Rosie on the House: Rain, cold drive rodents to seek shelter, food

Pack rat exiting its burrow.

What some may consider cute, rodents can cause damage to your home, property, and even your health. The colder temperatures are forcing mice and rats to seek warm shelter in our homes, garages, and even under our cars’ hoods.

How do you tell the difference between a mouse and a rat? Ryan Bennett, vice president of Bill’s Home Service Company, explains.

“Pack rats, also known as wood rats, are one of the biggest rodent concerns in Southern Arizona,” said Bennett. “Pack rats are about six to eight inches long and are typically gray to grayish-brown with lighter colored feet and undersides. Their ears are large and hairy as are their tails, which are about the same length as their head and body.”

They collect small objects, especially shiny ones, which they bring back to their nests. Their nests are built of cactus and sticks and are usually in sheltered areas such as rock clusters, the base of trees and shrubs, and around the root systems of cactus. Cars, BBQ grills, sheds, attics, and wall voids are also prime shelters.

Kangaroo rats do not typically cohabitate with humans, but they can be a nuisance when it comes to landscaping. They create underground burrows, often at the base of a shrub or cactus, excavating dirt and creating mounds in the soil. They have a distinct appearance with a long tail and big hind feet that they use to quickly hop away from predators.

Mice are much smaller than adult rats, so identification is usually easy. They are a common nuisance in homes and readily avail themselves of food in your pantry or cabinets. Their telltale sign, mouse droppings, are often found in kitchen drawers, behind toasters, and in your cupboards.

Like pack rats, they are nocturnal and are quite busy raiding your pantry while you are sleeping. They build nests in walls, behind appliances and in other dark, out-of-the-way places with convenient access to food and water.

Rodents often carry diseases like the Hantavirus and can cause damage to your home and property. “They can carry up to thirty-five diseases that humans are susceptible to,” said Bennett.

They can munch on electrical lines, thereby increasing the possibility of fire. They damage other materials as well, creating holes and gnawing on numerous objects, especially food or food containers.

"Cleaning up after a rodent infestation requires a great deal of caution," said Bennett. "This is necessary because of the possibility of fleas or mosquitoes, which may transmit their own diseases to you, your children and pets. There is also risk involved if you inadvertently stir up the dust of their nests; it can be hazardous to breathe in the bacteria contained within."

You can prevent rodents from getting into your home by sealing or closing entry areas. A rodent can get into a home through a hole the size of a nickel or dime. We can help you inspect your home to show you areas where they are entering the home. You can also reduce or prevent rodent infestations by reducing easy access to food and water sources.

Rats and mice are always looking for food and they are going to take the path of least resistance. Making sure your home does not have easy access to food sources, such as fallen fruit or unpicked fruit or food scraps in a garbage can with a broken lid, will go a long way in making your home less attractive to these pests.

Rosie on the House: Rain, cold drive rodents to seek shelter, food

Pack rats often build their dens in the brush under the prickly pear cactus.

Roof rats are very common in many areas and properly maintaining trees by keeping them trimmed back will also make a big difference by reducing easy access. Blue Sky Pest Control can also implement proactive treatment methods to keep rodents out of your home or business. All these methods are pet-friendly, people-friendly and environment-friendly.

Like us, rats and mice need water, food, and shelter. Trash bins or dumpsters where the lid is left open or missing, fruit that has fallen or has not been harvested, and pet food left outside are an attractive smorgasbord for these scavengers.

“Removing the occasional mouse or rat can sometimes be as easy as setting a mousetrap. Infestations can be a larger issue. Rats are smart and can learn to avoid traps,” said Bennett.

A professional pest management company will identify nesting areas and feeding grounds and know how to eliminate them. Proper cleanup is also performed, ensuring that you and your family are safe from allergies, illness and possible future infestation.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson and from 7 to 10 a.m. on KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 888-767-4348.

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