One morning about a week ago I heard K yelp from the kitchen. What now? I thought, getting out of bed. I found him staring at the counter, ‘we have a mouse’ he declared. Just at that moment, the little critter darted out, lightning fast, from behind the faucet and disappeared down the side of the cabinet behind the refrigerator. Oh crap.
Later that morning, K called from work. “Mice carry all kinds of diseases” he said, a note of panic in his voice .”They carry Hantavirus” . “Are you sure? Around here?” I asked, trying to downplay this potential hazard. “In Colorado” he said, then, presumably googling, “there were seven mice found with it in North Carolina in 1994”. “I think we’re okay on that front” I said.
Still they do carry disease, and we couldn’t share our kitchen with this mouse. By the afternoon we had a plan, and that evening we filled all the holes we could find with steel wool, and set out three glue traps baited with peanut butter and pizza crust. I washed the counter, cupboards and floor down with bleach, a chemical I normally never use, but obviously necessary in this case.
The next morning I was roused by K exclaiming “we got ’em” triumphantly from the kitchen. We both stared at the little creature stuck to the glue trap behind our toaster. Rather than the house mouse I was expecting, this guy had very large, round ears, and huge beady black eyes. Not a common house mouse at all but a deer mouse.
“He’s PISSED!” I exclaimed. Because he was glaring at us, quite clearly full of fury. And then I was suddenly hit by two simultaneous realizations.
The first was that we were going to have to put an end to our captive’s life. Based on no information whatsoever, I had imagined that the glue trap was the trap of choice because it didn’t kill the animal, allowing for it to be released into some other environment, to live out the rest of its mousey days in peace.
It was quite clear to me now that extricating him from the glue would be impossible. “What does the box say??” I asked. “It says not to touch the mouse, and to put the whole thing in the garbage” K read. I was distressed. We couldn’t put a living thing in the trash, to spend its last hours immobilized in the stinky dark!
Because my second realization was just how sentient this animal was. He (or she) could see us, and was patently angry about its current, dangerous, situation. I had a similar experience a few weeks back when Stella had captured a mole (I’m sorry Auntie Diana!I did get it away from her an hope it survived) and was playing with it in the back yard. Again, I could see that the mole was furious and in fact it was tenacious in its attempts to get away from her. A couple of days ago I was listening to A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, in which he comments on (and I’m paraphrasing) how striking the desperation with which living creatures cling to existence is, paltry though it may be.
Thinking back on it now, I’m not sure why it should be so surprising that the mouse and the mole were aware of what was happening and were experiencing strong emotions while fighting for their lives. Assuming that I’m not alone in this, perhaps it is that we humans (at least the urban ones) have so divorced ourselves from the natural world that we have forgotten how much we share with our small mammalian cousins.
But I digress. Back to our wee deer mouse. I had realized that what was necessary here was a mercy killing, but looking down at the rather charming face, I couldn’t bring myself to be the agent of its doom. Gallantly , if grimly, K offered to dispatch the critter. While I pretended not to listen he put the trap and mouse in a plastic bag, took it outside and stomped on it.
But alas, this is not the end of the our story. For a couple of days later, we saw the tell-tale signs of a second mouse. This one was either more wily, much bigger, or both because our traps were divested of their bait and the glue patterned with toe and tail prints.
Back we went to the store for bigger, chemically baited traps, under the house I went to stuff more holes with more steel wool. Nothing. “The steel wool must be working!” I thought, but added a dab of peanut butter to each trap just in case. Then as I was checking my email one morning I heard a rustling and thudding in the wall next to me.
Alerted by my alarm, Stella stuck her nose to the boards and sniffed with excited concentration. “If it’s in the air vent I’m going to freak out” K declared, picturing airborne viruses blowing through the house. I felt like I was part of a real life Tom & Jerry cartoon: Jerry (the mouse) forever cheerfully eluding the increasingly desperate Tom (me). Maybe the writers had mice.
Finally, yesterday morning, having just returned from the gym I was having a snuggle with Stella when I heard a knocking sound from the kitchen. The noises seemed to be emanating from the stove, and shining a flashlight back there I saw the sweep of a grey tail.
Yep, we had caught mouse #2. This one was indeed much fatter than his compadre, though also a deer mouse and also pissed. He (or she) was violently attempting to pull its body off the sticky surface. It was still difficult to watch but perhaps because of our prolonged stand-off I had slightly less pity for the creature. K was spared his executioners duty because the mouse expired on its own, exhausted from the struggle.
So far we’ve been mouse free since. Deer mice generally live outdoors, so perhaps these two were wanderers, though we are both vigilant. Surely our ancestors antagonism toward nature must have been due in part to the discomforts caused by it’s small agents (mosquitos, mice, voles, cockroaches, wasps etc.) who exist so close to us. It’s us or them, I cry!