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What's that noise? How to keep homes and barns rodent-free during fall and winter

At first she shooed the voles and rats away with sticks and brooms, but as the weather turned colder, the steady trickle of pesky rodents became a stampede of brown fur and black beady eyes. That is when the homeowner reached out to the professio...

Mice huddle in a corner
A wet summer, coupled with expectations for an even wetter winter, are expected to push rodents indoors. Photo courtesy of The National Pest Management Association
Contributed: National Pest Management Association

At first she shooed the voles and rats away with sticks and brooms, but as the weather turned colder, the steady trickle of pesky rodents became a stampede of brown fur and black beady eyes. That is when the homeowner reached out to the professionals.

John Mack is the owner of JAM Pest Control Inc. in Dickinson. He cautions that now is the time to prepare for the upcoming cold weather by preparing the home against pests.

"You want to make sure your house is sealed, and that all seals under doors are closed off as much as possible, because what tends to happen is when a mouse senses heat they are going to try and get into the house," said Mack. "They only need the size of a pencil eraser to get into a house, so the idea is to make sure everything is sealed really well. I'd recommend doing bait stations around the house, or hire someone to come in and do bait stations to keep them at bay. Once they get in the house they can cause problems."

Predictions from the National Pest Management Association's recently released Fall & Winter Bug Barometer advises residents in many areas of the U.S. to beware of rodents during the cooler months. Wet winter conditions will drive rodents indoors in the North Central, Northwest and Southwest regions of the country as they search for warmth, water and food.

Rodent Awareness Week is October 21-27, 2018, and the NPMA is helping homeowners spot the common signs of rodent infestation.

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"Although it may seem like pest activity dies down during the fall and winter, homeowners need to be on the lookout for signs of stealthy rodents like mice, voles and rats, and take preventative measures to avoid encounters," said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for NPMA. "Mice and rats can spread dangerous diseases, contaminate food, trigger allergy symptoms, and even bring fleas, ticks and lice into homes. Rodents are also known to damage properties by chewing through drywall insulation, electrical wires, and even car wiring. Don't forget to look under the hood!"

If a rodent infestation is suspected, the NPMA advises homeowners contact a licensed pest control professional to handle the situation, but local North Dakotans who have dealt with rodent issues in the past have some unique advise of their own on ridding a barn of the pesky squatters.

Marcella Anderson, who lives south of Hettinger, says the key to ridding a barn of rodents is a "good ole barn cat."

"You have a pet and they're good at getting rid of rodents," she said. "You can't fill them up on cat food or they'll get too lazy to go hunting, but they'll eat everything clear to the tail."

The NPMA advises homeowners to keep an eye out for six common signs of rodent trouble:

• Droppings: Finding mice or rat droppings around the home is one of the most common signs of a rodent infestation. These pellets are often left behind in places where food is stored, such as kitchen cabinets or pantries, as well as under sinks, inside chewed cardboard boxes, along baseboards and on top of wall beams.

• Gnaw marks: Rodents can cause serious property damage by chewing through almost any type of material-including plastic and lead pipes-to obtain food or water. House mice and Norway rats are also known to gnaw on wires behind walls, sometimes causing house fires.

• Nests: Rodents prefer to nest in dark, secluded areas where there is little chance of disturbance. House mice, specifically, like to build their nests out of shredded paper products, cotton, packing materials, wall insulation and fabrics. If you see these materials scattered around the home, it might be a sign that rodents are near.

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• Tracks or rub marks: Rats tend to leave dark grease or dirt marks along walls and floorboards as they follow a trail throughout the home between their nest and food. Keep an eye out for these rub marks, which are actually caused by the rat's oily fur.

• Strange noises: Hearing strange noises in the walls, especially at night, can be a bit concerning. Chances are these sounds can be attributed to a family of rodents scurrying about the house, between the walls and up in attics. Rodents are especially fond of attics because they provide dark, secluded spots to build nests.

• An actual rodent: Mice can breed rapidly, so if you spot one mouse in the house, it's likely there are others playing hide and seek. In fact, a female house mouse can give birth to a half dozen babies every three weeks, up to 35 young per year.

Rodent control in a barn requires diligent management. If mice and rats find an easy source of food and shelter, they'll make themselves right at home. Professionals advise following these strategies to keep the prolific rodents out of the barn:

• Feed storage: Grain and seeds are preferred food sources for rats and mice. Store grain in rodent-proof metal bins with tight-fitting lids. Large metal trash cans make effective grain containers as long as the lids are tight. Completely empty feed troughs after each feeding.

• Horse and barn areas: Check stalls daily, and sweep up any spilled feed. Rats and mice like dark, damp areas, so make sure your barn aisle, stalls and storage areas are well-drained and well-lit. Keep garbage cans lidded and empty them frequently. Don't stack fence boards, lumber or firewood near the barn, as this offers shelter to rodents. Keep weeds and tall grass mowed around structures.

• Tack room: Rodents often use horse blankets and saddle pads as nesting material. Keep blankets, pads, leg wraps and bandages in tightly-sealed containers.

Professionals recommend Stark County residents use the brief warm period the county is currently experiencing to start preparing homes for potential winter rodent invasion.

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Keep basements and attics clutter free, and eliminate any excess moisture around the house. Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home, keep food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly.

For more information on how to keep homes rodent free, visit PestWorld.org.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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