Here are strategies for ridding your motorhome of the pesky rodents.
By Ron Swartley
You pull your motorhome into a nice spot in tall timber, or maybe in the desert, or perhaps beside some idyllic stream. You set up camp, prepare and enjoy a delectable meal, and turn in after a pleasant day. You’re just at the point of reaching peaceful slumber when you hear them: the tiny feet of field mice traipsing over your motorhome’s roof, conducting a nocturnal search for food.
What is a trifle irritating the first night becomes much more annoying on the second, for the scout mice have brought their friends, and they know the way into the interior spaces where your food is kept. If you hear a gnawing sound and you rap a cabinet, it stops their activities cold as they wait and listen. But in a moment or two, they’re back at work.
Yes, you have a motorhome mouse war on your hands.
Mice return to their burrows at first light, so you might be tempted to break camp and find another campsite. But if you’re like me, you hate to be intimidated into leaving a perfectly good place by an inconsiderate family of field mice. So here are some defensive strategies:
- Prevent the little critters from gaining access in the first place. That may not be as easy as it seems. Mice have a talent for discovering ways into your motorhome’s inner spaces. Openings as tiny as 1/4-inch in diameter in the floor, the wall structure and paneling, the overhead complex of vents and air conditioner fixtures, or — often overlooked — the engine compartment are possible ports of entry. The area around the steering column afforded enough room for a fat and pregnant mouse to squeeze into my RV.
It may take a while for you to discover and seal every possible access point. A session underneath the vehicle and some time spent poking around the engine compartment may yield dividends. A partner can be helpful; a person inside the motorhome shines a flashlight along baseboards and under cabinets while another person beneath the coach watches where light shines through and fills in holes. Stainless-steel wool works well as a filler, because mice don’t like to chew through it. For added protection, spray expandable foam into the wool.
Happily, once you’ve sealed every possible ingress, problem solved! Of course, there’s no guarantee the invaders won’t make a mighty attempt to foil your efforts and burrow their way through whatever you use as a sealer. So, additional strategies may be in order.
- Keep food items beyond their reach. Mice have an advanced sense of smell and can detect food almost through solid metal, it seems. Food in cardboard or plastic or paper containers is easy pickings. A wooden or metal cupboard with difficult access from below is highly recommended. A standard thick-walled ice chest is also secure.
- Set mousetraps. You might have to wipe out a whole mouse colony to eliminate the problem, but in the end, traps get the job done. Always carry a number of traps in the motorhome. Place them at suspected entrance points, and out of the way of pets. A variety of models are on the market today, including mechanical “snap traps,” electronic traps, and live traps.
- Other mouse-control options may be considered, but they can have their downsides. Some people turn to mothballs, but they contain toxic chemicals and should not be placed inside a motorhome that is occupied by people and pets. A road-adapted cat is another possibility, but not every feline is cut out for mouse hunting.
- As for rodent poison, many types of bait work safely without harming humans or pets. Poison can take a few days to achieve results, however, as you might have to eradicate an entire colony. And if you do use bait, make extra sure it is safe around children and pets. One might assume that if the poisoned mouse crawls into an inaccessible RV space to breathe its last, you’ll smell the decaying carcass far longer than you care to. But according to some longtime experts, this is not typical — a mouse’s small size being one reason.
- If you’d rather try natural repellents, several are available. For example, Earthkind is a company that markets what it calls a safer option: a product called Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent. Made with a natural blend of plant fiber and botanical extracts, its scent is supposed to be pleasant for humans but offensive to mice.
In online forums devoted to motorhoming, including FMCA.com, some people swear that placing fabric-softener dryer sheets inside drawers, cabinets, and cupboards is effective against mice, but others disagree. Some claim that Irish Spring-brand bar soap is the answer. Still others say they’ve had success dabbing peppermint oil on cotton balls, putting the balls in airtight plastic bags, poking a few holes in the bags, and placing them in various compartments around the coach.
All in all, restricting access to the vehicle interior is the best anti-mouse strategy. But it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan.
- The term “field mouse” is a generic label for many species of wild mice. They can be found in forests, savannahs, grasslands, and rocky habitats. Their ability to adapt to almost any environment makes them one of the most successful mammals alive today.
- In the wild, mice typically eat whatever vegetation is available, such as fruits, seeds, and grains. But they’ll also eat meat, including dead animals and, if food is scarce, other mice.
- Most mice dig an underground burrow as protection against predators.
- The rodents sleep during the day and are active at night.
- Mice typically give birth to anywhere from four to a dozen babies.
- A mouse’s heart beats more than 600 times a minute, about nine times the rate of a human heart.