Defending Your Domain: How to Help Get Rid of Mice in Your Backyard

Mice and other rodents are some of the most common pests found in and around homes and they can quickly reproduce – potentially multiplying your pest problems. There are several types of mice that may be present on your property. If you’ve spotted mice or evidence of mice outside on your property, it’s wise to figure out how to get rid of mice populations in the backyard before they potentially invade any indoor spaces. Mice are likely to enter homes more frequently during the fall and winter months when provisions become scarce in outdoor environments. Once a mouse establishes a territory indoors, it can cause quite a mess getting into your food and their urine or droppings can result in unsanitary conditions. So, before they make their way inside, learn how to get rid of and exclude mice from your yard.

How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Yard

Mice are small and have high reproductive potential. For example, a house mouse can have 5-10 litters of 3-12 offspring per year. There are methods you can employ that can make your outdoor space less enticing to mice and other rodents. To lessen the likelihood of mice inhabiting your yard, check out these top six tips:

  1. Clean up your yard. Wood piles, tall grass and piles of fallen leaves all make great hiding places for mice. Try to keep up on yard work by regularly cutting your grass and pulling any long weeds. Plus, remove any piles of wood and foliage that provide potential hiding spots. If you compost, try moving the materials as far away from your home as possible and keep in a sealed container.
  2. Remove exposed food. Bird food, pet food and trash are all potential food sources for rodents. Be sure to seal your trashcans with a lid that locks. Keep any uneaten pet food or bird seed in a sealed container inside your garage or home to prevent access to mice.
  3. Set baited traps. You can use baited snap traps around the areas that you see mice frequenting. Mice will typically run close to walls and are unlikely to travel more than 5 to 10 feet into an open space to retrieve bait. Be strategic when setting traps by placing them along the perimeter of your property and away from spaces where your pets and/or children can accidentally set them off.
  4. Cover burrow openings. Mice and other rodents may create burrows in the ground for nesting, resting or hiding. Cover any holes you find in your yard with rocks or dirt as these may be entry/exit holes for rodent burrows. If you notice an opening has been dug up again, you may still have a mouse problem.
  5. Inspect your home. Once your yard is clean, all potential food sources have been sealed, and you have set traps, the next step is to prevent mice from entering your home. Examine the exterior of your home for any holes or cracks where mice can enter, and seal any openings with wire mesh or caulk.
  6. Proper pest control. The best deterrent for pests of any kind is ongoing pest control. By keeping a close eye on what’s happening outside your home, as you may be able to prevent issues inside, as well.

Mice can squeeze into spaces as small as a dime, so catching and sealing all possible entry ways to your home may be difficult. If you need help excluding mice from your home, consider consulting Terminix® technicians for help. Our professionals can examine your home and find the best methods for exclusion and removal of unwanted pests. Contact Terminix® today to schedule a free inspection.

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How to Keep Rodents out of the Garden

Although most gardeners think about insects when they think of garden pests, rodents are the scourge of many gardens. Mice, rats, gophers and other rodents not only cause unsightly damage from tunneling through the lawn and garden, they can eventually enter your home after colonizing the garden.

To keep rodents out of the garden – and out of your home – you need to first understand what attracts rodents to the garden and then by changing the habitat, discourage them from taking up residence.

Recognizing the Signs of Rodents

Like any living creature, rodents seek food, water and shelter. Your garden simply appears to them as an extension of the normal woodland or prairie habitat in which they live. Not only does it provide abundant food, but sprinkler systems provide water, and the abundance of vegetation provides suitable shelter.

Rodents can colonize compost piles, garden beds, ornamental plantings and lawns. Once they infest your yard, they’ll continue to seek even better accommodations, especially as winter arrives. They often find entrances into houses, sheds and garages through tiny openings. While gophers generally remain in outdoor colonies, rats and mice prefer the warmth found within houses. If rats and mice are left unchecked in the garden, they may seek shelter inside your home.

How to tell if rodents are a problem in your garden? Look for the following signs:

  • You see them: Aside from activity in your yard and garden, rats often travel on top of power lines, especially at dawn and dusk. Watch for rats along fences and trees, too.
  • Plants disappearing overnight: New plantings, seedlings, and sprouts often disappear overnight without a trace. Some appear to be tugged under the ground from below. Deer and rabbits chew plants from above, often tugging them out of the earth and leaving roots behind. Rats, mice and gophers disturb plants from below, often pulling at the roots or gnawing at them from below.
  • Tunnels in the ground: Rats, mice, gophers and other rodents often carve tunnels in the ground, connected by small entrance and exit holes. Gophers leave a larger, more visible mound of soil than rats and mice. These tunnels are the rodents’ superhighways and allow rodents to destroy plants simply by passing through the ground.
  • Mounds: Gophers and rats create mounds of soil to mark the entrance to their burrows.
  • Droppings: Rats, mice and other creatures leave their droppings behind. Rodent droppings look like black grains of rice.

Specific areas of the garden to check for rodent infestations include:

  • Compost piles: Improperly managed compost piles can be like an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats and mice. You’ll spot them easily, especially after digging into the pile and disturbing their nests. Mice are frequent compost pile pests.
  • Sheds: Check for signs that something has been digging under your garden shed. Rats and gophers can tunnel under sheds and set up a residence of their own.
  • Garbage and recycling bins: If you keep your garbage and recycling bins outdoors, look for droppings and chew marks on the bins, a sure sign that rodents are around. You should check frequently for holes in these containers, and you may want to convert from plastic to metal cans.
  • Wood Piles: Outdoor wood piles are attractive places for rodents to build nests. If your wood pile is in the garden, you may have inadvertently built a rodent hotel. Restack it periodically.
  • Bird feeders: Birds drop seeds from feeders, which can attract rodents into the garden. Stored bird seed in garden sheds or garages is also attractive to many rodents. Always store bird seed in a sealed, metal, galvanized container.

