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House mouse Mouse nest in a hat. Norway rat Rat burrow
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What they look like
Mice, rats, and voles. Chipmunks and squirrels. These rodents have similar body plans: long and low to the ground. Whiskers that let them feel their surroundings. Great climbers, and all (minus voles) great jumpers, too. All have brown or gray fur. Then there’s their trademark: two long front teeth. Most can squeeze through impossibly small holes, relative to body size—the width of a pencil. Only chipmunks and squirrels have noticeably furry tails. Think you’ve seen a rat, but it waddled rather than ran? Could be an opossum, which isn’t a rodent.

Where they live
Where don’t they live? A ball of twigs and leaves in a tree is probably a squirrel nest. A hole in the dirt could be a vole or chipmunk hole. And mice, voles, or rats can make a comfy nest most anywhere.

What they do

Destructive and disease carrying—not a pest you want in your home. Remember those front teeth? Rodents gnaw to get where they want to go. These teeth are hard as steel so rodents don’t discriminate. If they chew through electrical wires, your house could burn down. Mice drip pee wherever they go. But the pee could trigger asthma, and mice carry diseases too.

How to deal with rodents

Pests need four things: a way in, food, water, and a place to hide. Eliminate these to keep rodents at bay. For example, woodpiles are great rodent hangouts. Stacking one right by the house is like providing a soundproof tunnel on the far side of a bank vault. Rodents won’t start gnawing on a smooth surface so seal cracks and use door sweeps to keep them out. Set traps along their paths.

Learn more

Beasts Begone, A Practitioner's Guide to IPM in Buildings

Evict and Exile Mice from Your Home

Contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

... and search our database of online publications.