Freshman Chrissy Boyer and Megan DeSmit have grown accustomed to stolen Dove chocolate, chewed text books and the snapping sound of mouse traps in their Jefferson Hall residence hall room.
The mice tally on their white board reads 11 killed. Using snap traps they bought themselves, Boyer and DeSmit caught two mice before winter break and nine mice since returning from winter break.
Other freshmen in the Jefferson Hall basement, have reported multiple mice sightings, but none have caught as many as Boyer and DeSmit.
According to John Wiltenmuth, the associate vice president of facilities services, 25 online work orders related to mice were submitted since November 2008. This is a small proportion compared to the 1017 work orders submitted per month ranging from cockroaches to clogged toilets to light bulb replacements.
Perma Treat, the contracted pest-control company UMW uses, sends technicians twice every week.
Jefferson Hall, Virginia Hall and Willard Hall have had the most reported mice problems, according to Wiltenmuth. South Hall has also had mice in the kitchen areas and some rooms, according to Director of Residence Life Christine Porter.
“Unless we got rid of all the trees and made the entire campus asphalt, we will have mice every year,” Porter said.
Porter said that even Marye Hall where Residence Life is located has had mice for nine years.
“They eat the glue on envelopes so I refuse to lick envelopes,” Porter said.
The mice problem gets significantly worse during the winter as the mice move indoors to find warmth and food.
Mice can slip through holes the size of a pencil width. They make nests in areas near buildings with stone, brick, wood and leaves as close as possible to a food source, according to the Perma Treat Web site.
“In any large group living, some people will have mice because some residents are better housekeepers,” Porter said. “We do what we can, but people need to keep kitchens and rooms clean.”
Junior Sunnan Yoon, a resident of South Hall, said that her room is kept clean, but she and her roommate still have mice problems and had to place glue traps around the room.
“When we got back from break, a bag of closed chips on top of the refrigerator had been chewed through and eaten by mice,” Yoon said.
Yoon and her roommate, Jennie Babadilla, had to wash all of their clothes and sheets after mice chewed through shirts and left droppings in the drawers. Residence Life refused to pay for the washings.
The University will not pay for damages to personal property, according to Porter. Student housing contracts state, “Students are responsible for the care and safety of their own personal property. The University cannot be held liable directly or indirectly for loss of or damage to, the personal property of individuals.”
Boyer and DeSmit have also been taking precautions to stop their mice problems. They put all food in sealed plastic containers and placed books and other items on the floor in boxes. They have bought three reusable snap traps at around $5 apiece and put steel wool around pipe openings.
“Altogether we have spent close to $25 on this problem,” DeSmit said. “The school has put traps in the hallways, but the mice are in our walls.”
Often, glue or sticky traps are put in the dorm rooms to catch mice. In Jefferson Hall room 15, freshman Morgan Jones put peanut butter inside the glue traps to further entice the mice, but the mice were too smart for these traps.
“The mouse would just push the trap around the room,” Jones said.
Kelly Waheland, Jones’ roommate, was cheered up by her dad’s joke that “the mouse was too smart for the traps since it obviously goes to a university.”
According to Wiltenmuth, of facilities services, glue boards have been the most effective traps for Perma Treat.
“Snap traps are subject to accidental closure and pose a risk of injury to fingers and bare toes,” Wiltenmuth said.
Nonetheless, he said, “We have discussed the matter with our Perma Treat technician and requested that snap traps also be utilized.”
Wiltenmuth warns that students who purchase their own traps should exercise caution. “Use gloves, place in plastic bags and throw in dumpster (please don’t flush down the toilet) and then wash hands well,” Wiltenmuth said.
Other girls in the Jefferson basement hear squeaking in the walls or have seen mice under their sinks. Freshman Julia Holmes has found mouse droppings on washcloths and towels under the sink.
According to these girls, the response of Residence Life and facilities services was slow at first, until the Jefferson Head Resident found a dead mouse in her room and parents started calling.
Porter verified that the Head Resident did find a mouse. She said her department responded promptly all along.
“We take it seriously whether it is one mouse or 20 mice,” Porter said. “We work collaboratively with facilities services to put out poison and traps and educate residents about precautions they can take.”
Holmes’ mother called Assistant Director of Residence Life Bethany Friesner who is in charge of the area of Bushnell, Jefferson and Randolph Halls.
Friesner then sent out an e-mail to Jefferson residents explaining what Facilities Services is doing to manage the mice problem and explaining what residents can do to help.
Boyer and DeSmit have seen a positive response recently. “We have not had a mouse in four days,” DeSmit said.
This is an improvement from when the girls caught three mice in four hours after returning from winter break.
Boyer agreed that the school has done a good job putting steel wool and foam around pipes and plugging holes where mice could get in.
“The first time I saw a mouse, I jumped around and called my neighbor, but now we are pretty used to it,” DeSmit said.