Do Mice Eat Plants?

Field mice in the wild eat seeds, nuts, berries and vegetation, as well as small insects. Do mice eat plants? Yes, and they will eat garden plants and houseplants, too. Mice are especially fond of seeds, so newly planted garden seeds like corn and sunflower seeds are a favorite target of garden mice. Newly emerging grass seed, grains and leafy green vegetables are also appealing to mice.

The Dangers of Rodents in the Garden

Rats and mice not only destroy your hard work by eating plants in the garden, they can also infect your garden with several pathogens. Salmonellosis, for instance, can be spread by rat feces in or near vegetable gardens. After the infected rat leaves droppings in your vegetable garden, watering spreads the bacteria from the ground by splashing it onto leaves and fruit. Lettuce, spinach and many herbs and vegetables can be contaminated in this way, causing severe diarrhea and stomach cramps within 3 days of ingesting infected materials.

Rats, mice and other rodents can be the primary agents of infection, spreading various viral and bacterial diseases. They can also carry fleas and ticks, which spread diseases such as Lyme (from ticks) and other infections.

Rodent infestations are, unfortunately, a common sign of poor sanitation. It’s a good idea to check your yard and garden for debris if you suspect a rodent infestation. Not only can the rodents themselves spread diseases, but poor garden sanitation can lead to plant diseases. A clean garden is a healthy garden – and one that’s less attractive to rodents.

How to Keep Rodents Out of the Garden

Knowing how to keep rodents out of the garden depends on properly identifying the type of rodent damaging your plants. Ask yourself the following questions to help identify the right rodent:

  • Are there visible mounds in the yard?— If the answer is yes, you are likely dealing with gophers or moles. A conical-shaped mound is the work of the eastern mole, while a round or heart-shaped mound is a sign of the pocket gopher.
  • Are seeds being eaten from the ground without the soil surface disturbed? – You may be dealing with mice or rats.
  • Is plant material, especially fruit scraps, disappearing from the compost pile? — Check for droppings — it’s likely that mice are infesting your compost pile. Opossums and many other wildlife also feed on compost pile materials.
  • Is there a burrow with a small entrance? — Is the entrance hard to find? Is the burrow near a water source? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’re probably dealing with the Norway rat. Norway rats like to make burrows near dependable water sources and buildings such as sheds or garages.

Once you’ve identified the likely suspect, it’s time to take action. Here are several steps you can take to keep rodents out of the garden:

  • Remove their shelter— Rats and mice like to make nests in brush piles, wood piles and tall grass. Keep grass cut throughout the gardening season. Don’t pile spent plants near your garden; bag them and discard them in the trash. Periodically move wood piles. For mice infestations in compost piles, make the compost pile as unattractive to mice as possible. Turn the compost weekly and spray it with a garden hose.
  • Eliminate their food sources – If your bird feeders are attracting rodents into the garden, you may need to take them down for a few weeks, just long enough to give rodents the message that their free lunch is over. Prevent bird seed spills by filling your feeder carefully and storing bird seed in closed metal bins that rodents cannot chew through.
  • Control lawn grubs — Grubs attract many rodents, including gophers, moles and rats. Use milky spore or other treatments to kill lawn grubs so the rodents’ food source is gone. In addition to keeping rodents out of the garden, you’ll also reduce the population of Japanese beetles, an added plus for gardeners!
  • Improve sanitation near your garden — If you keep garbage or recycling bins near the garden, be sure to keep them clean. Wash them down with the garden hose once a week and use a household cleaner to scrub the inside out. Leftover food particles or scents on the bins may be luring rodents into the yard.
  • Seal holes— Mice can squeeze through holes the size of a dime. It’s important to seal up any entrances into sheds or outbuildings to prevent mice and other rodents from finding a comfortable spot to overwinter. Seal holes with wood or metal.
  • Fences – Gophers can be kept out of gardens by stout fences. The same fence that keeps gophers out will also keep rabbits out, another benefit of using fences. Use a quarter-inch hardware cloth and make a fence out of it around your garden. Bury the edge of the cloth 18 inches below the soil, and angle it outward several inches underground and away from the garden. This way if the gophers dig under the soil, they’ll hit the hardware cloth and turn away.
  • Mesh tubes — Plastic mesh tubes can be placed around tender seedlings to prevent gophers and rats from eating them.

How to Get Rid of Rodents in My Garden

Walk into any hardware store and you can find traps and other devices said to repel rodents. Some work well, while others work intermittently. Rodents, especially rats, are highly intelligent and shy creatures. They’ve learned how to avoid predators, and may quickly learn that a repellent isn’t going to harm them. You may need to change your strategy periodically to keep rodents on their toes.

Water can be used to evict rodents from their burrows. A garden hose sprayed directly into a burrow opening may force the rodents out. They may move back in, but if done frequently enough they can get the picture that this isn’t a good garden to inhabit.

If all else fails, it’s time to set out traps that won’t endanger pets, children or non-targeted wildlife. While traps may be unpleasant, they do work to reduce or eliminate rodent colonies in your home or garden. Bait traps with peanut butter. While unlikely to injure children or pets, it’s best to place an outdoor trap in out-of-the-way areas. Larger rodents such as gophers may require bigger traps.

