Like many pests, mice are drawn to heat and food sources, especially as outdoor temperatures drop and winter approaches. Their smaller stature compared to other rodents allows mice to find many creative ways to gain entry to your home during the colder months of the year.
Mice don’t hibernate and search for dry, warm, and dark places to take shelter in the winter. Mice will most commonly nest inside your home during winter months in areas such as:
- Wall voids
- Crawl spaces
- Kitchen pantries
So, instead of having to share your interior space with these rodents over the winter, let’s take a closer look at these potential hiding places for mice and what you can do to help make sure they don’t become a permanent, unwanted resident in your home. Let’s get to it!
Do Mice Hibernate During Winter?
We’re probably all familiar with the famous Christmastime story quote “Not a creature was stirring–not even a mouse.” So where exactly were the mice then this Christmas Eve? They certainly wouldn’t turn down cookie crumbs that were left behind from Santa’s snacking!
So, while we may not be able to answer exactly where the mice in this storybook went, we can assure you that mice don’t hibernate during winter.
Typically, mice will spend most of their waking hours seeking shelter from predators, foraging for food, and simply staying warm.
Your home may provide the perfect option to satisfy these needs, but as mice make their way indoors, this can also cause problems for yourself and your family.
These rodents are chewers, so they can pose a threat to your cardboard storage boxes, home insulation, wires, and other boxes or bags of food. If you store any hand-me-downs or other precious family heirlooms in these places, they could be at risk of being destroyed as well.
So Do Mice “Return” After Winter?
To make this short – no! Mice don’t “return” after winter because they never hibernate. Infact, you’ll notice them even more during the winter because they’re more likely to come inside your home.
Once they find a proper food / shelter source, mice will stay as long as they can!
To help combat mice activity during winter, let’s dive into some of the common areas you may find these rodents when the temperatures dip and what you can do to prevent them from getting into your home.
1. Attics Make A great Winter Home For Mice
This might be a surprising location for some to read on our list. When we think of mice, we don’t think of them going in an upward direction to look for food and protection, but let’s not forget about those mice from Cinderella!
Mice are attracted to areas that don’t have a great deal of human presence or foot traffic, so for many of us, our attics would qualify as a wanted home for these creatures.
This is just one of the many things that could attract mice to your home.
Since there is often a low human presence in our attics, this spot serves as a prime location for mice to nest. Since their only company is probably a box of old decorations you can’t quite convince yourself to throw away yet, mice stay unnoticed in your attic for months on end.
How To Keep Mice Out Of Your Attic
Keeping an eye out for mouse droppings is a simple yet effective way to determine if you have mouse activity in your attic. You can likely go days, weeks, or even months before spotting one of these critters scurrying along your baseboards.
But how did the mice get in your attic in the first place?
In most cases of mice activity in your attic, mice can get in through an opening along your roofline. This could be from a spot where pieces of insulation have gapped or insulation has gone completely missing, leaving access to your attic from the outside world open for mice and other pests.
Consider having a professional inspect your attic to determine if you’re missing any patches of insulation or if there are any areas of damage that could become potential openings. If you get a report back of any insulation gaps, consider getting them filled sooner than later so you can prevent mice from scurrying above your head in your attic.
BONUS BENEFIT: Filling in any gapped or missing insulation will also help keep heat inside your home during the colder months. Talk about a win-win!
2. Mice Will Live In Garages During Winter
Garages can become a home to many pests during the winter months, and mice are certainly a pest on that list.
While it’s true that your garage may not be as warm and toasty as your attic, and may not even be as quiet, your garage can still serve as a welcomed shelter from cold and snowy weather in a pinch. Yes, mice love to live in garages!
During the winter months, many homeowners will bring their garbage bins into their garages so they don’t have to weather the colder temps themselves for their weekly garbage disposal.
Unfortunately, this simple move of our bins, which we do to help ourselves, may also be a benefit to any mice that get into our garage. These bags and bins provide a plentiful food source.
Between the other items that could also be stored in your garage — unused toys, half-opened bags of potting mix, toolboxes, and maybe even that award-winning classic car. All these items could be made into a potential home for a mouse nest.
If mice have gotten into your car and you can’t seem to get rid of them, check out this guide on shooing mice out of your vehicle!
How To Keep Your Garage Mouse-Free
To help keep your garage protected from mice during cooler months, the first step is to remove any mice already there, and then prevent them from making their way back inside.
