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Delores Marin lives alone, but frequent visitors terrorize her in her Pennsport home. They show up uninvited, nibble her cereal boxes, scamper across her living room floor.
They're mice - and they've taken over her life. "I'm scared to death to eat," Marin said.
She's abandoned her kitchen, moving her microwave into the living room and surviving on TV dinners. The kitchen floor is lined with mouse traps (conventional, as well as glue traps, which she said catch only water bugs), and the table is covered with anti-mouse paraphernalia: Raid pesticide, peanut butter for the traps, gloves for when a mouse is caught, plastic bags for disposal.
Marin's not the only one. At least eight other neighbors have complained of mice problems.
There's Donna McKain, who's too nervous to let her 11-year-old daughter have any sleepovers. And Catherine Potts, who said she caught 80 mice in her house in the spring, and tells her son when he's on his way to the store, "Get me cigarettes and rat poison."
They've all heard the horror stories: The mouse that ran across a teenage girl's forehead while she was napping on her couch. The mouse that scurried across a man's feet as he watched TV.
Most of these neighbors said that in all their years in Pennsport, they've seen an occasional mouse in the basement in the winter, but never in the summer. It's never been this bad, they said.
Inviting the mice in
Some neighbors believe the mouse problem was caused by street work two years ago. But another possible cause lies out back, behind everyone's homes. The narrow shared alleys are overrun by weeds and trash. It's hard to pinpoint who's been dumping, since so many houses share the alley.
Dan Bradbury, vice president of Viking Pest Control, a New Jersey-based company that also serves Philadelphia, said the alleys are "the perfect recipe for mouse infestation," offering water and potential food sources. Besides cleaning up the alleys, Bradbury advised neighbors to keep garbage in sealed metal cans.
Keeping the mice out
What about this onslaught? Neighbors have called the city, and inspectors have come out. But the city doesn't address mice problems, said Jeff Moran, spokesman for the city Health Department, which would come out to trap rats, but not mice. (The city might be able to help with a cleanup: the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services' Community Partnership Program can bring supplies and a crew of people sentenced to community service to help spruce up an area. This, of course, would involve the neighbors helping, too.)
Hiring an exterminator seems to be the best plan for this block. Some neighbors have already tried. McKain hired one more than once, but said it helped for only a few days.
That's because getting rid of the mice in one house won't do the job, Dan Bradbury said. For an exterminator to be useful, the whole block must be treated because the mice can easily travel from house to house.
For this Pennsport block, Help Desk recommended cleaning up the alley and banding together to get an exterminator for the street. Let us know if your block has coped with a similar problem.