In addition to more traditional mouse traps, live traps are available that can catch and hold up to 30 mice. These must be checked in order to know when the trap is getting full and in need of emptying – – especially if you use ones that can only capture a single rodent. Be sure to release far from your property, and be mindful to keep them away from the property of others, too!

Rodenticides poison rats and mice with tainted bait. Such bait can be dangerous because the poisons that work on rodents can also kill humans and other mammals that may accidentally come into contact with them. Many states now strictly regulate the use of rodenticides, and special tamper-proof bait stations must be used to keep curious pets and children out of them. Such bait stations must be placed near burrow openings to be effective. Rats may not find or take the bait. It’s a smart idea to consult with a pest control expert before using rodenticides and bait stations.

Precautions When Handling Traps

Trapped animals, if still alive, can be dangerous. A bite from a mouse or rat contains microorganisms that can cause infection and disease. Always handle traps carefully and wear thick, protective gloves when disposing of dead rodents. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling traps or rodent carcasses.

Rats, mice, gophers and other rodents are common garden pests. By removing their food, water and shelter, and making your garden as unpleasant for them as possible, you can encourage them to move along and find a home elsewhere. Although traps may be an unpleasant thought, they can be very effective. With some diligence and effort, you can rid your garden of rodent pests.

Do you have field mice living in your yard? Chances are pretty good that you do. The field mouse is one of the most common mouse species found in our homes. The best way to get rid of field mice in the yard is to make your landscape as uncomfortable as possible for them.

Yard and garden vegetation areas are where the mice like to hide from predators, so cutting it back is your first line of defense. Keeping field mice out of your yard is one of the best ways to keep them from traveling the short distance to your house.

Top Ten Ways to Keep Field Mice Out of Your Yard

Here are some easy steps you can take to make your yard less friendly to mice and keep them away from your house.

1. Keep your Lawns Trimmed Neatly.

Tall grass makes a great hiding place for mice and makes it easy for them to run around your yard and feel completely safe. If you keep your grass mowed, they will not be able to disappear so easily. Crossing the yard will intimidate them, and they will be less likely to try it.

2. Clean up Compost Piles.

Compost is awesome for gardening, but it also makes an ideal habitat for mice. Contain your compost, and move your compost containers away from the side of the house. Locate them clear across the yard if you can.

Don’t store compost in wooden bins that are prone to rot and damage from the elements.

The photo shown to the right is an example of a compost bin that is an open invitation for field mice and other small rodents. The wood is beginning to rot at the bottom allowing easy access for a family of rodents to enjoy a snack. They may even decide to nest in the shelter of the nearby bush.

Never provide easy access to food and shelter if you are trying to keep the mice out of your backyard. You may consider investing in a plastic compost tumbler which keeps the decaying material up off the ground where the mice are less likely to reach it.

3. Get Rid of Garden Waste.

If you have piles of tree or shrub clippings or cut grass, dispose of them. Do the same with dead leaves. Either compost them and contain them or throw them away. Either way, get them out of your yard where they are serving no purpose except to harbor rodents. If there are no places to hide it becomes much easier to get rid of the field mice in your yard.

4. Keep the Base of your House Clear.

Cut back bedding plants and move them away from your siding. While shrubberies look beautiful lining your house, you do not actually want them flush up against the side of your house.

If you can, try to clear at least a couple of feet of space around the entire perimeter. This area can be paved or filled in with rocks. Either way, keep it barren. Mice will not enjoy crossing it and this will help prevent field mice from entering your home. See how mice get inside your house for more prevention tips.

5. Relocate the Woodpile.

Have a woodpile? It is tempting to stack logs up against your house because it’s easy, but it is also easy for mice to conceal themselves there.

Your woodpile should be stored across your yard if at all possible. Consider storing it up against a garden shed if you need to place it against a wall. Wood should be stored on a lumber rack, which should be raised six inches or more off the ground.

6. Don’t Let your Yard Become a Used Car Lot.

Abandoned vehicles and discarded furniture and appliances are other hiding places for rodents. Take these items to the scrap heap to recycle or re-sell them if you are not going to use them.

7. Secure the Trash Containers.

First off, make sure the trash cans are not standing in the grass. Try to put them on concrete. A sturdy metal trash can with a secure lid generally does a good job keeping mice out. Rodents can chew through plastic, but some types are quite robust and can hold up pretty well to their repeated attacks.

You can even find trash cans designed specifically to keep out animals. These cans usually feature special latches and lid which are secured against larger animals and more than adequate to keep out smaller ones. Additionally, there are rodent-repellent trash bags you can place inside your trash bins for extra security.

8. Keep the Food Gardens at a Safe Distance.

Vegetable plots should be located away from your house. Veggies are tasty not just to you, but to your unwanted furry denizens. If vegetable plots are located right next to the house, that only encourages mice to find their way in. So keep your vegetable garden across the lawn.

Raised garden beds can help to make your veggie garden less attractive to visiting rodents.

9. Wrap the Bark of Trees.

Did you know the trees in your yard may be a source of food for the mice? Mice like to feed on the bark of young trees. Fruit trees are especially at risk. To prevent your freshly planted saplings from becoming a meal for field mice, OSU recommends wrapping the bark.

Wire mesh or a plastic collar can be used to protect the trees in your yard. Shrubbery, such as hostas or other vines should also be kept to a minimum around the base of your trees. This will help to discourage the field mice from hiding in your hosta plants. Mice do not like to be out in the open, so the goal is to make them feel as vulnerable as possible.

