In this June 18, 2017, file photo, thirteen-lined ground squirrels congregate near the ninth hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Credit: David J. Phillip / AP

Fall in Maine can be a glorious time of year. It’s when leaf peeping hits its peak. It’s when colder nights just beg for a cozy blanket and a good book and pumpkin-spice flavored everything is everywhere. But fall can also bring headaches to homeowners because it’s also the time of year rodents are looking for places to den up for the winter.

To a rodent, your house is just as good — if not better — than a hole in the ground.

Just how bad are these uninvited guests?

Pest experts warn that once rodents gain access to a home the situation can quickly escalate from a minor annoyance to serious threats to the health of your family or your house. In Maine rodents like squirrels, mice, chipmunks and rats can carry and transmit diseases in their droppings or urine. They also can carry rabies.

If the health aspects weren’t bad enough, keep in mind the word “rodent” comes from the latin “rodre” meaning “to gnaw.” That is exactly what mice, squirrels, rats and chipmunks are going to do to pass some time during the winter. Their single pair of incisors on the upper and lower jaws never stop growing, so rodents have to chew to keep them from getting too long. All that chewing on your home’s woodwork, wiring, insulation or plastic pipes can create a lot of damage in a short time.

How to prevent and evict unwanted wildlife

In the case of rodents moving into your home, the best defense is a good offense. Strict attention to your home’s sanitation and maintenance goes a long way in having a rodent-free winter in Maine

Experts recommend keeping your house clean and free of any garbage and food materials that could become a rodent buffet. It’s also a good idea to make a thorough inspection in and outside of your house looking for any and all small cracks or crevices through which they could get in. Then seal those openings up.

Keep in mind rodents can squeeze their bodies through the tiniest of openings. A mouse, for example, needs a hole no larger than the diameter of a pencil to enter your home.

But if you hear scuttling sounds inside walls or overhead from your attic and are seeing droppings anywhere inside, the critters have already breached your defenses and have taken up residence. Now it’s time to evict them.

Serving the eviction notice

When it comes to getting rodents out of your house you have two basic choices — live trap them for relocation or use a kill trap.

While using a live trap sounds like a friendly, humane thing to do wildlife experts warn it can at best be a short-term solution for your rodent problem and at worst create long-term suffering for the animal itself.

Releasing a trapped rodent outside close to your house will likely end up with it just finding its way back inside. Relocating it far from your house solves that problem but you are plunking the animal down out of its home range. It does not know where food and water are or locations of places to hide from predators. It’s basically setting the animal up for failure, suffering and eventual starvation.

The more merciful approach is a metal or plastic “jaw” trap that clamps shut around the rodent neck and breaks it, killing the animal instantly. Many jaw traps are now designed with a mechanism allowing you to remove the dead rodent without ever having to handle its body.

A third option is using specially designed chemical poison to kill rodents. This can work, but you run the risk of the animal crawling off to die somewhere in your home leaving you with the stench of a decaying body. It’s also not a good idea to use any form of poison in areas where it could be discovered and ingested by young children or pets.

If your rodent problem becomes serious enough that stronger measures are needed, then it’s time to call in professional exterminators who are experts in getting rodents back outside where they belong.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.