Chilly Rodents Seek Cozy Homes This Winter

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Story Updated: Sep 19, 2012

Humans aren't the only creatures concerned with keeping warm this winter. While some animals hibernate or grow thick winter coats for warmth, others enter our homes, where they make unwelcome house guests.

According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), rodents invade about 21 million homes each winter. In fact, 24 percent of homeowners report mice and rat infestations during the winter months.

Rodents aren't just unpleasant tenants -- they also spread disease and cause structural damage. Mice and rats spread salmonella bacteria and hantavirus, and they can carry other disease-causing pests, such as ticks, fleas and lice. Rodents can also chew through wood and electrical wires -- many have been responsible for house fires. And once rodents move in, they quickly make themselves at home: a female mouse can have as many as 12 babies every three weeks.

It's much easier to prevent a rodent infestation than to remove them after they've turned your home into their new abode. The NPMA provides the following tips to keep mice and rodents out of your home:

* Secure your home. Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home to help prevent mice and rats from using easy entry ways. Pay special attention to areas where utilities and pipes enter the home. Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.

* Don't build rodent attractions near your home. Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home and five feet off the ground. Keep shrubberies cut back from the house.

* Make sure your home isn't rodent-friendly. Rodents can hide in clutter, so keep areas clear, and store boxes off of the floor. Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains. Keep food in rodent-proof containers.

* If you suspect an infestation, contact a pest professional. Hiring a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the problem is the most effective solution to eliminate rodent infestations.

For more information on winter pest-proofing and other pest-related issues, visit www.pestworld.org.

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