10. Store Birdseed in the Garage or House.

Pet owners should ensure that dog food, cat food, or bird seed is properly stowed away. Look for any loose food scattered around your yard, and pick it up. Move pet food and bird seed indoors, perhaps to your garage. Take the additional step of storing pet food bags inside a sealed, rodent-proof container. Feed your pets indoors. If you cannot do that, clean up after your pet right away after feeding.

Final Steps to a Rodent Free Yard

Once you have cleaned up your yard and cleared some space around the perimeter of your house, you can take a walk around it and search for weak points. That is a second way in which that cleared space ends up helping you out; you are now able to see along the base of your siding and search for holes. An opening as small as a pencil is all it takes for a field mouse to gain access to the inside of your house.

Check along the foundation, look at windows and doors, and pay close attention to pipes, spouts, and electrical wiring. Cover openings using wire mesh or sheet metal (make sure to leave proper ventilation where it is needed for air or water). Do not rely on caulk; mice can chew through it, and a lot faster than you might think.

Getting your yard rodent-proofed is a big project, especially if your lawn is currently overgrown or neglected. It is a lot less work however than trying to get rid of mice in your house! So make it a point this year to get out there while the weather is still warm, and tidy up. Come winter, you will be glad you did! The mice will stay outside where they belong, and you can enjoy a clean, rodent-free home.

A single mouse in your home can wreak havoc, but when they’re outside, most people don’t even notice. In some front and back yards though, mice start to dig holes and wreck your yard, leaving ugly marks and dangerous ground for children and pets.

While getting rid of holes in your yard caused by mice might be foreign to you, there are a lot of options for keeping the mice at bay. Use this guide to learn more about why mice dig holes and how you can keep them from doing it on your property.

Do Mice Dig Holes?

Most people have only seen mice above ground, scurrying from place to place. While mice tend to travel along the edges of walls and fenced-in areas, the fact is that they do sometimes burrow. Field mice do this regularly for shelter, which could be the reason you’re finding holes in your yard.

Left unchecked, the problem can get out of hand quickly, leaving you with dozens of holes. Many holes will also connect to one another, forming a complex tunnel system that looks terrible in your backyard and isn’t safe for pets or children.

The good news is that you do have options when it comes to how to catch a mouse in your yard or prevent them from digging in the first place.

What to Do When They Dig Holes in the Ground

Mice dig holes in your yard because they’re looking for shelter or food sources. The most common type of mice that do this are field mice, though other varieties, as well as rats, can dig holes. There are a few important things to do when you notice that mice are digging holes in your yard.

Mouse holes can be dangerous for playing children.

  1. Watch the holes to try and determine the type of animal that is digging the holes. Sometimes treating your yard for field mice is different than standard mice or rates.
  2. Fill the holes in your yard. This often only works as a short-term solution. If you catch the problem when you have only one or two holes, the mice may move on to another property.
  3. Place a barrier around your garden area if this is what is attracting mice in the first place. Ultrasonic products and sheet metal barriers that make it hard for mice to access your garden area are often effective. A natural mouse repellent like lemon essential oil can work too, further details can be found here.
  4. Check your yard for mice regularly. You may find that your first attempts at getting mice out of your yard are not successful. There are other options for getting rid of them once and for all.

I Have Mice Holes in My Yard: What Should I Do?

Having mice in your yard for a long period of time can be a major problem. The cost of re-sodding your lawn can also be high, especially if you have a large front or back yard. That’s why it’s important to take care of mice as quickly as possible when you notice that they’re digging holes in your space. There are a handful of solutions for getting rid of mice in your backyard effectively.

Snap Traps

Snap traps are the standard type of mouse traps that you see at the drug store and hardware store on a regular basis. In many cases, they are the best mouse trap option for mice that are slowly destroying your yard. Designed to quickly kill mice by luring them to a trap with bait that is nearly irresistible, these can be used inside and out.

Follow these tips when using snap traps:

  • Buy enough snap traps to have a few in your yard in areas where you’ve seen mice. Placing them around the holes in your yard is also an ideal solution. Use snap traps along fences and access points to your yard as well.
  • Bait snap traps with something that mice like. You might see people using cheese on TV and in the movies, but sticky items like peanut butter are better. They’re high in protein and are much more difficult for a mouse to access without actually standing on the trap that will catch them.
  • Practice using the snap traps. You don’t want an improperly set trap keeping you from catching a mouse. Just be careful that you don’t get your fingers stuck in a trap. It won’t leave a long-term injury, but it will hurt for a few days!
  • Check your traps regularly. To make the most of your traps, you’re going to need to ensure that they’re properly baited and ready to spring into action at all times. Ideally, you should check your traps once to twice per day when possible.

Natural Repellent Sprays

Many people want to know how to scare mice away from their property without killing them. Natural repellent products are an ideal solution if you’ve got something in your yard that mice are attracted to like a garden area. They work in most cases because they are formulated with something like fox urine, which makes mice think there is a natural predator nearby.

Warning
Always make sure the spray repellent that you choose is safe for children and pets if they spend time in your backyard. Many products are all-natural and not harmful while still working to drive mice, rats and other pests away from your yard.

Use these tips to scare mice away from your yard with natural spray repellents:

  1. Locate the areas where you’ve seen mice or where they’re getting into your yard. You’ll need to treat these areas first even if they’re not where the actual holes are.
  2. Fill the holes in your yard that the mice are creating. Spray the area with the natural repellent that you’re planning to use.
  3. Use natural spray repellents near your garden area. You may need to use several coats until the smell is noticeable.
  4. Reapply your natural repellent spray regularly. You’ll also need to go back to the same spots and apply the spray again after it rains or you’ve watered your grass and flowers.

