Statewide drought conditions, wildfires affect native as well as commensal wildlife behavior
Regional and local drought conditions, coupled with long-term vegetation changes, have been blamed for more than 700 wildfires in Utah that have scorched nearly 700,000 acres.
The drought and fires have also affected Utah's wildlife.
Many native wildlife species have shifted movement and activity patterns in response to the conditions.
Certain locations across the state are reporting an overabundance of wildlife that, in some cases, is competing with local ranchers, farmers, homeowners and gardeners for produce.
The drought and fires alone, however, cannot explain all of the increased observations of native wildlife.
In some cases, animal young are beginning to disperse in new areas in search of seasonal habitats.
This is the case for Utah's commensal wildlife.
Commensal is a term used to describe animals typically found living near or with human beings.
Humans, through cultural, sanitation or building practices, are indirectly providing the habitat for many of the species.
Mice and rats are among the most widespread commensal wildlife species in Utah.
Of the commensal wildlife species, house mice are considered one of the most troublesome rodents in North America
Originally natives of Asia, the rodents arrived in North America with the early settlers.
With the onset of cold weather, mice - both commensal and native deer mice - may enter buildings as they search for food and shelter.
The mice will consume a wide range of edible items, but prefer foods high in fat and sugar. Favorites include chocolate, bacon, butter and nuts. Most water requirements are filled by the food the rodents eat.
Because the rodents are most active at night, mice can roam undetected through a household.
Seeing the rodents during the daytime could indicate Carbon County residents have several mice in the house.
In addition to chewing on food, mice can nibble and cause structural damage. The rodents also regularly urinate and defecate. The presence of droppings and the musky smell of urine from cupboards or drawers can indicate there are mice in the house.
The best control method is to prevent the rodents' entry into residences and buildings.
To exclude mice from structures, Carbon County residents should:
Seal all holes and openings that are larger than one-fourth inch with heavy materials such as concrete mortar, sheet metal or heavy gauge hardware cloth.
Also, people should be aware of garages, houses, barns or doors with gaps greater than one-fourth inch.
Make certain that all food is as inaccessible as possible.
People should store bulk foods in rodent-proof containers. Spilled food and crumbs should be removed. A left-over cookie behind the couch cushion can feed a mouse for more than a week.
In most cases, mice can easily be captured with wooden snap traps or glue traps. Because mice have poor eyesight, but excellent senses of touch and smell, the rodents tend to travel close to walls and other objects. Thus, traps should be set close to walls where mice are usually active.
For effective control, people should set at least six or more traps in the house. To increase effectiveness, small amounts of fresh bait may be used.
Peanut butter and chocolate work well as bait. Cheese tends to go rancid when exposed to the open air for several days and loses its attractiveness as bait.
People may want to bait the traps without setting for a day or so. When people notice the bait has been taken, they should set the trap.
Because mice can carry diseases, carcasses should be buried or bagged and disposed of in an outside garbage container as soon as possible.
Avoid using rodenticides to control mice in homes. Mice that feed on poison baits may die in the home and, as the carcasses start to decay, the resulting odor may cause more problems.
Devices that repel mice using electromagnetic or ultrasonic waves are widely advertised, but there is no scientific evidence to support the manufacturers' claims that the products work.
For information, local residents may contact the county USU Extension office for a copy of the bulletin titled "Mice." Residents with Internet access may also visit http://www.extension.usu.edu.