Post-Apocalypse Pantry: Mouse Edition
Once you’ve established your food supplies and survival kit, the most important thing you can do is to protect it from the elements and Mother Nature’s other surprises. There’s no point in building up the perfect kit to get you through the apocalypse if you risk losing it all in the first bad storm or pest infestation.
Mice are a particularly annoying problem to have to deal with. They can squeeze into the tiniest of spaces and once they’re there, it’s extremely hard to get them to leave.
On top of eating through your well-thought out survival kit, mice can also spread serious diseases such as salmonella and hantavirus. For all of these reasons, your primary strategy should be to keep mice away from your survival site, and food in particular.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Sonic mouse repellents, while quite effective, are unlikely to work in a post-apocalypse situation with limited electricity. The battery operated ones will take up valuable space in your survival kit. A more low-tech option is to get a cat (preferably a good mouser, but the scent of any cat should do a decent job of keeping mice at bay).
Peppermint oil is also a good option – mouse can’t stand the smell of the stuff. Soak some cotton balls in the oil and place it near your food stores and in strategic locations around your survival site. You may end up smelling like a candy cane but it’s a small price to pay for keeping mice away.
The more likely scenario is that a mouse (or five) will cross your path at some point. To prepare for this scenario, it is critical to ensure that all of your gear – food in particular – is well-protected and properly stored. Food should be kept in containers so that mice can’t chew through boxes or other packaging. Plastic is clearly preferable to glass given the weight differential. As discussed in a previous post, coffee cans also make an excellent storage option and they can later be converted into mini stoves if required.
If you are using resealable plastic bags to protect your kit, again food in particular, I highly recommend double-bagging everything. This will ensure that you have a steady supply of plastic baggies for future use, and will significantly reduce the chances of mice smelling your precious food store (they are shockingly good at chewing through a single layer of plastic).
Once you discover that you have mice, thoroughly clean out the contaminated area. This should be done carefully to avoid any potential exposure to hantavirus, which can be spread in mouse urine and droppings. Once you’ve cleaned the area, add some peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls to remove the scent trails and deter the mice from coming back. You should also conduct a through search of the structure for holes, but don’t expect to find them all – mice are able to squeeze through ridiculously tight spaces. As a last resort you may want to invest in mouse/rat poison, although this is not recommended if you expect to have small children or other animals in your survival group.
While it’s not pleasant to think about, prepping for pests will go a long way to improving your survival odds (and it’s a very useful skill for this world as well).