Poison Pellets

Traps and sprays are often effective, but if you have very stubborn mice on your property, they may not be enough. Poison pellets can kill mice in your yard and they’ll die quickly once eaten. The problem is that these pellets can be harmful to other animals and your pets.

If you do use poison pellets, make sure you monitor the area where you put them regularly. You don’t want your pets, or even other animals like birds, to get into them.

Please see detailed descriptions here.

Keep a Clean Yard

Mice can get into any yard and cause a problem even if it’s in tip-top shape. However, yards that need a little work are often more susceptible to these pests.

Follow these tips for keeping your yard clean so you’re less likely to have mice digging holes:

  • Don’t leave lawn and yard equipment out. These pieces of equipment can shield mice from view, making them feel like they can dig holes without being spotted. Make sure you keep a clean yard at all times.
  • Remove weeds from your yard in their early stages. Weeds are often starting points for mice to dig since there’s an opening there, making the job a little easier.
  • Avoid leaving yard clippings, leaves and other debris out in your yard. Dispose of these right away to keep your yard clean and free of mice. If there are no mice, they won’t be able to dig a hole in your yard!

Best Solutions to Remedy the Problem

Natural repellents are an ideal solution for keeping mice out of your yard and preventing more holes from popping up. If you catch the problem early enough, this is likely all it will take to drive them away for good.

4 Fragrant Plants to Repel Mice

If you’re dealing with a serious infestation, snap traps are often the second resort. If you don’t have pets or children in your yard, poison pellets can be used. Just make sure other animals don’t have access to them like cats and dogs.

In addition to traps, repellents and poison pellets, keeping your yard clean is a must. Make sure you tackle yard cleanup before you begin treating the holes in your front or back yard.

Keeping mice out of your yard can seem like a difficult task, and while they are part of nature, they don’t have to call your front or back yard home. Snap traps and spray repellents can work well, but if they don’t have the desired effect on your property, you may need to turn to professional pest control treatment. Unfortunately the longer you wait, the more likely you are to have a serious problem that requires professional help. That’s why acting quickly is important when trying to get mice to stop digging holes and leave your property.

The good news is that mice can be banished one way or another. Try these simple remedies, and if they don’t work in a few weeks, consider calling in the pros. From there, you can easily handle prevention so mice don’t come back to your yard and create more problems in the future.

You can find further details of Mice Control here.

How to identify animal holes

Winter is the best time to look for mammal holes made by burrowing animals. Now that the vegetation has died back, holes and burrows are easier to spot.

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In addition, species such as badgers and foxes aren’t breeding, and so you’re unlikely to disturb them. If you’re really lucky, fresh snow or wet mud will also preserve tracks leading to the holes, and these will help you identify their occupants.

Learn how to identify animal habitats with our guide to the common animal holes and burrows found in the British wintertime.

It is by no means unusual, though, to find badgers, foxes, rabbits and rats all sharing the same badger sett, often emerging from the same holes.

Small predators, such as stoats and weasels, often live in holes stolen from their prey, and even pine martens have been recorded living in badger setts. So don’t be surprised if you find some strange bedfellows.

Red fox kits huddled at den entrance. © Daniel J. Cox/Getty

MOUSE HOLE

  • Bank voles, wood mice and yellow-necked mice can dig extensive burrow systems, often under tree roots.
  • Wood mice dig burrows in cereal fields and similar open situations.
  • The tunnels are generally only a few centimetres below ground, with entrance holes about 3cm in diameter.
  • Mouse holes are often camouflaged or blocked with debris, such as small stones, clods of earth or twigs. Tunnels – particularly those of the bank vole – frequently connect to runways above ground through dense vegetation.

Bank vole emerging from its burrow entrance. © Mike Powles/Getty

RAT HOLE

  • Rats dig holes similar to those of water voles, 6-9cm in diameter. They are usually close to water, but are also found in a variety of other habitats such as hedgerows, rubbish tips and often under cover such as tree roots and logs.
  • Unlike water vole holes, rat holes generally have a fan-shaped mass of freshly dug soil outside and the holes are connected by well-trodden runways.

A wild rat sniffing the air outside its burrow at the base of a tree. © Getty

WATER VOLE BURROW

  • Water voles generally dig burrows in banks, with a series of holes close to the water’s edge or even under water.
  • Occasionally, water vole holes can be 2–3m from the water.
  • Water vole holes are roughly circular, 5cm–7cm in diameter, and generally have a closely cropped ‘lawn’ within a 15cm radius of the hole.

Water vole in its hole. © Mark Bridger/Getty

BADGER SETT

  • Badger setts range in size from one to more than 50 holes.
  • They are usually found on the edges of woods, but can be found in virtually any habitat, including open moorland.
  • Badger holes are 20-30cm in diameter, wider than they are tall and shaped like a ‘D’ on its side.
  • A network of broad paths often leads to badger setts. Fresh bedding may be found outside holes, especially in winter, and old bedding can be seen in spoil heaps.
  • Coarse black and white hairs can be found in freshly dug soil or roots.

Eurasian badger emerging from its sett. © Laurie Campbell/Getty

How to identify animal droppings

Droppings or scats can tell us a lot about which animals have been visiting our gardens, parks and countryside, including hedgehogs, foxes and badgers.

