Q: I recently acquired my dad's farmhouse, which has been empty for the past eight years. Unfortunately, mice have taken over the place. What's the best way to get rid of them? And how do I get rid of that bad mousy smell?

— Jeff , Dickinson, N.D.

A: Steve Thomas replies: There are lots of ways to get rid of mice, but they basically fall into two categories: poison or traps. Personally, I prefer traps. I've found that poisoned mice are likely as not to die in some inaccessible place, such as inside a wall, and the attendant odors are, well, distinct. Poisons can also be harmful to pets. Simple snap traps, baited with a tiny dab of peanut butter, are cheap and quite effective. And if you're too squeamish to extract a dead mouse, you can just throw the trap and carcass into the trash. When the mice are gone, the mouse smell will eventually fade.

Keeping mice out of a house they've learned to love can be quite a challenge, because they can squeeze through a tiny hole or gap about the size of a dime. Go around the outside of your house and look for any openings a determined mouse might be able to get through. Stuff them with copper mesh, then seal with expanding foam if the gap is larger than ¼ inch, or with caulk if the gap is smaller. Also, make sure all food sources — grains, dog food, bird seed — are packed away in metal or hard-plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.

If after all that you still can't get rid of the rodents, you'll just have to turn the job over to a capable exterminator.
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