To help get rid of any mice that may already be in your garage, consider placing traps along the walls where you may have spotted any mouse droppings. Mice often travel the same path, so placing your preferred Tomcat Mouse Trap along their path will help catch any current unwanted visitors you may have.
While handling your current mouse activity shouldn’t be delayed, it’s important to be proactive about reducing the likelihood of mice gaining entry in the first place too.
Check your garage doors and windows to ensure that they’re sealing properly and that you don’t have any sizeable gaps where mice could squeeze under or through for entry.
Keeping your garage organized and tidy will also help reduce mouse activity, but also make any unwanted activity easier to spot if they manage to make their way inside.
3. Crawl Spaces Provide Shelter For mice In The Winter
Crawl spaces and basements are the lowest points of entry in our homes, and while they’re often portrayed as cold and dismal areas on television, they can provide a nice warm and (yes) dimly lit environment for mice to make their home.
While the amount of foot traffic in our basements may vary depending on whether we make it into a usable living space or not, there are usually a handful of utilities that are run into our home through this lowest level.
From your furnace, water heater, and other utilities that may be in your basement, the number of viable locations for mice to nest and hide can be limitless.
How To Keep Mice Out Of Your Crawl Space
Whether it’s through an unsealed window well or a crack in your foundation, there are several ways that mice can gain easy access to your basement and remain undetected.
Consider performing a thorough inspection of your basement or crawl space to identify any potential entry points like foundation cracks or gaps in your plumbing or ductwork (more on that one later). Sealing off these entry points will help place an additional layer of protection between your home and mouse activity.
Like your garage, consider keeping your basement neat and organized. Having a clean area will help reduce the number of locations for pests to nest in your crawl space or basement and allow for easier detection of any mouse activity that could appear in the future.
4. Mice Love Living in Your Wall During Winter Months
Have you ever heard a scratching noise coming from somewhere in your home and you couldn’t quite pinpoint where it was coming from? When you put your ear up to the wall, did this sound seem to get louder? If so, you could have mice in your walls.
Now we realize that this location is one of the more obscure and alarming places for mice to make their way to during winter, but the inside of your walls makes for a convenient hideaway for mice because they can remain undetected for quite some time simply because they aren’t visible.
With plenty of escape routes and built-in connections throughout your house in between your walls, the interior of your walls allows mice to get to pretty much anywhere in your home without being seen.
Unfortunately, the scurrying of their tiny mouse feet as they run from place to place may be the only sign that they could be inside your home’s walls at all.
Also – I encourage you to take a look at our piece on the sounds and noises that mice make for more identification tips!
How To Keep Your Walls Mouse Free
Because of the difficulty of pinpointing mice activity within your walls during winter, we recommend leaving this detection and treatment to the professionals.
If you hear scratching that appears to be coming from inside your walls, contact your local pest professional to conduct a survey and determine if you have mice in your walls and the level of infestation.
These professionals can help identify the nesting spot where the activity likely originated and eliminate the rodents safely. In these situations, the professionals also help seal any entry points they’ve spotted to help keep mice from getting inside your wall voids again.
5. Mice Crawl around in Ductwork For Warmth During The Cold
The ductwork in your home is the ventilation system used to deliver airflow throughout your house. During the winter months, your ductwork is key in delivering heat to the different areas of your home to keep it warm and toasty on those bone-chilling evenings.
Since the ductwork in your home is already installed to resemble a tunnel-like system, these ducts can provide mice access to many areas of your home during the colder months. The warm air flow also helps provide them with a heated area to nest.
This is a big one as they can really sense that heat especially since it’s so cold outside. In fact, these are one of the more common ways that mice get into your house.
How To Protect Your Ducts From Mice
Mice can enter your duct system when there are gaps, cracks, or other openings within the system itself, usually from an exterior point of entry near your HVAC unit. If you have a fireplace, any openings or cracks near this system could be a point of entry as well.
To help keep mice out, check these exterior areas for any openings and patch any holes or cracks that you may find.
If you’ve spotted an opening that may not be easily sealed with caulk or similar products, consider covering or sealing the area with a mesh material like Sotee’s Stainless Steel Woven Wire Mesh Screen so rodents can’t easily gain access.
To eliminate any current mouse infestation in your ductwork, because of the potential hazards that come along with pests in your home’s air system, bringing in an experienced pest professional will be the safest and most effective way to get rid of any current mouse population in your ducts.
These pest professionals can locate the central nest and help remove the nest, mice, and any droppings or other remains that have been located and causing unpleasant smells to travel or spread throughout your home via the ductwork.
