We have a wall between the living room and the front door. It soars all the way up along the rafters on the front of the house, forming the side wall of the linen closet on one side and the wall of the cathedral ceiling in the entry on the other side. Because of the pitch of the roof in a Cape, it doesn’t connect with the attic.
This wall has mice.
This has been an ongoing issue for a few years now – particularly at the change of seasons we hear them in there. It is the only place we hear them. There is no evidence of mice anywhere in the living space. We’ve been trying to find the ingress point, because I really didn’t want to have to open that wall up – I’m beginning to share my father’s distaste for drywall patching. Every so often we have an… aroma. The one that says “something died in the wall.” It usually only lasts a couple of days, and while it’s nasty, what can you do?
Well, we’ve had scurrying, and last week I came to the conclusion that we just need to suck it up, open the damn wall, and find out where they’re coming from so that we can make it stop. Also, we’ve had a fresh stink that I’m finding more offensive than usual. Bob has a fairly rudimentary sense of smell, but I’ve been described as “having a nose like a bassett hound,” so it’s been bothering me. I was going to wait until this weekend, but if you’ve been following my house adventures you’ll know that I have the self-control of a two-year-old where demolition is concerned. Finally, last night I looked at Bob and asked if I could pop off the baseboard.
Really, all I intended to do was pop off the baseboard and see if there were any holes in the drywall, and see if the drywall went all the way to the floor. That’s all I was interested in. But we all know that these things never go as planned.
I popped off the baseboard, and the drywall was chewed away in the corner adjacent to the exterior wall. The stink intensified. There was a tail and some fur visible. Ick. There was also a lot of visible fuzz, looking like a nest. ICK. Then a snout and two huge eyes and a couple of little round ears poked out and wiggled its little pink nose at me. Cheeky little bastard. It pulled back in when I banged on the wall. Bob went outside to get the garden trowel (formerly seen during the great sewage backup of 2008), and I picked up the drywall saw to enlarge the hole enough to scoop out the corpse and the nest. I opened up a neat little rectangle about four inches wide, and shorter than the baseboard (as I intended to put that back to seal it back up afterwards.) Mousey-dude kept sticking his nose out while I was sawing, which was odd – I figured that people banging around would cause him to make himself scarce.
When Bob began scooping, it became apparent that it wasn’t a nest – it was a pile of little mouse corpses. He pulled NINE out of that little four inch opening. Did I mention the magnitude of the stink? The stink was prodigious. After consultation, the two of us agreed that even though we didn’t want to, we needed to open up a slot along the bottom of that entire bay – because there was no way that the little desiccated mouse corpses had all neatly piled up on one side. There was also the issue of the live one that was apparently hanging out in the workspace.
So I went back to work with the drywall saw, being exquisitely careful. There were two issues. The insignificant one was that I really didn’t want to gunk up my saw with mouse yuck. The significant one was that there is power in that wall, and I didn’t want to cut through the wires – and I wasn’t sure where they were. When I got the hole sawed all the way to the next wall stud and down to the floor, we gave some thought to dealing with the live one. I went and got an empty sherbert container, and we started to pry out the piece of cut drywall. The mouse darted out into the container, and rather than slamming it upside down on the floor like *I* had in mind, Bob scooped him up. While I was running for a lid, Mickey (predictably) jumped out, and we proceeded to do the “two adults chasing a mouse” dance. Through sheer luck I got the container over it, slid a political flyer from Linda McMahon underneath, and moved him off to one side while we popped out the piece of drywall.
Did I mention the stink? You could practically SEE this stink.
I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that judging by the tails (which remain even after the third dimension is gone), there were over two dozen mouse corpses in that wall, ranging from dried up to various stages of juicy. It’s all better now. We scooped up the scoopable bits, vacuumed up the… other bits, and flipped the live guy outside. Yes, I know he’s just going to come back in, but I couldn’t bring myself to squish him.
With much trepidation, we decided that we should open up the next bay towards the interior of the house (which did actually contain the live wires. Still unsawn, I should add.) That one contained nothing but a bit of dust.
Our unscientific conclusion after looking around is that the critters are coming in up at the eaves and falling into that stud bay. Once they’re in, it’s like an oubliette – they can’t climb back out. We figure the scurrying that we hear is them trying to climb up and falling back in. The one we saw was a deer mouse, and apparently they're climbers. The outside of the house is cedar clapboards, so that’s probably easy. Inside the stud bay it’s dimensional 2x4s on two sides and drywall on two sides – both (reasonably) plumb, and both very smooth. That’s why Mickey was hanging around while I was sawing and prying and such – he didn’t have anywhere to go.
We scooped and vacuumed and sprayed air freshener, and then I sprinkled the first bay with baking soda and we put the baseboard back in place. That’ll keep any future mice containerized until we resolve the issue. Then we washed. Because
My father’s take on this? I quote: “Don't close up the entry hole, install a drawer in the bottom so you can empty a very efficient mouse trap.”
Sadly, I may just do that.