Mice nesting in vehicles in rural Manitoba is costing Manitoba Public Insurance millions of dollars in claims.
According to MPI spokesman Brian Smiley, there was an estimated 1,600 Autopac claims of rodent infestation in stored vehicles in southern Manitoba, up from around 300 claims five years ago.
The 2012 numbers aren’t final, but Smiley said these claims cost approximately $3 million.
MPI is attributing this dramatic increase to two things: an increase in the rodent population in the province and increased public knowledge that rodent infestation can be claimed.
Rodents include squirrels, chipmunks and rats, however it’s estimated mice make up at least 80 per cent of the claims.
In an attempt to find warmth, mice will nest in stored vehicles, finding their way into the passenger compartment, the trunk and the engine bay.
The real issue, according to Smiley is hantavirus, the potentially — albiet rare — fatal airborne virus spread through the feces and dried urine of rodents.
People who contract the infection will suffer severe flu-like symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, fever, body aches, chills and abdominal pains. The symptoms develop within one to six weeks of exposure. Immediate treatment is imperative since the mortality rate is about 50 per cent.
“When people do open up a claim to us, we do tell them don’t drive the vehicle, we’ll make arrangements to get it towed to one of our facilities to check it out,” Smiley said.
“It’s really no different than mice getting into people’s homes, that is an issue also.”
Mice are known to squeeze through seemingly impossible places, but efforts to deter rodents from stored vehicles isn’t completely futile.
“The mouse can literally crawl in anywhere through a number of entryways, and steel wool is a very good deterrent, so if you know there may be potential for a mouse to enter into an area, use steel wool to block it, they won’t chew on it,” Smiley said.
“The theory is, if the mouse can get its nose through the opening, they can squeeze their body in also.”
MPI strongly encourages not to leave food in the vehicle, while avoiding parking near granaries and long deep grass.
The amount of money going into rodent claims may seem dramatic, but still accounts for a very small percentage of total claims across the province.
The majority of the $3 million came from cleaning, however a significant portion also came from write-offs.
“Rodent claims, I can assure you, are a very, very small part of our business,” said Smiley.