MANCHESTER - Mice populations seem to be booming this year. Some locals have been investing heavily in mouse traps to try and solve the problem.

Aubuchon Hardware employees said that they have at least doubled the sales of mouse traps this year compared to last year and that it is the most they have sold in recent memory.

According to C. Kilpatrick, a professor of zoology and natural history at the University of Vermont, the probable cause of high populations of mice has been mild winters, but not just because mice die off during the cold months. Weeds and plants that make great habitat, such as Honeysuckle, provide mice with a good habitat to thrive in and those plants are not being killed off during the winter.

In a recent study done by Kilpatrick in October that focused on capturing small mammals, twice as many as usual were captured, indicating there has been an increase in small mammal population. Along with mice, these small mammals include squirrels, chipmunks, and other small rodents.

According to Kilpatrick, these small mammals thrive together under the same circumstances. Kilpatrick also noticed that the capture success rates of these animals increased from around the normal 10 percent, to a whopping 20 to 30 percent capture rate.

Kilpatrick's study was done in East Charleston, which is located northeast of Burlington. However, the growing mice populations have also occurred here in southern Vermont.

According to Art Tournet, general manager of Vermont Pest Control, calls of pest controls in regard to mice have nearly doubled since last year. "We have received about twice the amount of calls and the frequency in which we have serviced our regular accounts has increased as well," said Tournet.

Tournet also said that the light winter seasons might be allowing the rodents to better gather food and, perhaps, breed without seasonal interruption. So, how might you keep rodents, particularly mice populations, down? Tournet has a simple answer.

"The best thing you can do to keep the mice population down around your home is to upgrade the maintenance of your home," he said, "and the best way to do that is stuff holes with copper wool or steel wool. These wools smell funny to mice and helps to deter them. It also typically looks better and if it gets wet it won't stain."

Why should you do something about a mice problem? Mice can carry harmful bacteria and disease that can cause sickness in the home. According to Kilpatrick, ticks that also carry Lyme disease can be found on mice and mice can bring these ticks into the home. That is the main concern, he said.

Much less likely or prevalent is contracting the hantavirus from mice.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, the virus is thought to be mainly carried by two common rodents: the white-footed mouse and the deer mouse. These mice are native to most of the U.S., including Vermont. Infected rodents shed the virus in saliva, feces, and urine. Humans can become infected when they breathe in dust that contains the dried urine or feces from an infected rodent-or when fresh or dried materials containing infected rodent feces come into direct contact with broken skin, or the eyes, nose or mouth.

Although hantavirus infections are very rare in the U.S., it is possible to get hantavirus in Vermont. Very few cases of human infection from this virus have been reported east of the Mississippi River. However, it is a good idea to avoid contact with rodents and their droppings.

According to the United States National Library of Medicine, symptoms that occur are similar to the flu. The virus has a mortality rate of 35 percent. As recently as October a man hiking in the Adirondacks contracted the disease.

Kilpatrick said that there is almost no threat in contracting the disease, but it is still out there. The main threat is still Lyme disease and mice that have found there way into the home should be dealt with promptly.