Animal-Loving Homeowners Debate Rodent Control Methods

by ARLnow.com December 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm 2,540 38 Comments

For the past few months, we’ve been hearing anecdotal evidence of a rodent resurgence in Arlington.

At least one well-known local civic leader has privately identified the burgeoning rat population in the Clarendon area as a significant problem facing the county. And then we get emails like the following:

I’m interested in whether or not there’s been an uptick recently in Arlington residents reporting rodents in their homes? Recently, I found a pair of rats that had made a home in the wall of my 6th Street S. ground floor apartment. I’d heard from coworkers and neighbors that they’ve been finding mice recently too. Apparently we’re experiencing a perfect storm of conditions that can cause rodents to enter homes: cold weather, construction nearby (we have alot), [and] heavy acorn/nut production.

Cold weather does drive mice to take shelter in buildings and construction has been known to send rats scurrying. The bumper crop of acorns is indeed credited with fattening up local squirrels — we’re not sure if mice and rats are benefiting as well.

The rodent problem has the email listserve of at least one South Arlington neighborhood buzzing.

In Alcova Heights, neighbors are sharing rodent control tips with one another. Among those weighing in are a few conflicted animal lovers, who are searching for a more humane way to get rid of the pests.

One resident expressed frustration with the options.

Well, these mice are turning out to be extremely smart…or the humane trap is not extremely well designed. I put peanut butter in there, thinking they’d spend a little more time while the doors closed and then I actually thought about driving them out to the woods where there might be an abandoned structure or something they could live in. But they keep slipping away. I will probably need to take harsher measures, but you should have seen them staring up at us last year after we poisoned them. Like they were asking us for help, and to stop. So sad… I may be a soft heart when it comes to animals.

Another mentioned an alternative method of mouse execution.

I told you my story of how it broke my heart to kill them. I was crying, so; I understand exactly how you felt last year. I “kills” me to see any animal suffer. I do not know any good ways to get rid of them – I just know that it is best “to” get rid of them because they are very hard once they get a foothold.

I guess you could do like the one person suggested and put them in your freezer to have a peaceful freezer death…. However, then you might need to replace your freezer….I know I would!

Finally, one resident elaborated on the method. We’re still not sure how you’re supposed to get the mouse in the bag, though.

Put them in air tight zip lock freezer bag, before freezing. Leave them there overnight, the next day put them in the regular trash (outside).

Where are you finding rodents, and what, if anything ,are you doing to “thin the herd,” so to speak?

  • SoArlRes


  • Clarendip

    My cat works cheap.

    • Skeptical

      Yep. It’s the only perfect solution.

    • TGEoA

      Nothing says “I love you” like half a dozen rodent corpses all line up in a tidy row.

    • Elizabeth

      Feral cats. They are the best control method for rats and mice period. If in your house, a domestic cat will do the trick. Yes, if they really do love you they might leave them for you–but dead which is the point. If they are more independent, they’ll eat em. Cats are incredibly hardy creatures and even though we feel it cruel to leave strays outside, they do a great job at cleaning up these buggers and they’re perfectly capable/adaptable at surviving. Heck, I just saw a program showing cats living at high norther latitudes with penguins!

      On the other hand, I never let my cats outside 😉 When I did have mice due to a construction project next door, they were masters at finding them though.

  • Deb

    For the first time in the 12 years we’ve been living in our house in North Arlington, we heard a critter scratching in one of our walls. We immediately bought some ultrasonic repellents, plugged them in, and haven’t heard anything since.

    • mehoo

      Maybe the ultrasound is just ruining your hearing. 😉

  • tuesdayschild

    Birdfeeders are also part of the problem. rats and mice eat the seed that falls on the ground.

  • mehoo

    Freezing? Come on, it’s much more humane to simply kill them instantly with a snap trap.

    • Kevin

      Unless of course, the snap trap misses and simply shears off the poor buggers foot.

      • mehoo

        You ever see that happen? I’ve seen plenty of dead mice in traps but never an amputated foot.

        For the record, I usually use live traps and release them outside. Why do you have to kill them in the first place? (That goes for mice, not rats. Rats must die).

        • John Antonelli

          Ya know I am not so keen on my neighbor with his humane trap turning Mickey loose in front of my crib. So if you are going to do that, take him to the woods where he will die of exposure or get a cat or a snap trap.

          • mehoo

            I do take him to the woods, don’t worry – I don’t want him just coming back in my crib either. At least he’ll get a fighting chance there in the woods, or an owl will take care of him.

        • Kevin

          Yes, it happened in my basement. I heard the trap go off and I came down to find the mouse, alive and in shock next to the trap. He tried to hobble away when he saw me (leaving a blood trail on the floor) but he couldn’t move very fast with one foot.

          I corralled him in to a bucket and put him outside.

          • mehoo

            You mean “with three feet.” Unless this mouse walked upright. I’ve seen that in movies.

            What’s really cruel is just putting a live, bleeding, crippled mouse outside instead of stomping on it or whatever.

  • DT

    We had mice in our attic. We poisoned them and they all died. We think they came from next door while they were doing a remodel. Kill them. They are disgusting animals who carry disease and are incontinent.

    • John Antonelli

      A little decon and some corn flakes works womders and the Decon makes em thirsty so they leave your place in search of water and give it up in the great out doors.

      No fuss no muss no dead rat smell.

      Life is good!

      • shirley

        the BIG problem with DECON and poisons is that they in fact do go look for water.
        what if they don’t make it outside before finding the water?
        they get tired and curl up in your walls.
        THen it stinks like no tomorrow. Plus it really isn’t humane to dehydrate them and let them die slow and painful.
        the mouse trap is perfect for a reason.

