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With traps, spray and cats, homeowners finding ways to address too many mice

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — An influx of outdoor mice has area homeowners on the verge of mouse madness.

Mouse traps and mouse bait have been selling at record levels, exterminators are staying busy and people who have never had house cats before are bringing in "mousers" to join the fight.

Brady Neros, of rural Hawley, Minn., said his family has lived in the area for 34 years and never dealt with mice before.

"It's been terrible" this year, Neros said. "Lots of people I've talked to have had the same issues—they've never seen it so bad."

When the indoor traps set by Neros quit working as the mice learned to avoid them, his wife adopted two kittens from a friend in Lake Park to patrol outside.

"The kittens ended up catching them," he said. "We have house cats now, for the first time ... they're definitely well fed, they're busy," he added.

A friend who farms near Vergas and keeps feed bins for horses also has reported a mouse problem.

"He opened one and there were 27 mice in there, they couldn't get out," Neros said. "It's unbelievable — they're everywhere, it seems."

Sarah Bachleitner with the Humane Society of the Lakes said cats are more in demand.

"Yes, we have had an increase in people coming in to get mousers to take care of mice problems," she said.

Hardware stores are doing a brisk business in mouse traps and baits.

"I just sold tons and tons more than normal, just boatloads of it," said Mark Beug of Ace Hardware in Detroit Lakes.

He said people have told him they've caught 50 or 75 mice in their homes.

"I've been doing this for 34 years and it's the most I've ever seen, it's crazy," he said.

"There's been an increase in sales," agreed Mike Langen, store manager for L&M Fleet Supply in Detroit Lakes. "Everything is selling — glue traps, snap traps, poisons — we have a really good supply of all of it."

Part of the problem can be attributed to fewer acorns this year, said Nathan Danielson, owner of Alliance Pest Control in Audubon.

"Most of our mice around here are deer mice, they eat acorns," he said. "The acorn buds froze this spring, so they never developed — the acorns we have found are hollow, there's nothing in them."

Detroit Lakes DNR Area Wildlife Manager Rob Baden agreed.

The unusual spring freeze led to "an almost complete failure of acorns," he said. That's something that will affect a lot of critters this winter—deer, bear, squirrels and mice among them. They will need a mild winter to help them survive, he said.

As far as the mice go, there is also a theory that the unusually wet summer is helping drive them to seek drier quarters indoors.

Whatever the reason, "it sure seems like there's been an epidemic out there," Baden said.

Danielson added that it was also a "nice winter last year—the mice did good, it wasn't hard on them."

The mouse problem tends to be worse out of town, he said. "Pelican Lake has been probably one of the most popular places we've set up," he said.

Some people have quit feeding birds for now, because the feed attracts mice, Danielson said. Others no longer keep dog food or cat food in the garage.

With 20 years in the pest control business, Danielson said the number of calls for rodent control is at an all-time high.

Danielson said he sets exterior traps to kill rodents before they can get into a house, and mouse-proofs a home by sealing holes with Pestblock foam sealant and copper mesh, which doesn't rust like steel wool does.

Mice are prolific breeders, with females capable of having six to 10 pups every three weeks, Danielson said.

"If you don't catch them they can have a lot of babies," he said. "They can populate pretty fast."