Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Great Mouse Rescue of 2011!

Hi Folks! Thanks for stopping by! I hope you've all survived the snow and bitter cold Mother Nature's been throwing at us this winter!

I've been debating for some time which critter story I wanted to write about. The matter settled itself yesterday when I climbed out of bed to find two of my cats staring intently at a big wicker basket in the corner of my bedroom. It could only mean one thing: there was a rodent back there somewhere. Sure enough, when I peeked behind the basket, I saw a little brown mouse.

In the three years I've lived in my house, this is only the second time I've seen the mouse. I've known about him for quite a while, though, since I started finding mouse poops in the knife drawer. You might think a mouse hanging out in a knife drawer is a little strange, until I tell you that the cabinet where I keep the cat kibble is directly below that drawer! Apart from occasional poops, though, I never saw the mouse himself. Indeed, sometimes, so much time would go by between poops that I began to wonder whether he'd moved out altogether.

A week or so ago, I found that Buddy and Spanky had taken up positions outside my pantry door. I've lived with my cats long enough to know that when they do that, there's a mouse in the vicinity. Sure enough, when I poked around in the pantry, I found my house guest pacing back and forth behind the 50# bag of duck pellets I store in there. I tried to catch him, but as you may know, they're fast little buggers, and he got away. It doesn't bother me that he got away from me, though. I was more keen that he get away from my cats!

When I lived at my previous home - a renovated chicken coop - there was always a mouse in residence. Hell, there was a chipmunk living somewhere in the attic, too, but these things don't bother me! I figure, they're all God's creatures, and they all have a right to exist. As I see it, my job is to live and let live. Unfortunately, my cats see things differently, so I'm accustomed to running interference, and rescuing mice when I'm able.

At the chicken coop, if the weather was decent, I'd let the mouse go outside in the shrubs. In one memorable instance, it was too cold to just dump the little guy out in the snow and hope he survived. I set up a temporary home for him in the hope that he would weather the weather, as it were, and wait it out until spring came, at which time I planned to release him. The mouse had different ideas, though, and chewed his way to freedom. A week later, one of the cats caught and killed him. Boy, was I steamed about that!

I know that many folks set traps, and shudder at the mere thought of a mouse invasion. These same people like to emphasize their point by telling me that mice can spread diseases, to which I say, how else are you going to build up your immune system if you don't expose it to the occasional illness?! Besides, there's a cure for the plague now!

So instead of trying to eradicate the problem, I spent some time, yesterday morning, trying to coax the mouse out from behind the wicker basket and into my closet. This took some doing because mice don't understand that I'm a benevolent giant intent on saving their lives, they just know that I'm really big and scary-looking! After a few minutes spent watching the little guy ping-pong back and forth around the room, I finally managed to shoo him into the closet. The last thing I saw before I shut the door was that tiny creature leaping into one of my shoes. I assumed I wouldn't see him again for a while. Naturally, I was wrong.

I was watching the nightly news later on when I heard the squeaking. There was a brief cranial delay before my brain realized that the noise meant the mouse was back and the cats had found him. I hustled out of my chair and raced to the living room, where I found all four cats circling around the room the way cats do when they're excited. I spotted the mouse behind the console, and spent some time trying to catch him. As usual, though, he managed to evade me and disappeared without a trace.

Before heading back to my chair and the news, I thought I'd make a pit stop in the bathroom. When I walked in, though, I realized that the mouse hadn't entirely disappeared; he'd managed to find a new hiding place behind the rattan shelves. Judging from Buddy's "I know you're there" position in front of the shelves, it was obvious that Buddy did, in fact, know that he was there!

After chucking Buddy out of the bathroom and closing the door, I had to stop and think about my strategy. Those little field mice move fast, and I've lost more of them than I've actually caught, over the years. I grabbed a sieve from the kitchen, and a small sheet of cardboard from my office, and returned to the bathroom.

When I pulled the rattan shelves away from the wall, the hair dryer and curling iron that had been lying on top dropped like rocks to the floor. I winced and hoped the little guy hadn't been squashed by them. Luckily, he was fine. Glancing around the room, I spotted him desperately trying to squeeze himself between the grates of the heating vent. The grating was too narrow, though, so he raced off in search of another escape route. At some point, he accidentally cornered himself against the toilet. Now was my chance!

Waving at him with one hand, I held the sieve in the other, poised above him. The minute he ran in the direction I wanted him to go, down came the sieve. Gently, I slipped the sheet of cardboard underneath it, sandwiching the mouse in between. Now I had him. Once I'd caught him, though, I had to give some thought to what, exactly, I could do with him. Outside was an ice storm, with five-odd inches of snow still to come. It was much too cold out there to simply throw him out, knowing that he had no warm nest to go to. On the other hand, I couldn't just let him go any old place in the house because those four cats of mine weren't the least bit interested in sharing their home!

When I drew on the knowledge I had of my lodger, I thought that if I could aim him in the direction of the interior walls of the house, he'd be o.k. I mean to say, I lived with the little guy for over two years before myself or the cats actually saw him. Which tells me that there's some part of the house, back behind the kitchen cupboards, where he could live in relative safety.

So while the little brown fellow paced around under the sieve, I cleaned out the cupboard under my kitchen sink. There's a weird space back behind the shelf, where the indoor water meter resides. When I stuck my head in there for a look around, I saw a tunnel, if you will, running behind the cupboards. I imagine that's how the mouse got around, using that space behind my kitchen cupboards. It was the perfect release site.

I held the sieve in one hand, while my other hand supported the sheet of cardboard. Tilting the cardboard downward into that empty space, I lifted the sieve and watched as the mouse plopped down into the tunnel and ran off. Another successful rescue!

As I returned the cleaning supplies to the shelf, I watched in amusement as the cats circled around the room, clearly confounded about the disappearance of the mouse. They're always perplexed at times like this, and they can't understand for the life of them why I feel compelled to ruin their fun. Our conversations go something like this:

Junebug: Why can't we have him, Kelly?

Kelly: Because I like mice, that's why!

Junebug: But Kelly! I like mice, too!

Kelly: Yes, but I like them when they're still alive and wiggly!

Junebug: Me, too, Kelly! I like wiggly mice, too!

As you can see, conversations like that are destined to go round and round in circles with no resolution!

For those of you who are on the fence, mouse-wise, I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage you to use humane methods to trap your uninvited house guests. You can always release them outside, or, better yet, release them secretly into the house of someone you don't particularly like! No, I'm kidding! Releasing them at your local park, though, would be just the thing.

My friend Bob Tarte, author of Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather (both available at amazon.com) wrote a great story about how he humanely trapped several raccoons and released them on what he thought was an empty bit of property. As luck would have it, the property turned out to have a house on it, and I think Bob's been counting himself lucky ever since that he never got caught releasing those raccoons!

The point I'm trying to make here is that there are a number of species that we humans consider pests, who aren't, really. They're just having trouble finding their place in the modern scheme of things. When we flatten a field or forest to built a strip mall, we don't compensate those displaced critters; we try to eliminate them altogether. How cruelly unfair that is! And I refuse to believe that any God in any religion is o.k. with all that extermination. As far as I'm concerned, the welcome mat is always out for mice in need!

That's all for now, folks. Hang in there just a bit longer and I do believe that spring will get here! Until then, please be kind to all the critters! Thanks again for stopping by. Please leave me a comment so I know you were here!