    • mehoo

      They’re incontinent? Nah, they just lack indoor plumbing. Don’t h8 cute widdle rodents.

  • shirley

    trap and kill them. re-use the traps.
    mice go for chocolate. rats go for peanut butter.
    then generally don’t live together. you have one or the other. unless you have a big house.
    once in, they must go or they will eat your computer wires and you’ll loose ARLNOW.

    • John Antonelli

      So if we use s Recess Peanut Butter cup we cover the map???

      • mehoo

        Recess Peanut Butter Cups only work on school playgrounds.

  • Michelle

    I lived off Columbia Pike for 12 months and hated every minute of it for the simple fact the condo building I lived in was crawling with mice. They ruined my food, clothes, and even my bedding (GROSS). I tried the poison and that doesn’t kill them. In fact, they took that green block into my boot and made a nest. WTF. The snap traps are the only way to go. They breed fast so killing one won’t ruin the entire mouse population. And if you live in a complex killing the mice will help your neighbors, too. I will never live in an old building in Arlington ever again! Mice are NOT worth it. GROSS.

  • Andrew

    I think some prevention, too, might be helpful here. If you can, check for any small holes and plug them up. Also, keep your house or apartment realy, really clean. Food, popcorn and crumbs and smelly kitchen garbage cans just invite them to stop by.

  • MiceAdvice

    Get either the Victor multi-kill electric mouse trap, or the Agri-Zap electric rat/mouse trap (which is cheaper, a little bigger so it can take care of rats too, and also has an add-on you can get to remotely alert you if a mouse is caught). These units electrocute them instantly, and there’s no blood/no mess so it’s humane and sanitary. Keep in mind that mice tend to follow established “trails”, so any trap is more effective if you can identify where they are and put them along one, instead of in a random location.

  • Glebe

    Use the rat zapper for mice and rats. No joke. http://www.ratzapper.com/ Arlington Ridge had a pretty serious bout with rats when they were piledriving at the WTF (water treatment facility). It was absurd.

  • Jennifer

    With all of the construction going up around the Rosslyn Metro, I hope (fingers crossed?) that the construction companies have thought to set some traps. During the summer you could see rats in that gaping hole in between Ft. Myer and N. Moore scurrying about. Gross.

  • JimPB

    Control rodents nature’s way. An outdoor cat (with claws, of course) can keep the rodent census at bay. If the cat is hungry, the cat will handle the rodent disposal.

    No poisons. No traps to set and then reset after disposing. Let the cat express its genetic propensity while you go about life.

    • Skeptical

      Finally, we have an animal shelter manager who believes in trap-neuter-release for feral cats, so there’s some hope of feral cat colonies becoming stable around the county. It can only help.

    • mehoo

      Depends. Instead of mice and rats, some just kill birds instead.

      We had alot of cats when I was a kid, and I remember the males liking rodents and the females preferring birds.

  • Idi Amin Dada

    I’ve lived in my place for 15 years and have never had a rodent problem until the last few months. I can hear mice in the walls sometimes. Fortunately my (indoor) cat takes care of the problem within a day or two.

  • G::NativeArlingtonian

    Mice and rats are not cutesy wootsey fuzzy wuzzy little animals… they are vermin who carry disease and destroy property. Do not catch and release, kill them. We do not have enough predators to let nature take care of them properly. Snap trap, electric trap, poison , or glue traps work well enough. Place the traps along walls as rodents tend to follow them when roaming around. Just beware of leaving where pets can get near any of it. Its too bad we live in the hand-wringing times that we do because a good old fashioned BB gun worked well for taking care of the ones that congregate outside. In any case, let’s not paint this for anything more than what it is: a problem to be solved.

    • mehoo

      Maybe we don’t have enough predators because we keep killing their prey. Give the hawks a fighting chance!

  • Kate

    I live in South Arlington and have had quite a few mice this fall. Humane traps didn’t work, to my chagrin, so I wound up putting down some sticky traps and one of the things that emits a noise so they go away. They were getting in through gaps in air conditioning/heating ducts that I sealed up.

    When I lived in an old brownstone in Boston I never had a single mouse, but one night this fall I had so many running around (when I was discovering humane traps didn’t work) that I went and stayed at a hotel until an exterminator could come by.

  • Darwin

    Net and a hammer?

    Reminds me of the saying, “The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese!”

  • Josh S

    A few mice over the last nine months or so. Interesting that poison seemed to work on some, not on others. Unfortunately, the one that it worked on chose to die in a corner on the dining room floor. Not cool. No snap trap ever worked. I found a homemade humane solution online – used paper towel roll, with peanut butter smeared inside one end and then dangled over the side of the kitchen counter. Garbage can underneath. Mouse scurries in to get peanut butter, falls into garbage can, cannot get out. Your choice of what to do next. I took mine outside into a cold, rainy night. Let Mother Nature take over. If mouse can survive in the wild – more power to it. Otherwise, too bad, so sad.

  • Doug

    Been seeing a few more mice and rats lately and of course too many squirrels…I just let the hawks eat em. Caught this hawk having dinner just off Columbia Pike- http://www.flickr.com/photos/twelfthmonkey/5281554964/
    One less rat!

  • Near EFC metro

    It sounds like this is a growing problem throughout Arlington. With ever-more construction projects on the horizon, I think the county needs to become more involved. Please keep reporting on this issue, ARLnow! We need to raise more awareness! My husband and I have been battling a rat problem (outdoors, thank goodness) for over a year now, but what good is it when one house on the block sets out bait stations and traps if the neighbors choose to ignore the problem?!? We bought a BB gun, which certainly helped take out our frustrations, but the neighbors need to pull their birdfeeders and dog food inside, too! Arlington County needs to be vocal and take a stance, as this is a health issue for our entire community.


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