In nature, mice (and rodents as a whole) fulfill a variety of critical ecological roles. The problem is that when they live near (or with) humans they can wreak havoc. This can include everything from chewing through electrical wires to eating the food in our cupboards.
In this article, we’ll talk about the different hiding places that mice use, indoors and outdoors, to help you know where to look for them. Once you know where the mice are hiding, it will be much easier to take the steps you need to get rid of them.
An Introduction to Mice
Mice span several genuses in the largest family, Muridae, of the order Rodentia. These well-adapted creatures can survive in a wide variety of environments, including deserts and rainforests. There are over 1,000 species of mice worldwide. The genus Mus, which is Latin for mouse, is home to 38 species of mice and all of the true Old World mice. These are the ones that we’re most familiar with, most of which originated in Eurasia, a.k.a. the Old World.
You can find most of these Old World species in North America. The most well-known ones for homeowners are:
- the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus),
- the house mouse (Mus musculus),
- any of the various species of field mice (belonging to Apodemus, a subfamily of Muridae), and
- the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).
Except for Peromyscus, which originated in Canada, all of these mice came to North America with European settlers on their boats.
Mice don’t hibernate and tend to be nocturnal. This is why they’re usually found in homes during the winter. As the mice scrabble about in search of food or for things to munch on to wear down their teeth, homeowners are left to suffer sleepless nights.
Most mouse species can mate after 7 to 10 weeks. They give birth to anywhere from 2 to 10 young after a 3- to 4-week gestation period. These young will usually leave the nest in less than a month. Within a couple of days after that, the mom can (and often does) breed again.
Many small animals are like this, including frogs, mice, and insects. Their relatively low standing in the food web means that they have a high mortality rate. So, high birth rates help to offset those mortality rates and ensure the survival of the species.
Indoor Mice: Living and Hiding Places
The mice mentioned above are the most common ones to infiltrate homes. The ways that mice get into homes vary, but the most typical way is through a compromised foundation.
In spring and summer, mice will generally live and forage outdoors. For the species mentioned above, this will usually be near humans. They want to be able to seek warmth, shelter, and easy access to food once fall and winter come.
Where Do Mice Hide Indoors?
Mice prefer small, dark spaces. In nature, they often burrow into the ground or make nests in tree cavities or brush piles where they can easily escape and hide from predators. Once inside, this means that mice will often nest and move about in walls, basements, ceilings, and so on.
Mice are commonly found in garages since they’re generally easier to get into than houses. Garages also have less frequent human activity. Once inside, they’ll build baseball-sized nests where 3+ mice can gather for warmth and safety. In nature, they make these nests out of feathers, hair, twigs, pine needles, and leaves. In homes, they often make nests from insulation, but they can also contain hair, bits of clothing or carpeting, and other small materials found in the house.
How Might Mice Get Inside?
If there are no existing openings to allow mice indoors, their ever-growing teeth can gnaw through just about anything. They often chew things to try to grind their teeth down. Wood, in particular, is vulnerable to mice, but they can also chew through siding and even some types of weaker composite materials used to build foundations if given enough time. Most mice are also adept climbers. This means that they can potentially enter your home through open windows, damaged roofs, loose siding, and so on.
The Likely Culprits
If you have mice in your home, they will probably be either house mice or white-footed mice. These can look similar to one another at first glance and are often the most comfortable when it comes to living around humans.
House mice were the first known species to arrive with European settlers and spread throughout North America. They are more often found in homes, barns, and other manmade structures than outdoors. In nature, around 98% of house mice and white-footed mice die within their first year of life, which is still long enough to produce many offspring. When resources are plentiful and they’re able to evade predators or mouse traps, these mice can live for 5 years or more.
Outdoor Mice: Living and Hiding Places
Outdoor mice include the four species mentioned before. Many other species live outdoors, but those four are the ones that you’ll probably find in your home or garage. In nature, mice will live in a variety of habitats, depending on their species.
Where Do Mice Hide Outdoors?
The ones that are more likely to infiltrate your house prefer to live and hide in small, dark spaces that are difficult for predators to get to. This is why you’ll often find them in or under logs, stumps, tree hollows, and brush piles or in underground burrows. They’re most active at night. With the exception of field mice, outdoor mice tend to avoid open spaces like grasslands or yards. Instead, they prefer to stick close to some sort of cover where they can easily hide if they need to.
The Likely Culprits
White-footed mice and field mice will probably enter your garden if you have one. Once there, they might decide to burrow into the soil where they’ll have easy access to fruit, veggies, and the protective thermal and predatory cover offered by the plants.
You’re more likely to find wood mice if you live in a wooded area. These mice aren’t as likely to come indoors unless the summer has been harsh and they’re having a difficult time finding adequate food. Field mice may also enter homes. But, like wood mice, you probably won’t encounter them unless your house is on the edge of a field, either manmade or naturally occurring. Rather than moving into your home, these species are more likely to take shelter in barns, granaries, sheds, and other outbuildings.
Again, most mouse species live for about a year or less in nature. Both field mice and wood mice can survive for up to three years if they’re crafty enough to evade owls (their primary predator) and are able to get enough food.