Read our expert guide to animal droppings

FOX BURROW

  • Foxes use holes most intensively when breeding in spring. At other times of year, they often prefer to lie up above ground, except in the most inclement weather.
  • Fox burrows are more properly known as fox earths.
  • Generally only a few holes, sometimes with extensive spoil outside. In winter, many holes are dug out in preparation for spring – sometimes the debris includes the remains of foxes that have died underground.
  • Fox burrows are generally taller than broad, around 20cm in diameter.
  • Fresh food remains are usually only found outside the holes from April to June, when cubs are present.

Advertisement Red fox cub emerging from its burrow. © avs_lt/Getty

RABBIT WARREN

  • Rabbit warrens are especially common on slopes and banks, where drainage is better.
  • Generally an extensive burrow system, but single-entrance burrows are used for breeding and lying up.
  • There may be extensive spoil outside the holes of rabbit warrens, which are 10-15cm in diameter and usually slope inwards at a shallow angle.
  • Rabbit droppings and tufts of fur are frequently found outside burrows. There will be extensive signs of grazing close to burrows, especially on edges of arable fields.

Rabbit warren with rabbits inside and outside. © Steve Shott/Getty

Mice In The Garden: Tips For Getting Rid Of Mice

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By: Bonnie L. Grant

Mice in the garden are a nuisance and a potential health threat due to the diseases these pests carry. It isn’t unusual to have mice in the garden, especially when there is a ready supply of food. If you wonder, “Will mice eat in my vegetable garden,” the answer is a resounding, “yes.” Mice are opportunistic and vegetable damage is one of the common mouse garden problems.

Identifying Mouse Damage in the Garden

Identifying mouse presence is the first step in starting garden mouse control. Mice eat cereal grains but are also attracted to other vegetation. They eat small amounts in a sporadic fashion, causing contamination and other mouse garden problems. Especially take a look at corn and squashes. There may be small scrape marks from their teeth.

Mice are most often spotted at night or early morning but are sometimes out in the daytime. They build nests of grass and other material in hidden spaces. Mice in the garden may be 5 ½ to 7 inches long and are a brown to gray color.

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How to Get Rid of Mice in the Garden

Traps and bait are the most common methods of garden mouse control. Before you choose how to get rid of mice in the garden, consider the other factors affected by baits and traps. The family pet can get injured by traps set out in the open, so be certain to set them under a deck or crawlspace where domestic animals can’t contact the devices. Baits should be used in pet-proof housings to prevent Fido from coming in contact with the powerful poisons. Deciding how to get rid of mice in the garden should take into consideration the safety of children and four legged friends.

Outdoor rodent control needs to start with an exterior cleanup. Remove piles of debris where mice can hide and nest. Rake up debris that creates cover for the mice. Good cultural practices can greatly reduce mouse garden problems. The outside of your house needs to be completely sealed so the mice do not escape into the interior of your home. After clean-up has been accomplished, it is time to set the mouse garden control you have selected.

Traps come in several styles, but a snap trap is the most humane and effective. The traps are set in areas where mouse garden problems have been spotted. Bait the trap with gauze saturated with peanut butter, which will catch in the rodent’s teeth and delay it long enough for the trap to work. Place traps every 5 to 10 feet and replace the bait every few days to keep it fresh.

Baits are an excellent way to reduce mice in the garden and protect your produce form their eating habits. Most baits contain an anticoagulant, which should be used in a bait station to prevent children and pets from coming in contact with the poison. Most baits require the mice to feed for several days before they are effective. Brodifacoum and bromadiolone are fast acting poisons that will provide garden mouse control after only one feeding.

If all else fails, you can get a cat.

Plants That Repel Rodents

Rodents are one of the most annoying, destructive and hated of all pests. If you have ever had a rodent infestation, you know very well just how expensive the repairs can be. They chew through anything in their path, creating holes, damage and destruction wherever they are infesting. Ever wonder where those missing socks go? If you have a rodent infestation, the “sock monster” could in fact be the rodents rummaging around for soft things for their nest. Your socks are perfect beds for them. Does this sound crazy? Well, it gets worse. They don’t just chew through things, steal your stuff and eat your food—they also spread potentially deadly diseases that could be catastrophic for your family if exposed to these. When you see that rodents have infested, your first thought might be “mouse trap” but traps are not the only way to repel rodents. If you live in a highly populated area for rodents, using nature to deter them might be a good idea.

Nature’s rodent repellant

Just like broccoli might repel a 4 year old, some plants work similarly toward rodents though it is not foolproof. Just like there are some 4 year olds who like broccoli, there are some rodents that won’t be deterred by a few spearmint plants. However, working with your professional rodent control technicians at Pointe Pest Control, these plants could minimize your encounters. Making your home and yard less attractive to them can help your chances of a serious rodent infestation. If you have rubbish piles, overgrown foliage, pet food or boxes and bins they could get into in your garage or shed, this would be like issuing invitations for an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord at your home. Along with keeping your yard, garage and shed clean and free from debris, planting these plants around your home can also help:

