Kaua’i winning mice, typhus battle

Kaua’i’s Department of Health is using the same “poisoned oats” approach as on Maui to control the Westside mouse infestation, and the bait is being scattered in unoccupied lands above Waimea Heights.

Since June, when mice started becoming a problem, the Kaua’i Vector Control department has used about 200 pounds of poisoned barley seed in the tall grass and on vacant brush land owned by the state and Kikiaola Land Company, Ltd. above the Waimea Heights subdivision.

Mice were expected to leave the dried-up former crop fields and head to town for food and water, said Leroy Tangalin, Vector Control supervisor.

The concern on Maui is murine typhus, a bacterial infection transmitted by fleas that feed on infected rodents before biting a human. Symptoms include rash-like hives, body aches, headache and nausea.

The number of cases has reached 11 on Maui over the past month, but Kaua’i has logged just one. Kaua’i residents shouldn’t worry because continued monitoring and poison traps have shown the mouse population is dwindling, thus decreasing the risk for murine typhus, Tangalin said.

“It was a big problem in June and July, but we monitored it so it’s under control now,” Tangalin said. Waimea farmers and homeowners haven’t called Vector Control for about a week and a half, and fewer mice have been caught in traps. The mice are not getting smarter; they are becoming less of a problem, Tangalin said.

Carrie, a Waimea Plantation Cottages employee, said they haven’t had a problem on the grounds and thinks the vector control traps must be working. At her house in Waimea, she said she had her husband set up traps, but caught just five or six.

During the last week of June, 92 “tin cat” traps placed by Vector Control caught 270 mice. In mid-July, 92 traps were placed in the same locations, and trapped 190 mice. On Aug. 15, the same number of traps caught just 24 rodents.

Westside residents should continue anti-rodent precautions around the home: Clean up fallen fruit; maintain the yard; put away animal food; and make sure there are no openings through which a mouse can enter.

Mice travel 10-30 feet but if they don’t have food they will travel farther, Tangalin said. A female mouse can reproduce after 1 1/2 months, having eight litters of 5-7 mice in one year, which is about how long a mouse lives.

Residents can construct their own traps: Place a few pieces of dry dog food in a five-gallon bucket, then use a piece of plywood as a ramp, leading into the bucket. Mice won’t be able to escape.

Mice should either be buried or drowned; in either case spray them with pyrethrin (insect poison) to kill fleas that may be carrying murine typhus.

“The bucket trap works… Every day I caught about two or three in the bucket, until the stray cats started coming and eating the dog food,” said a resident of Panini Place who wished to remain anonymous. Panini Place is one of the last neighborhoods in Waimea Heights before reaching Koke’e.

The mice are ugly little creatures that caused some property damage, and he and his wife used to see them run across the garage floor and they even ate through the window screen. Thankfully the louvers were closed so they couldn’t come into the house, he said.

Lori Cardenas, an administrative assistant at Kikiaola Land Company, said she hasn’t seen any mice on the properties, but she and her family did see a mouse climbing up a coconut tree at Po’ipu Beach Park last weekend.

A man who works in Waimea every day said he thinks the whole Waimea area is still infested. Vector Control employees set up traps at his place of business, and though he said he sees mice every day, their numbers seem to be dwindling.

“I don’t know about the problem getting worse or better, but they catch ’em,” he said.

For more information on the mouse infestation, please contact Vector Control at 274-3306.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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