6. Kitchen Pantries Are Mouse Havens During Winter
Kitchens are a popular place for many pests to call home because of the readily available food in a contained area.
From your kitchen pantry or cupboard to your cabinets and drawers, hungry mice will find their way inside your home and then stay for the food.
During the wintertime when food is a bit harder to come by than usual – your pantry is a goldmine for mice!
Protecting Your Pantry From Mice
We’re not likely to welcome mice and other rodents into our kitchen like the rat from the movie Ratatouille, so if you spot the corners of your food storage bags or boxes being nibbled on or have seen other signs of mouse activity like droppings or nesting, it’s best to act quickly so your food sources aren’t contaminated.
Here are a few ways you can eliminate mouse activity in the kitchen:
- Use traps. Since your kitchen is home to your own food source, be mindful of where you place traps so that they’re out of reach of little hands and won’t risk contamination of your current food in storage.
- Place cinnamon sticks in your cabinets and drawers. Did you know mice don’t like the smell of cinnamon? Consider tying together a few sticks of cinnamon and placing them in your drawers, cabinets, and even your pantry to keep mice away.
- Use white vinegar to repel mice from your pantry. You can soak cottonballs in vinegar and place them in potential mouse accessible spaces in your pantry (like the floor or
- Call your local professional. When in doubt, reach out to your local pest professional for assistance to eliminate mice quickly and effectively from your kitchen area.
Other than cinnamon, you can use things like vinegar, peppermint, cloves, and many more scents to keep mice at bay. You can find a full list of scents mice hate here!
7. Mice Live in Underground Tunnels Outside Your House In Winter
Despite their small stature, mice are pretty hearty rodents that can thrive in harsh conditions. This is, of course, a truer statement for mice who spend their lives outdoors–your pet mouse wouldn’t survive outside during the cold during winter.
If outdoor mice can’t get inside your home or other building structures during the winter months, many will dig tunnels under the snow and into the ground for shelter.
In addition to providing a safe passage for travel between their food sources, many mice will also use their underground tunnels to nest and bear their young.
How To Prevent Mice From Burrowing
One of the little victories when it comes to mice being outdoors is simply that–they are outdoors.
Unfortunately, if you have a handful of mice using your yard as their underground travel system, they could attract other unwanted pests in your yard.
During winter, it may be hard to keep the area around your home’s foundation and walkways clear but keeping these areas as clean as possible is helpful to detect any traces of wanted pests. It also helps spot any holes that could be a part of a mouse’s tunnel systems.
You can also watch for any food scraps that may have appeared in your yard that weren’t previously present.
Sometimes food scraps will be dropped by mice and other pests while they return to their home, so you can use these scraps as an identifier of commonly used routes and maybe even detect their exact location.
That’s A Wrap!
In the cold of winter, we all want to spend more of our time indoors and out of the cold. With family and friends visiting for the holidays too, you’re sure to have a few extra visitors, but you’ll want to make sure that those visitors don’t include mice.
To help prevent mice from making their way indoors this winter season, be sure to check for signs of activity in the following places:
- Crawl spaces
- Wall voids
- Kitchen pantries
If you notice that some of your items have been chewed on, if you spot any mouse droppings, or if you notice any other sights or sounds of these pests, don’t delay in taking action to locate these pests and plan your course of action for kicking them out.
Make sure to practice common maintenance and preventative measures for keeping mice out of your home during winter, like regularly removing trash and debris and conducting routine inspections to locate any potential entry points. It’s extremely good practice! If you have a mouse inside right now, take a peak at our guide on the 7 things to do if you find a mouse in your house!
As always, if you feel like the infestation may be beyond your capabilities, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pest professional and make an appointment for an inspection of your home to get rid of any mice in your home.
Barnett, S. A. (1965). Adaptation of mice to cold. Biological Reviews, 40(1), 5-51.
Dunaway, P. B. (1968). Life history and populational aspects of the eastern harvest mouse. American Midland Naturalist, 48-67.
Jirkof, P. (2014). Burrowing and nest building behavior as indicators of well-being in mice. Journal of neuroscience methods, 234, 139-146.
Schorr, R. A., Lukacs, P. M., & Florant, G. L. (2009). Body mass and winter severity as predictors of overwinter survival in Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. Journal of Mammalogy, 90(1), 17-24.
Scott, J. P. (1943). Social behavior, range and territoriality in domestic mice. In Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science (Vol. 53, pp. 188-196).
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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