  • Peppermint: While us humans enjoy this scent, it is highly distasteful to rodents. Planting peppermint in your flower beds can discourage them from coming near your home. Peppermint oil may also have the same effect if you spritz it around the openings of any door or window.
  • Spearmint: We enjoy this flavor in our toothpastes, rodents despise this powerful smell. In fact, there are many other pests, such as damaging insects, that also dislike this plant so adding some of this to your garden can have many positive consequences.
  • Sagebrush: This may not be the prettiest of all shrubs to plant in your yard, but if you have a rat problem particularly, they hate sagebrush so you might consider planting some in vulnerable areas of your home.
  • Garlic: Garlic breath is known to repel your dinner date but did you know it can also rebuff a rodent? It is a tasty addition to many entrees but rodents despise this vegetable (little known fact that garlic is a vegetable but this an entirely different subject).
  • Marigolds, daffodils, lavender and more: There are flowers that while we enjoy their beauty and sweet smell, the are repugnant to rodents. These particular flowers for rodents are like sulphur or skunk scent to us.
  • Use all your resources

    When it comes to rodent and residential pest control, it is wise to use every resource available to keep your home free of these disease ridden, destructive and incredibly annoying pests. Your friendly pest control technician at Pointe Pest Control will have many suggestions tailored and customized for your home specifically on how to keep pests and rodents at bay. Scheduling routine inspections also ensures that pests have not snuck in under your nose. We are experienced at spotting even those quietest and most hidden of infestations and taking care of them before they become big, expensive problems. Call us today for all your residential pest control needs.

    Need help with what to do in your garden?

    Q What attracts mice to gardens?

    A Gardens are ideal habitats for these small mammals as they provide plenty of cover and a wide range of food sources. Sometimes, however, they come into conflict with gardeners when food supplies consist of highly valued plants, seeds and bulbs. When populations peak and food runs short, mice are more likely to become a nuisance in the garden.

    Caption: Mice sometimes run into conflict with gardeners

    Q Can you tell me more about mice?

    A Mice are small mammals that sometimes feed on garden plants. They are shy nocturnal animals, so there could be more of them in your garden than you suspect. You are most likely to see them when they’re brought into the house by cats.

    Rats and house mice are seldom a problem in gardens, although rats may take up residence in compost bins and garden sheds. Dealing with rats is usually a job for the professional – ask your council for help.

    Field mice commonly live in gardens, where their vegetarian diet can cause problems for gardeners. For most of the year their numbers tend to remain low. However, in autumn they can build up high populations and cause a great deal of damage into early winter.

    Q Could I mistake mice for anything else?

    A Shrews, unlike mice, are predators which destroy many insects and slugs and so are helpful to gardeners. They have a thin, pointy snout, almost invisible ears, and relatively short tails. They are very small and are mainly active at night.

    Caption: Shrews are very small, have thin, pointy snouts, and relatively short tails

    Q What type of mice am I likely to see in my garden?

    A The Long-tailed field mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) is very active, with large ears, a long tail and, unlike the house mouse, a white underside. The adults are 9-12cm long, including their tail. You sometimes find their underground burrows in the garden, lined with leaves and containing winter food stores of seeds and grain. Long-tailed field mice prefer to live in hedges, shrubs and around trees. They breed all summer and don’t hibernate in winter.

    Q What damage is caused by mice?

    A Seeds are often eaten by field mice, especially pea and bean seed that is sown when mice are numerous in the autumn, or when food is short in the spring. They will invade the greenhouse to carry off newly sown seeds from seed trays. The seeds of trees are also often eaten by field mice and voles, but this is usually helpful to gardeners, as it prevents large numbers of unwanted seedlings from appearing.

    Bulbs, corms and tubers may be consumed by field mice, especially newly planted ones. They like tulips and crocuses in the autumn. Fruit and vegetables may be taken by mice.

    Q Don’t mice do some good too?

    A They are important food for owls, foxes and other wildlife, so unless they are troublesome, they should be left alone. Mice also eat insects and weed seeds; in this respect, they are helpful to gardeners.

    Q What can I do to deter mice?

    A Seeds and bulbs can be started off indoors in pots, to avoid the attentions of mice. Fine mesh wire netting (6.5mm) and a sound concrete floor can exclude them from the greenhouse.

    Outside, wire netting placed over buried bulbs and seeds can protect them. It can also be wrapped around tree stems and buried slightly to guard tree and shrub stems from gnawing. In extreme cases, trapping can be carried out. Bait the traps with peanut butter or sausage roll for mice. Cover traps with a cloche or propped-up seed trays so birds and pets are not hurt by accident.

    Live-capture traps, where the animals are taken alive, can also be used. The traps must be checked every day, and trapping has to be carried on for a long period, as empty sites are soon recolonised by mice moving in from elsewhere. For this method to be effective, you have to release the trapped animals at least half a mile away, or there is a good chance they will make their way back.

    Some gardeners maintain that holly leaves or gorse sprigs scattered along seed rows will deter mice from digging up seeds.

    Caption: Covering pots of bulbs with wire netting can protect them from mice

    Q Can I poison mice?

    A No. Poisoning in the garden could present far too high a risk to pets and wildlife. Careful trapping and preventative measures should be enough to limit damage.

    Q Are there dressings I can use to protect my seeds and bulbs from mice?

    A The old remedies involving poisons like lead are no longer allowed and, in any case, are very risky for the gardener to use. There are no safe, effective modern substitutes.

