing parts of your home, use materials that cannot easily be gnawed through, like steel wool or plaster. Plastic, rubber, and insulation can be easily ruined by deer mice, and even be repurposed into nesting material.
Keep food packages sealed tightly, especially grains and cereals that may be left in pantries. Keep your kitchen and food storage areas clean, and keep trash sealed in closing trash bins. Loose food scraps on floors can attract rodents, so make it a point to sweep and mop the floors on a regular basis. If you suspect there may be an infestation, refrain from filling any bird feeders you have, as the leftover seeds can attract rodents.
If you have pets, avoid keeping their food out overnight, as it can also attract mice. Having cats can help prevent infestations, as they are useful for hunting down small quantities of mice. However, they are less useful when there is a full infestation.
One of the most significant indicators of a deer mouse infestation are tiny brown poop pellets, or small droplets of urine residue in your kitchen or pantry. You may also notice small bite marks on thin plastic, paper, or burlap containers that contain rice, grain, seeds, or root vegetables.
If you suspect that you may have deer mice in your home, sanitize the problem areas immediately. Always use rubber or latex gloves when dealing with rodent excrement, as bacteria can linger on fabric.
Lysol wipes are usually sufficient, but bleach solutions are good bets when you need to bring out the big guns. Be careful not to breath in the dust when sweeping or vacuuming, as HPS can become airborne after the droppings dry. Face masks are a plus here. If there is residue on fabric furniture or carpet, consider steam cleaning or fabric shampoo.
Your house cat likely isn’t enough! You will likely have to deploy traps. Conventional snap traps can be effective when baited with peanut butter or oats. Place traps close together in areas that you’ve found droppings. Remember, they may be quick, but they aren’t clever!
Glue traps can be effective, but they can also lead the mice to leave a lot of excrement out of fear. Their use should be avoided in residential spaces to avoid hantavirus contamination.
According to the University of California’s Statewide Pest Management Program, chlorophacinone and diphacinone toxins are registered for use against deer mice, as well as zinc phosphide. However, zinc phosphide is extremely toxic to all animals, so it should be avoided if you have pets or young children.
If all else fails, maybe it’s time to call the experts. If you live in the Greater Puget Sound area, Zunex Pest Control is here to help. We offer a full range of pest control solutions, and a full warranty on rodent control services. Click here to get a free quote today!