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Fall 2011

Urban Jungle

The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark      

December 13, 2011

The house mouse: A creature is stirring, like it or not

House mice venture beyond the walls to populate the outdoors in warm months. But unlike native mice, the
house mouse struggles to survive a winter outside and must seek warmth and food indoors. Mice can occupy a home undetected for a while, but sooner or later their human hosts will find mouse spoor. Rod-shaped droppings, chewed-open food packages, a glimpse of a mouse running for cover or the late-night sound of a rodent gnawing on a wall can motivate an effort to de-mouse the house. And for good reason:

Mice and their parasites can be the source of a wide range of diseases, including hantavirus, bubonic plague, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis and rickettsial pox.

Some studies indicate that 40 percent of human breast cancer tumors contain viral DNA that is strikingly similar to that of the mouse mammary tumor virus. Researchers continue to investigate what this might mean.The Institute of Medicine does not list mice as an environmental concern for breast cancer.

Excluding mice from the home is a healthful ambition, but before attemping to trap or relocate mice, people should seal possible entry points into their homes. Any hole or crack as wide as a fingernail will be an open invitation for a chilly mouse. (Tip: Avoid using spray-foam insulation — mice will chew right through it. Instead, plug holes with steel wool or bronze mesh.)

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, British Journal of Cancer, Cancer Research, Cancers, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, University of Michigan Department of Zoology, Humane Society of the United States

House Mouse, Mus musculus domesticus