Apparently, I ‘snapped a trap’ with my stories on the invasion of the deer mice in my last two columns. It turns out that I heard from people far and wide about having issues with mice doing naughty things, especially this year. I would like to share with you a few of those stories.

The first story comes from Greg and Clare Oskay in Indiana. “We had problems with mice chewing up wire insulation and the fuel line of our Toyota truck. In an environmentally friendly gesture, they switched to soy-based plastics. In other words, mouse food! The truck we had problems with is our camping vehicle and would be stored over winter in our barn.

Clare bought a “sonic repeller” that was supposed to keep mice away. I placed it on top of the engine and closed the hood. Clare also stuffed scented dryer sheets in various nooks and crannies of the truck. In the spring I opened the hood and the mice had built a nest on top of the sonic repeller using the dryer sheets. [Tom’s note: I have never seen a sonic repeller work to discourage mice or insects despite sellers claims to the contrary.]

After a couple of thousand dollars of damage Clare found a solution on-line. A 16-inch-high wall of smooth aluminum sheeting (gutter material before it is formed into a gutter) surrounding the truck. One end comes off to allow driving the truck in and then it is replaced. It has worked flawlessly for several years now. I nicknamed it my Trump’s wall.”

The second mouse story comes from Karin Connelly in Glacier, Montana. Last year Karin had her mouse problem when mice got into her Honda and she had to pay $2,000 to have the mice removed from her car. She went on to say that people in Glacier country often leave their car hoods up and use scented dryer sheets to keep the mice at bay!

A car technician who has seen many a car wiring damaged by mice, told me to spray 100 percent pure peppermint oil on the underside of the engine cover, if you have one, or other problem areas like glove compartments to keep mice from chewing on wiring causing extensive damage and repair expense. Peppermint is a strong-smelling plant and mice find the potent aroma of its menthol irritating to their nasal cavities. Most mouse species rely on a strong sense of smell and therefore it works. Another tip, don’t leave human snacks in car glove compartments because mice love meals on wheels!

Joe Oswald tells of 25 deer mice and counting trapped at his cabin in Fifield in the past few weeks. Joe also mentioned that his son recently visited his family deer hunting stand over at Ladysmith. When he entered the blind, he found mouse activity all over the place where they had made nests out of cloth blinds and chair cushions and where they had been eating moths trapped inside. It took considerable effort to get rid of the mice and the disgusting mess they made. So, deer hunters with deer stands, even several feet above the ground (mice are good climbers), have you checked them lately? If not, you may be hunting deer mice rather than white tailed deer this hunting season and you will likely be more successful!

Nature notes

For birds heading south for the winter, the migration is nearly over, but a few species linger, likely due to the abnormally warm weather we had recently. We still have a few dark-eyed juncos in Fifield feeding on cracked corn, but the fox and white-throated sparrows, also feasting on the corn, left us last week. There are still a few robins around feeding on tree berries.

We have spotted a few flocks of snow buntings around the Fifield area in recent days. They are coming here from the far north in Canada in search of feeding areas for the winter. Also, we confirmed an American pipit in Fifield and a sleepy barred owl perched on a narrow window ledge of a building in Park Fall, see photos.

According to WI DNR Conservation Biologist Ryan Brady, after a very poor year in 2019, the “winter finches” are already defying predictions by showing up in excellent diversity and numbers. First it was purple finches and pine siskins, then came both white-winged and red crossbills, and now it’s common redpolls and evening grosbeaks, the latter showing up at feeders statewide for the first time in years. In fact, we had over 25 of them show up at our Nature Education Center feeders in Fifield on November 3rd where they devoured our sunflower seeds for a couple hours. We also had good numbers of pine siskins. Northern birders are also finding pine grosbeaks and, to a lesser extent, Bohemian waxwings.

You can attract many of these species with black oil sunflower seeds and a water source. Redpolls and siskins also enjoy Nyjer (thistle) seed, while spruces with good cone crops offer the best chance of spotting white-winged and red crossbills. Weedy fields, fruiting shrubs, and seeds of ash, maple, and boxelder are also places to watch. So, keep watching as it looks like a good winter to see some interesting bird species in our area.

The private Nature Education Center in Fifield operated by Tom and Mary Lou Nicholls is open seasonally by appointment only. Nicholls can be reached at nicho002@umn.edu.