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Getting The Mouse

March 10, 2023 - Rodents

The War On Rodents Heats Up Amid A Rise In Sightings

When Long Island was battling the first COVID-19 surge three years ago, some homeowners began dealing with a second health issue that also proved treatable in the long run: a rash of rodent sightings. Among the communities hit by this double-demic was the Anchorage Condominium, a 14-acre Copiague waterfront complex of Tudor- and Dutch Colonial-style buildings where amenities range from an inground pool to a clubhouse. The clubhouse was where one rat sighting was reported, and another rat was seen inside a dwelling, according to the condo board president, Raymond E. Sarno. “We had sightings of rats at night and during the day on common ground and an increase of people in the buildings seeing mice droppings and hearing mice in the walls,” said Sarno, 64, a retired Merchant Marine engineer. “People were very upset,” said Sarno, who represents the community and addresses health issues — among other concerns — with property manager Einsidler Management of Melville. For help, Sarno turned to Skyway Pest Management, a Lindenhurst firm that employed what Sarno called “EPA [federal Environmental Protection Agency]-approved” methods to end the “mice and rodent problem,” which Sarno said hasn’t recurred. As memories of the great rodent pandemic migration fade, mice and rats continue to infiltrate Long Island homes, sending pest control experts’ phones ringing off the hook. These Long Island companies report using newer, better methods beyond the traditional baited snap trap to get the job done faster and more efficiently as rodents remain an “eek!” factor for homeowners.

Going Where The Food Is

While some might wonder whether landfills are attracting rodents, the pests are more likely to be found where food waste is stored before collection. These sites include household, store and restaurant waste receptacles if there is a food source present, said Timothy M. Green, natural resources manager at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, which conducts surveys of small animal populations. “Mice and rats are a tremendous problem throughout Long Island and New York City,” said Eric Middleton, owner of EM Pest Control in Uniondale. Long Island pest control companies are seeing increased service requests for rodents, this season, he said. Rodent infestations are rising in the Northeast especially, where 53% of homeowners — compared with 49% in the rest of the nation — “have found or had a problem with mice or rats,” according to Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). The NPMA forecasts an increase in rodents in search of shelter and resources when temperatures drop this winter, Fredericks said in an email. On Long Island, last summer’s “drought-like conditions” reduced the fall supply of wild berries mice feed on, which may also be contributing to the critters seeking sustenance “elsewhere including people’s homes,” Green said. Although Green said he had no estimate for the size of the rodent population, more and more Long Islanders have been reporting sightings of mice and rats. Guy Schaefer, owner-operator of Skyway, said the increase in rodent sightings on Long Island actually predates the pandemic by one to two years. Schaefer said that some pest control experts are tracing the growth in rodent populations to global warming, which allows more of the animals to survive in the wild. Schaefer said that while he previously answered the majority of service calls from spring to fall, currently, “we’re buying traps and bait every week, and the phone can go off 10 times in a day.” 

Combating A Mouse And Rat Problem

If you do see a mouse zipping across the floor — the little rodents can also climb, jump and run along wires, according to experts — that’s no reflection on your housekeeping. “Everybody associates mice with filth, and it’s not the case — they can live in a clean house as well. They don’t discriminate,” Schaefer said. Fredericks said that mice generally emerge from their dark hiding places in basements, kitchens or garages, at dusk or dawn feeding times. “If you see one mouse, there are likely more hiding out of sight,” added Fredericks. He said that a house mouse — the most common species found in the home — can give birth to a half-dozen babies every three weeks. Although often seen as cartoon cute, Fredericks said, “these tiny pests can spread more than 200 human pathogens,” including salmonella, and can damage your home by gnawing on wood, insulation and electrical wiring. Middleton, a licensed New York State home inspector who founded his business in 2014, uses a number of newer methods to trap and eliminate rodents inside and outside houses. It costs from $425 to more than $1,000 “depending on the extent of the infestation and what needs to be done,” he said. Rat removal costs from $500 to more than $1,000 if the rodents have infiltrated the house, he said. Part of pest control is being a kind of mouse detective, using the latest techniques to locate and eliminate the sneaky intruders. Among the newer tools in Middleton’s pest control arsenal are monitoring devices equipped with bait stations and cameras. Middleton sets the stations up inside and outside the house to track rodent activity around the clock. He said the monitors “help our treatments to be faster and more efficient.” To prevent future infestations, Middleton said, “We find out how they [mice] are getting in and close up the holes.” He seals the gaps, often using a steel-fiber reinforced fabric that he said doesn’t deteriorate like the steel wool traditionally used to stop up entry holes. Long Island pest control companies are also equipped to find and kill rats. The population of Norway rats, which are also common here, “seems to be growing on Long Island,” Green said. 

New Treatment Methods

According to experts in the field, rats can be drawn to Long Island backyards by food that spills out of bird feeders, pet waste and garbage from open trash cans. Middleton said he addresses a rat infestation with a newer innovation, dry ice gas, approved five years ago by New York State. The gas anesthetizes and then euthanizes the rodents inside their burrows. “It’s another method of getting rid of them quickly without putting down traps,” Middleton said. Guy Schaefer of Skyway also has several new arrows in his pest control quiver. “This time of the year the phone calls are for mice, but we do get a lot of calls for rats,” Schaefer said. The base prices are $395 for one-time mice removal with a six-month guarantee, or $595 for the first year of a contract with a $495 annual renewal. Rat removal, which requires an on-site estimate, starts at $200 and runs to $800 or more. Some pest control experts recommend putting down mulch around a house’s foundation to prevent rodents from burrowing. But Schaefer said that gravel works better. “We serviced a house in Amityville where rodents were burrowing under the foundation, so we made gravel flower beds around the foundation of the house. When mice and rats try to dig holes in gravel, it caves in,” Schaefer said. Another better mouse (and rat) trap: a Burrow RX rodent control device, which sends carbon monoxide into the rodents’ tunnels. “It fogs them out and kills them,” Schaefer said of the device he’s used at a number of Long Island homes. 

Dealing With Racoons

The bandit-masked midnight callers rummaging through your garbage can’t be dispatched like mice and rats. Because raccoons are considered wildlife, it’s a job for a New York State Nuisance Wildlife Control-licensed professional like Middleton. Raccoons typically can be found inside a garage, attic, basement or chimney, Middleton said. Raccoons can carry rabies, attack house pets and damage lawns by digging for grubs to eat, Middleton said. He charges $300 to $400 per raccoon removal, deploying state-approved methods to trap, transport and release the animal in a wildlife preserve 5 miles from the capture site, he said.


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