Mice, Snakes, and Bats
Mice are a common problem in both rural and urban settings. They make themselves very comfortable in houses, actually preferring homes that are occupied (and therefore good sources of food), and can enter through holes as small as a dime. You may see one streak across the floor, but you're more likely to see their small, elongated droppings, or evidence of gnawing.
Whether you choose to trap and kill or relocate the mice, or simply try to drive them out of the house, the most important measure is to seal the house extremely well once they're gone. To convince them to leave, try leaving cat hair or peppermint-oiled rags around their entry holes (this also works for rats). Killing or removing the mice alone isn't a permanent solution, because they-or their rodent cousins-will simply find the access holes and move in again.
Mice can carry serious diseases, such as hantavirus. Clean mouse-contaminated areas with a solution of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water, and wear gloves, glasses, and a mask covering your nose and mouth while cleaning up.
Another problem with mice and other rodents is that they attract snakes-so getting rid of a mouse problem can actually help prevent a snake problem. It's important to know the types of snakes in your area (most are nonpoisonous, and all are helpful in keeping rodent populations under control), in the unlikely event that someone is bitten. The key to preventing snakes from entering a building is to seal all potential openings, from dryer vents to gaps around plumbing and electrical wiring. Also remove any attractive hiding places, such as brush or scrap lumber piles, from near the house.
Warm, damp compost attracts both rodents and snakes. You can place fine wire mesh under a compost bin or pile to prevent entry from below, or use a tumbling-style bin. Regularly forking the compost to air it out and turn it over will help the compost bin do its job, and it also makes the bin less comfortable for critters. Ammonia or a commercial repellent may also help.
If you notice bats flying around your eaves in the evenings, watch where they come from and where they go; they could be nesting in your attic. You can try to convince them to leave by switching on bright lights at night or by keeping the attic cool, but the best strategy is to wait until fall or winter, when they leave to find a hibernation site. Identify all the holes or cracks through which they're entering the attic (they can squeeze through cracks just '14- to '12-inch wide), and seal all but one of them. On this one, create a one-way exit-only barrier by securing netting or plastic strips to the exterior of the hole, leaving the bottom edge free. Once all the bats have left, seal the opening permanently.
Bats are one of the most effective mosquito control method you'll find. You may not want them in your attic, but encourage them to nest nearby by building bat houses (instructions are available at home centers or at