    Signs of Vole Activity

    Voles are a pest most often identified by the clues they leave behind. Here are some indicators that you may have a vole problem:

    • Trails in the lawn. As voles travel the same paths, they create 1- to 2-inch-wide runways or ruts in the lawn. These runways are most apparent following a snowy winter. The snow provides cover for voles, which run through—and munch—grass all winter long.
    • Cats. Watch for cats that sit in one spot and repeatedly catch something small. Voles are so numerous that cats don’t have to wander to catch a meal’s worth.
    • Holes in the soil. Vole tunnels have openings 1.5 to 2 inches across and are typically hidden beneath mulch, shrubs, or spreading plants. Look for fresh grass clippings or seeds near tunnel entrances.
    • Spongy soil. Some voles burrow and create many shallow tunnels, while other types dig down to a depth of 12 inches. The tunnels give soil a spongy feel when you walk on it. Voles also happily inhabit mole and chipmunk tunnels.
    • Collapsed plants. Voles primarily eat plants. They like to feast on roots, tubers, or bulbs, which puts crops like onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and beets at risk. With the roots gone, plant tops collapse. Some voles also chew plants at the crown, causing the top to fall over.
    • Damaged harvest. Voles also like to munch seeds and fruits, including beans, corn, and berries.
    • Visual sighting. Voles scurry along soil, moving quickly from one shelter to another. In summer, if grass is long, you’ll sometimes see what appears to be a ripple moving through grass. The cause of the ripple is often a vole (though it may be a snake)

    Master Gardener: Moles, voles, tunnels and holes

    Moles: If you have raised tunnels in your yard, moles are probably to blame. Moles are 4 to 6 inches in length, have small eyes and concealed ears, and paddle-like front feet designed for digging. They tend to be solitary creatures, and 3-5 moles per acre is considered to be a high population. Moles dig deep tunnels where they bear their young and retreat during very dry or cold weather. Conical piles of excavated soil often cap these deep tunnels. The deep tunnels connect to a constantly expanding and changing network of feeding tunnels located just below the surface of the soil or turf. Entrances to dens may have mounds of soil – molehills – around them. Moles don’t eat plants, but their tunnels can cause damage by disturbing the root systems of plants growing above them. These tunnels are where moles hunt for grubs, earthworms, and other invertebrates that make up their diet. Some of the grubs and insects in moles’ diets are lawn and garden pests. Mole tunneling also helps to aerate the soil, which can improve drainage and move mineral nutrients and organic matter around. Still, the tunnels’ damage to the landscape causes many homeowners frustration. Moles use and renew some of the surface tunnels repeatedly. Others may be used only once. Traps must be set in active tunnels. You can determine whether a tunnel is active by stepping on it to compress the soil. If it is active, and a good trapping site, the mole will raise the soil or turf again within 24 hours.

    Note: “Home remedies” such as gum or glass shards have not been shown to be effective.

    Voles: Voles, also known as field mice, are small brown rodents very common in yards and fields. They have small ears and a short tail, which give them a “stocky” appearance. They spend a great deal of time eating grasses and roots and making trails. These surface runways are one of the easiest ways to identify voles. Usually seen in early spring just after snowmelt, a series of criss-crossing trails can be viewed on the surface. There may be larger patches of dried grass that function as storage areas for extra food and nesting materials.

    Voles will also make small holes about 1to 2 inches across and underground tunnels to get to tubers and bulbs. They will even use mole tunnels. This is the reason moles are blamed for eating roots, instead of the white-grubs they actually eat. Voles do the most harm to small trees and shrubs when they chew on the bark, often hidden below winter snows. Valued plants can be protected by using a barrier (such as hardware cloth) or planting in pots, but this may not be feasible for large shrubs and trees.

    Minnesota has several species of vole, the most common being the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and the prairie vole (Microtus ochrogastor). Like most rodents voles have a short life expectancy but are very productive breeders. One female vole can have 5-10 litters in a year averaging 3 to 5 young. Voles prefer to have some protection from predators. To make your yard less attractive to voles, keep grassy and weedy areas mowed, and do not mulch deeply.

    Chipmunks: Chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are a type of ground squirrel that live in wooded areas and around homes where food is plentiful. The chipmunk has five dark brown stripes, which run from its head to its rump. It scurries about with its tail straight up (looking like a zooming remote-control car). Like moles and voles, chipmunks live in underground tunnels. Chipmunks are omnivores, eating a variety of foods including seeds, nuts, berries, and insects. Some food is stored for winter in their burrows. Although they are not usually a major nuisance in the landscape, chipmunks can feed on flower bulbs and seeds for vegetable gardens. They also can burrow under foundations, patios and sidewalks, which may cause structural damage. Hardware cloth or other barriers can be used to keep chipmunks from tunneling under sidewalks or entering buildings. Reducing cover for chipmunks and keeping bird feeders away from structures will make your house less attractive to them. Repellents can be used but must be reapplied frequently.

    Ground Squirrel: The 13-lined ground squirrel has 13 lines on its back, some spotted, which run from its head to its rump. Also known as the striped gopher (Spermophilus tridecemilineatus) or thirteen liner can reach 11 inches in length including a 4 inch black lined tail. The holes to the tunnels are about 2 inches wide. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is a common pest in and around building foundations, golf courses, gardens and lawns, but it prefers open grasslands where it feeds on equal amounts of plants and animals. Its diet includes insects, grasshoppers, moths and butterflies, earthworms, young birds and mice, seeds, fruits, nuts, roots, and foliage. At the end of summer, the 13-lined ground squirrel will fatten up for hibernation. Note: These animals really do have 13 stripes – seven dark stripes separated by six lighter ones. The 13 liner is very familiar to Minnesotans because this little animal is the mascot for the University of Minnesota’s “Golden Gophers!”

    These are not the only animals that could be digging in your yard. An environmentally friendly approach to a “mystery hole” would be to observe the area to find the hole’s owner, then assess whether the animal is likely to cause enough damage to require treatment. You can go to the University of Minnesota website: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden Type the animal you suspect in the search box.

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