Do mice hibernate? Do rats hibernate in winter? These are both valid questions if you’ve had any type of rodent activity in or around your home, or if you’re worried that mice might move into your living space in search of a safe place to spend the winter. After all, humans aren’t the only ones who prefer to stay warm and cozy during cold weather. All mammals share the same instinct to head indoors where they can hunker down and stay snug and toasty until warmer temperatures return.
When animals hibernate, they go into a long, deep sleep in order to survive colder temperatures and periods when food is scarce. Contrary to common belief, mice and rats do not hibernate in wintertime; rather, they stay active throughout the year, including during the coldest months. People may even have more mouse sightings in their homes during winter than in warmer seasons, since mice spend so much more time indoors when it’s cold outside. Being in a sheltered spot can also offer protection from any potential predators that rely on rodents as a food source.
If you’ve spotted a mouse in or around your home, or if there’s other evidence of mice activity somewhere on your property, you are probably concerned, and rightfully so. Mice may be small—at least as compared to their rat cousins—but they are still disease-carrying pests that can cause extensive and expensive damage to your home or garage.
They are also extremely prolific, mating and having babies throughout the year if weather and other living conditions are favorable. Female mice can have five to ten litters of baby mice each year. It’s easy to see why a full-blown infestation is possible if measures aren’t taken quickly to control their population!
Let’s explore some of the most common questions homeowners have about mice and their habits, including what mice do during the cooler months of the year.
Where Do Mice Live In The Winter?
During spring, summer and early fall, when the weather is temperate, mice enjoy living outdoors. They can make their homes in many different types of habitats, including grasslands and forests. They might live in burrows underground or build nests out of grasses, cotton and other found materials. These rodents are often somewhat migratory, moving around from location to location according to food availability, rather than staying in one place for an extended time. During these warmer seasons, when fruit, seeds, nuts, grains and other preferred foods are plentiful outdoors, mice work hard to gather and store plenty of food for the coming winter.
In fall, as temperatures start to drop, mice typically shift their lives indoors. Rather than continuing their nomadic summertime lifestyles, they build nests in dark, hidden areas inside homes, garages and other structures, preferably close to their food stores so they’ll have nourishment through the lean months.
Mice In Winter: How These Rodents Survive The Coldest Months
In wintertime, mice do what any wild animals do: seek a warm, protected place to live and build a nest. Any cracks or holes in your home’s foundation, behind siding or at the eaves or roof line are likely spots where mice can squeeze through. From there, they can get into the walls, attic and other areas. Mice can squeeze through very tiny spaces, so they can even fit through small vents openings as well as gaps around pipes leading into exterior walls.
If you want to discourage mice from making a home inside your house this winter, one of the first steps to take is to close off all entry points leading into your home. Mice are talented at chewing through things like plastic, wood and rubber, so it’s best to use materials like caulk, steel wool or wire mesh to seal off any holes or cracks that mice can squeeze through. Check the weather stripping on windows and doors as well as the sweeps at the bottom of all exterior doors to make sure everything works properly, creating a good seal.
Do Mice Like Cold Weather?
Generally speaking, the answer to this question is no—mice don’t like cold weather. These creatures can die from exposure to harsh elements like cold, wind and snow, and their litters of tiny, vulnerable babies have a much better chance of surviving when it’s warm outside and there’s plenty of food available than when it’s bitterly cold and food is scarce. For this reason, mice are most likely to procreate during the warmer seasons, but they can have babies in winter, especially if they find a safe, warm, protected space to build a nest, live off stored food and raise their young.
Mice aren’t the only wild rodents that seek shelter in winter; rats can also squeeze through relatively tiny spaces in order to access the warm, dark spaces within your walls or attic. Rats seek shelter for the same reasons their mouse cousins do: to live safely and comfortably as they weather through the coldest season. Rats are also similarly destructive to mice, only even more so, given their larger size. They, too, have to gnaw daily due to their ever-growing incisors, and they can cause a lot of damage inside homes and other structures if given the chance. Can mice chew through walls? If there are enough of them, and they are left unattended for long enough, it’s possible.
Causes Of Mice In House: Signs And How to Keep Mice Away
We’re already covered why mice might find your home attractive: attics, crawl spaces and other hard-to-access areas offer shelter from the elements, protection from predators and possibly, access to food and water. If you’re worried you might have a mouse infestation in your home or somewhere on your property, it’s important to know some of the telltale signs that indicate mice might be living or feeding nearby.
Small, smooth, brown or dark brown in color, with pointed ends, mouse droppings are similar to rat droppings except markedly smaller—usually about an eighth to a quarter of an inch in length.
Grooves or other damage on wood, wires, plastic pipes, cardboard boxes and baseboards can indicate a mouse or rat is closeby. Like rats, mice have front incisors that grow continuously throughout their lives, so they have to gnaw on things regularly to file their teeth down. This can lead to extensive and expensive damage in your home. Mice have even been known to chew through electrical wiring, which can pose a dangerous fire risk.
Smears Along Baseboards
Mice and rats both tend to travel along walls as they move throughout their days, and they typically follow the same routes over and over again. Their fur’s natural oils leave visible, greasy smears along anything they rub against as they follow their usual routes.
Squeaking, Scratching Or Scurrying Noises
Especially during winter, when mice are more active indoors than outside, you may hear them moving around inside your walls, ceiling or ductwork. Dogs sometimes signal that they hear rodents’ noises inside walls, too. If you spot your pet staring fixedly at a certain spot on a blank wall, it may indicate the presence of mice.
It’s not uncommon to spot not just droppings, gnaw marks or evidence of a nest, but an actual mouse inside your home. Especially hungry mice might even raid pantry stores as well as dog food, cat food or bird seed, so some homeowners report seeing mice in the areas of their homes where they store their own food or their pet’s.
So what can you do if you think you have a mouse problem? Many people take a DIY approach to getting rid of mice. Beyond sealing off all possible entry points into the home (an extensive endeavor that is much more easily said than done), mouse traps tend to work best. Most people use traditional snap traps—the ones with a metal bar that snaps down when triggered by a mouse seeking the bit of food that has been set out as bait.
Traps do come with a few caveats, however. You have to use the right bait (many people swear by peanut butter) and set them in the most optimal locations, which can be hard to determine. When the traps do work, killing the mice, you may then have an odor problem, as the bodies give off a strong, unpleasant scent as they decompose. Furthermore, if your mouse problem is extensive, or even a full-blown infestation, setting out traps may not be enough.
Poison is another method some people use for killing mice, one that also comes with plenty of its own issues. First and foremost, poison that can kill mice can also be highly toxic for other animals, including family pets, as well as people. If you choose to use poison to address a mouse problem, you must be certain to set it out only in areas where children and pets will have no chance of encountering it. Odor can also be a problem with mouse poison, even more so than with traps, since once the mouse eats the poison, it is likely to crawl into the wall or another hidden space before it dies. Dead mice within walls are difficult if not impossible to find, access and remove.
ABC Can Handle Your Rodent Problems
When mice and rats decide your home would be an ideal location to build a nest, you may have quite a difficult time convincing these pesky pests otherwise. The rodent control specialists at ABC Home & Commercial Services specialize in rodent removal and prevention. We will assess your particular situation to determine the extent of the infestation, which will allow us to generate a customized plan for eliminating your mouse problem once and for all.