>Eek! Florida County Fed Up With Mice > Creatures driven upland after farmland> flooded> > Sue Anne Pressley, Washington Post> > Friday,>October 15, 1999>>> > On Sherry Waits' refrigerator door,>along with her > children's art and reminders of things>to do, is > something the fastidious homemaker>never thought > she could stand to live with: the mouse>count. So far, > it's 50 -- that's 50 mice she and her>family have > recently plucked from traps set about>their suburban > Orlando home.>> Practically everybody in northwest >Orange County> these days has a mouse story: Joan >Gateley recently> walked by the pool at the motel she>manages and > swears she saw several mice taking a>leisurely swim. > ``I was tempted to make them some>little bathing > suits,'' she said dryly.> > Here, some 25 miles from the biggest>mouse house of > them all -- Disney World -- residents>are trying to > cope with a house-mice invasion the>likes of which no > one in Florida has ever seen.> > An estimated 10,000 homes have been>overrun with > the creatures, supposedly driven from>farmlands > recently flooded as part of the Lake>Apopka > restoration project, and mousetraps are>sold out at > every store. Last week, the state>intervened when > Gov. Jeb Bush pledged $200,000 in state>funds, > combined with $200,000 in county funds,>to help > ``battle the infestation,'' as he put>it. The governor > stopped short of granting local>officials' request to > declare the 50-square-mile region a>disaster area.> > ``This is a situation you expect to>find in an agricultural > area in the Midwest where they're>raising lots of grain, > not in Florida, which in general has a>low rodent > population,'' said Bill Kern, a>wildlife specialist with the > University of Florida.> > Residents certainly feel they are under>siege. They > wake up to hear the rustling sounds in>their trash cans, > to find mouse droppings on their pantry>shelves, to see > bold legions of the creatures sniffing>around their > kitchen counters as if they own the>place. Shadows > suddenly dart across the floor, an old>beach towel on > the back porch comes alive with a>tumble of mice, and > no matter how often the scene is>repeated, many > people still find themselves shrieking>at the sight.> > ``I don't like seeing them. I just>don't like mice, and I > never will,'' said Thomas McCrary, a>retired > nurseryman living in the invaded>Plymouth community, > with a full- body shudder.> > Likewise, Annette Harrell won't soon>forget the > morning she put on a shoe and felt>something stuffed > inside. Hoping it was just a sock, she>reached in, ``and > touched that soft skin. Eeeeech. I was>screaming and > shaking. Those things get to me bad.''> > Casting about for a silver lining,>residents are at least > thankful they are dealing with small>mice and not big > oily rats. The culprit here is Mus>musculus, Kern said, > which is about 4 inches long, counting>the tail, and > weighs between 6 and 10 grams.> > One adult pair can lead to 10,000 new>mice a year. > They gnaw through utility wires, chew>holes in clothing > and walls, and contaminate food so it>all has to be > packed away in metal or heavy plastic>or hidden in the > refrigerator. Nothing can be left out>on a counter or > table.>> So far, the mice have tested negative >as disease> carriers, Kern said, but they are >capable of transmitting> salmonella.> > Residents here first noticed a few mice>in January, not > long after the St. John's Water>Management District > flooded thousands of acres of vegetable>farms around > Lake Apopka in an effort to improve the>polluted lake's > water quality. Storehouses and packing>houses that > had normally provided food for the>rodents became > vacant, farmers who had become expert>at rodent > control were gone and the mice began>moving upland > into residential areas to enjoy last>winter's bountiful > acorn crop. By August and September,>homeowners > were at war.> > For combatting the mice, Kern and other>experts > recommend the old-fashioned snap traps>baited with > peanut butter; the county is buying>100,000 of them to > distribute free.> > Other methods have drawbacks: Poison>may endanger > small animals and children, Kern said,>and there is > always the likelihood the mice will>crawl into the walls > to die and decay. Glue strips, in which>the creatures > are captured alive, are twice as>expensive as snap > traps and beg the question: What to do>about the stuck > mouse?>> ``Most people are too squeamish to deal >with that,'' he> said. ``There are two methods>recommended by the > American Veterinary Medical>Association. You can > use a carbon dioxide chamber -- a>garbage can or a > coffee can -- and add dry ice, or the>other possibility > is to go and do a cervical dislocation,>which means > snapping their necks. Drowning is>considered > inhumane.''> > Cats are no good in this case because>``they won't > eliminate an infestation if you already>have one,'' he > said, but snakes are wonderful, and>there are 12 > varieties in central Florida that feed>on rats and mice. > Problem is, many people have a snake>phobia that > eclipses their mouse phobia.> > ``The one suggestion I would make,''>Kern said, ``is > that from now on, if you see a snake,>look on it as a > crawling mousetrap, and leave it be.''>>> > 1999 San Francisco Chronicle Page D6>