Friday, April 9, 2010

When a House is Not a Home (Or, Playing the Game)

Well, you know me [said my friend Beatrice], I couldn't bear the thought of catching that mouse in a spring trap and killing it. But no way could I have it in my house, either. So Jim and I rigged up a live trap in the living room, where we had seen the creature. First, we laid a thin square of cardboard on the floor. Then we propped up a glass mixing bowl, using a pencil. You know, eraser end holding the rim of the bowl, pointy end sticking into the cardboard. We used kite string to hang a piece of bread with peanut butter from the top of the pencil. The idea was, the mouse would tug at the string to get at the bait, the pencil would fall, the glass bowl would come down and trap the mouse.

And it worked! In the middle of the night we heard the glass bowl drop. We ran into the living room to find this little mouse running frantically around and around the inside perimeter of the bowl. All we had to do was carry it outside and dump the little guy into the garden.

But mice don't come singly, I said to Jim, they come in tribes, so we are going to have to keep doing this every night until we trap the whole lot.

The next night, we set up our live trap again, and sure enough, just as before, the bowl came crashing down, we ran to see the result, and a little mouse was again scurrying around and around inside the bowl.

This went on for 13 nights, until on the 14th night, the mouse inside the bowl was sitting there licking the last of his supper off his whiskers and waiting calmly to be put back outside. That's when we realized we'd been feeding the same mouse, night after night!

So this time we waited 'til morning, and then we drove the mouse to the other side of town to let it go.

I've had similar experiences with wild animals returning. Thirty years ago, I got a call from an angry neighbor demanding I should come over to her house and retrieve my damn squirrel. She had been carrying groceries into her house when, without her noticing, the squirrel followed her in. Then as she was unloading the bags, the squirrel climbed up the back of her leg. When she screamed and flailed, the squirrel climbed up her living room draperies, where he was now sitting and chattering.

Once a raccoon got away from me about three days before he was to have been released out in the country. He was the most beautiful raccoon I have ever seen because he was almost solid black, a gorgeous little fluff-ball, when he first came to me, peering up at me from large black eyes as he noisily drank from his bottle.

Several months later, I carried my arthritic little pocket-sized poodle outside one morning to do his duty, then picked him up to bring him back indoors, and just inside the door to the screened porch I stopped and gasped. The black raccoon, now a forty-pounder, was asleep on the table whereon he had been raised, where his nest box and then his first cage had sat. I had walked right past him, unawares, on my way out.

He opened one eye and looked at me.

I wasn't about to go past him again, that close. Poodle and I went around to the front door.

Fortunately, the raccoon ambled away come dark, and I haven't seen him again.

I'm sure you already know the moral of all these stories.


Anam Cara said...

We have used havaheart traps for years, taking mice away to the woods someplace. (When we lived in Kansas we got an entire family within a week as we set multiple traps.)

But over a year ago, we had a resident who preferred fine European chocolate, but also ate crackers, rice, and eventually through the plastic containers I put everything in. For weeks every day I was cleaning up shreds of plastic, paper, and mouse droppings. I was afraid we'd have to call an exterminator.

But then I got a sonic thing that plugs in an emits a sound we can't here. Haven't seen any traces of mice since. I love that contraption!

Now if I could just find something to keep spiders out.

Chocolatesa said...

We used to have mice at my parents place too, my parents used spring traps if the cat was too stupid to catch them herself. I remember sitting up at night and I had a favourite three-legged mouse that would skitter around, I'd feed him cracker crumbs. I even took a picture of him once :P I don't know what happened to him after that.

Once when me and my dad were out walking we crossed a bridge a few hundred yards down the road from our house and I heard some noise down by the river and there was a baby raccoon. So we went and got some cat food and fed him, and he followed us back home. It was all nice and cute until he kept us up all night running across the tin roof chattering and crying, so my dad brought him back to the river and dumped him there. He was back within a few hours, so the next day he drove him a few miles away to make sure he wouldn't come back.

Kacie said...

what a great story! How funny...
I remember my dad catching several mice in a glue trap when I was a child in Indonesia. When I saw the cute little thing I cried and cried and begged him not to kill it but to let it go.

He told me he would, but now I wonder.....