Mice, rats, and voles are small mammals of the order Rodentia. The term rodent means “to gnaw”. Rodents are proficient at gnawing through almost anything. They are notorious for damaging buildings and their preference for chewing electrical wires often causes expensive problems and can even start fires. Rats and mice release steady droplets of urine and may defecate up to 70 times a day. This along with the gnawing and nest building habits, enables rats and mice to cause a considerable amounts of damage.
The common mouse in the Midwest is the house mouse which weighs less than one ounce and is from 1 to 3 inches in length. The color is grayish-brown on the upper body and lighter color below. In general they reside in homes and structures. Mice enter dwellings in the late summer or fall and typically spend the entire winter. They then will leave in the spring. Mice are very capable at climbing throughout the house or structure. Even though they are very intrusive, they are very controllable.
Norway rats are considerably larger weighing 1 pound on average and are up to 16 inches in length. They eat and contaminate foodstuffs as well as animal feed. They also will cause structural damage to homes and structures.
There are some signs that help to identify if there is a rodent infestation. The signs include:
- Urine stains
- Grease marks
- Live or dead rodents
- Gnaw marks
- Rodent sounds or odor
Voles, also known as meadow mice, live and feed on the soil surface or just below the surface.
Voles often use mole tunnels for travel below the surface. Evidence of voles using mole tunnels is open holes in the tunnels.
Although voles are sometimes confused with moles, the two do not have much in common except their capacity to be a nuisance in yards and gardens.
Moles are silver gray and most voles are rusty to chocolate brown.
Voles often leave little evidence of their presence apart from damage they do to trees, shrubs and vegetables.
They feed primarily on plants.
Voles seldom enter homes but are sometime found in farm buildings or garages where grain or hay is stored.
Vole populations run in two to five year cycles. Some years there might be great numbers of them and then suddenly the population dies off.