Of Men And Mice 07/09/98
El Nino brings infestation.
Thursday, July 9, 1998
If you think you''re just imagining that pitter-patter of little feet, think again. Residents all around Monterey County are finding out that the pitter-patter is real, and increased numbers of mice, rats and other rodents are making it. Why? Why, El Nino, of course!
According to Virginia Hutchings, qualifying operator at Monterey Bay Pest Control, there is a huge increase in the numbers of rodents and insects as a result of the abundant winter rains. "There''s an increase in water, there''s an increase in the vegetation growth, an increase in food supply and an increase in harborage (places to nest). Right now," she says, "there''s a tremendous amount of mice and rats, and also ants, earwigs, sow bugs and termites." As the weather warms, Hutchings cautions, expect an increase in hornets'' nests and fleas.
"It''s been a nightmare," says Cherie Stock, Oak Hills resident and director of marketing and public relations at Natividad Medical Center. "You wouldn''t think when it rains and rains for days that it means you''ll have mice." Stock discovered she had a big problem one night after opening the roof on her atrium. "We found a roof rat on the living room floor. They came in from the trees overhanging the house." Working in a hospital with physicians, Stock was concerned about the burgeoning number of mice and rats around her home. "I get nervous when certain populations that carry disease start to increase."
Although County Environmental Health Director Walter Wong seemed to think there was no unusual problem this year--"There are not too many complaints about mice"--others disagree.
"It''s in all areas, even in town," says Wayne Westenhaver, general pest control division manager at Casner Exterminating Co. "Just about everyone that calls has a rodent problem," he says, adding that he has had the same problem at his own home in North Salinas. "The mice are right smack in town."
What to do about it? Exterminators report that there are a variety of remedies that a professional may recommend. The cost varies, depending on the home, size of yard, type of structure and flooring and tolerance of the owner. In many cases, about $75 is enough to thwart a mouse invasion of the average-size home. They say maintaining regular pest control service prevents an abundance of pests and requires less chemicals.
"There are a lot of different procedures that can be done," says Becky Bruzzone, licensed field representative with Pied Piper Exterminators, Inc., "but, no, we have no magic."
"My exterminator told me to listen to my cats. They can smell (the mice) before you can see them," says Stock. "If my cats start congregating around the fridge, I know there''s a mouse."
Although cats are renowned for their acute ability to pick up scents, Dr. Priscilla Stockner, executive director of the SPCA of Monterey County, reminds cat owners that it''s best to let kitty play mouse detective only inside the house. "The best place for cats is inside. There is great danger to let cats roam to hunt. A high rodent population is limited by other natural factors, such as birds of prey. We encourage cats as close companion animals."
There are other preventative steps homeowners can take. Hutchings recommends raking leaves, cutting the grass and eliminating weeds to create an environment that''s not conducive to insect and pest populations. She says, "Break the cycle and help control it that way. People are not getting out to the garden as often and this creates habitat. Everything is growing with the help of El Nino."