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.