Dear Dot: Is there a wildlife-friendly way to get rid of mice?

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Dear Dot,

About 15 years ago my house sitter threw away all the mouse poison I had left around our barn and the outside of our home. She rightly pointed out that I was potentially killing the wildlife and she feared that our cat might get poisoned too. She needn’t have worried about Jessie the cat since she isn’t a hunter. But it isn’t unusual for us to come home after a trip to a mouse nest in our car or engine. A mouse once popped out of our hood onto the ferry! I assumed they were attracted to our car by the Cheerios our then-toddlers dropped. But now we have teens and a new Cheerio-free electric vehicle and still we came home to a mouse nest in the glove box! What should I do?

Rona, West Tisbury

Dear Rona,

Mice are wily. An adolescent mouse can squeeze into a space roughly the size of a dime. Give them a hint of cold weather and they’re on the hunt for some winter digs that will keep them cozy. And seldom-used cars — so many nooks and crannies! so easy to access! — act like a well-lit vacancy sign. (As appealing, apparently, is my fireplace where, as I tap away at my keyboard writing this, my cat captures a tiny mouse in his jaws. I had wondered about Bobcat’s recent fascination with the fireplace. Now I get it.)

But while utterly adorable — those little ears! those teensy whiskers — mice can be very destructive. Tim Hanjian owner/operator of Eco Island Pest Control in Oak Bluffs gets lots of calls about rascally rodents. Car parts, including wires, hoses and upholstery, are often made of organic materials such as soy, peanut oil, and rice husks, making them a veritable buffet for hungry critters. He recommends adopting more than one solution to thwart tiny intruders. “You can wrap your engine in screening or mesh,” he says, though he admits “that’s a pain.” A bit easier is to stuff any openings in the engine with steel wool. Hanjian recommends snap traps placed on top of your tires, though what if we prefer an, ummm, less violent solution? I ask, side-eyeing Bobcat, who has dispensed with the mouse entirely and is performing his feline ablutions. 

Rodenticide, suggests Hanjian. I blanche.

The kinder, gentler Jenna Lambert, the director of marketing and ad sales at The MV Times, had a mouse in her Toyota hybrid Rav4 last year and, on the advice of the dealership, sprayed a homemade blend of peppermint oil and coconut oil, she says. Voila. Adios Mickey. Colleague (and Bluedot contributor) Kelsey Perrett sprayed peppermint on dryer sheets and stuffed them in the glove box, seat pockets, and side doors. Which also eliminated worry about the oil potentially staining or discoloring her car interior.  

While Hanjian hasn’t personally had much success with peppermint, he’s all for sticking with what works.

Rumor has it that spraying Pine Sol on your wires acts as an effective deterrent too though I didn’t find anyone who’d tried it. (Note to self: Put Pine-Sol soaked dryer sheets in fireplace.)

There are a few other things you can do to make your car a no-go zone for rodents:

•Remove leaf debris near your car, which can create something of a bridge to a more permanent four-wheeled residence. But (see question above), don’t use a leaf blower.

•Store your car with the hood lifted, thereby making it less cozy, warm, and attractive. 

•Start your car a couple of times a week or, if you’re off-Island for long periods of time, enlist someone to do it for you. 

•Clean out any debris, especially food. 

And, if all else fails, Bobcat is by the phone awaiting your call.

Got a question for Dot? Let her know below:

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