SCORES & OUTDOORS – Moment of truth: did the mice get in your camper?

Common house mouse

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

This is the time of year that is the moment of truth. To those of you who own campers, and it has been closed up all winter, either in a field, or in storage, you almost dread the first time you open it up in the spring. The question: Did mice get in over the winter? If so, how much damage did they do?

Well, we have friends who all have different theories on how to repel these little creatures, and discourage them from entering your “summer home.”

Some of us rely on old-fashioned, time tested methods – moth balls, dryer sheets, and peppermint. Others have their own concoctions they swear by, and still others strongly believe in the “new and better” mouse trap. You know, the one where you pass a wire through the top of a five-gallon bucket, place an aluminum can through the wire, smear it with peanut butter, fill the bucket with antifreeze and build a ramp for the critter. They walk up the ramp, jump on the can – the can rotates and the mouse falls to its death in the antifreeze, to be preserved for you in the spring.

These pests typically try to find their way in when the weather takes a cold turn. Once they’ve made their way inside, it’s immediately time to start figuring out how to get rid of them. Understanding what these critters like and don’t like can help you better understand how to keep them away.

Are you rolling out the ‘Welcome’ mat for mice? Learn how to put up a ‘No Vacancy’ sign they can’t ignore!

The mouse is a small species that’s found all over the world. This highly adaptive species can survive in the wild, but they thrive when living near people where food, water, and shelter are easy to find. They are one of the most common pests to infest homes and buildings.

Jumping 18 inches in the air, climbing stairs and rough surfaces, and swimming are effortless tasks for these critters.

These pests have poor eyesight. They can’t see colors and they cannot see very far away. However, mice have a very good sense of smell that makes up for their weak eyes. They use scent markers to communicate with other mice and rely on scents to detect predators or other potential dangers. A mouse’s sense of smell is so powerful, it can identify the age and sex of another mouse up to 10 miles away!

The mouse’s small size and impressive skills make them a challenging pest, but their ability to reproduce is overwhelming. They can reproduce before they are two months old and typically have anywhere from 3 – 14 babies per litter. A female can have 5 – 10 litters each year, so do the math. It doesn’t take long for one pest to turn into a large mouse problem.

So now, let’s see what science has to say about it.

Mice have a very keen sense of smell that is much stronger than what humans experience. You can use this trait to repel mice and use scents that mice hate like cinnamon, vinegar, dryer sheets, clove oil, peppermint, tea bags, moth balls, mint toothpaste, ammonia, cloves, clove oil, and cayenne pepper.

If you have ever seen or kept a mouse, you may have noticed they seem to spend an awful lot of their time sniffing at their surroundings. Be it on their hind legs whilst twitching their whiskers, or just roaming around in their cages, their nose is always active. Sniffing is the way mice find food, communicate with one another, and are alerted to a predator’s presence.

Out of all the rodents, mice have one of the best senses of smell. Only second to rats. Mice, in fact, rodents in general, have a sense of smell that is highly developed with an incredible one percent of their DNA being dedicated to olfactory receptors.

The world of smell is also very different for mice than it is for humans, with scents from food, prey, and predators constantly bombarding them with information.

With the influx of scents coming in, you would think that it may be hard for a mouse to make sense of them all and separate what is of use such as food and predator scents from background smells.

However, this is not the case.

During experiments where mice were scent trained to pick out a certain smell from others, they could do so 85 percent of the time. This was even when a large number of background smells were included, although the more background scent included, the less reliable the mice became.

When looking for food, for example, mice use a combination of smell and touch. Their noses lead them to the source of food and their whiskers or paws brushing against it locate it exactly.

Eyesight does not really play a part in food location at all. A mouse’s vision is not particularly good.

With such a highly developed sense of smell, it really is no wonder that our homes and businesses are so attractive to unwanted mice. Any unswept crumbs or dropped food, etc., must be incredibly tempting to them.

Mice, however, do not like the smell of mint, so planting this herb around the exterior of your house can help to keep unwanted visiting mice at bay.

Surprisingly, mice do not rely totally on their noses for their sense of smell. They also have another odor detecting organ called the vomeronasal organ, or VNO, which is located in the nasal cavity. The VNO is mainly used to sense pheromones (Any of various chemical substances secreted externally which convey information to, and produce specific responses in other individuals of the same species) which a mouse can do from up to ten miles away.

Mice also have excellent hearing and will hear you coming long before you see them. In addition, they have the incredible ability to know if something is toxic, unhealthy, or inedible by its taste.

My wife and I subscribe to the moth balls, peppermint and dryer sheets. In our 42 years of camping, we have had mice in our camper on one occasion, the year we didn’t go by our past experience, and succumbed to someone else’s propaganda.

Peanut butter? You may as well send out engraved invitations – and black ties are not required.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Since 1967, one Boston sports team has made the playoffs 46 times (out of a possible 55 years), more than any other team in the four professional major sports. Which team is it?

Answer can be found here.


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