An Ounce of Prevention

A better—and far cheaper—way to deal with uninvited guests is to keep them from getting in at all. It's a little like burglar-proofing: If you make it tough enough to break in, they'll give up and go elsewhere. The pest-control folks call this "exclusion," a fancy name for plugging entry holes. It's tedious work—mice can wriggle through an opening just ¼ inch across—but if done correctly, you reap lots of benefits: no traps or poisons to handle, and no decomposing carcasses (or, worse, angry live critters) to get rid of. Plus, you can do much of the work yourself using items commonly found in the hardware store.

Critters usually get past the gates you aren't guarding very carefully: the garage, the basement, the roof, anywhere they find a crevice big enough to slip through. To make sure you aren't vulnerable this fall, ask a local firm to examine and troubleshoot your house. "Most companies will be happy to send someone out to inspect and make recommendations," says Greg Baumann, technical director of the National Pest Management Association. Then you have the option of hiring the pest control firm or a contractor to plug the holes, or doing it yourself. Whatever you do, Baumann says, don't defeat your preventive work by inadvertently rolling out the welcome mat. "It doesn't make sense to pay someone to do exclusion work and then leave the garage door wide open until bedtime. By then, they're already inside."
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