A Mouse In the House

Deer Mouse—Peromyscus maniculatus
Deer Mouse—Peromyscus maniculatus

I think mice

Are rather nice.

Their tails are long,

Their faces small,

They haven’t any chins at all.

Their ears are pink,

Their teeth are white,

They run about

The house at night.

They nibble things

They shouldn’t touch

And no one seems

To like them much.

But I think mice

Are nice.

Rose Fyleman (1877-1957) 

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You know that feeling when you think you’ve seen something, you question yourself, and then pass it off as nothing? Well, that’s what happened. We’d just come home from the market when I saw three raccoons sitting side by side peering in through the glass door waiting for cookie treats. Knowing these little darlings had been patient long enough I quickly answered their call. Opening the sliding glass door, and then the screened door, I handed them each two vanilla cream-stuffed cookies; vanilla is their favorite.

Closing the door, I thought I saw something dart across the threshold, but brushed it off as just a shadow cast by the raccoons. Having put the groceries away, I started dinner. We were having spaghetti and Italian meatloaf.

It was a few hours later when I was wrapping leftovers that I heard something. It was the tiniest sound; a faint shuffling coming from the corner of the kitchen counter behind the tea canister. I knew right away it what it was. Slowly, I moved the canister. There, in the corner, was a frightened deer mouse. She was looking at me, her nose and whiskers twitching. I put the canister back to keep her calm, and called out to Chris, There’s a mouse in the house!

Taking a photo didn’t occur to me, although I wished I had. My only thought at that moment was, if she escapes the kitchen, I might never find her. My plan was to catch her with a plastic container, then slide the lid underneath. Chris would help. He had to make sure she didn’t leave the countertop. Deer mice often travel slower than one might think. The plan was doable. I took away the canister, and slowly reached for her. This got her moving as I knew it would. She traveled along the back of the countertop, along the edge of the back-splash. She stopped to hide behind the coffee pot, soap dish, and other obstacles that I had to move to keep her moving. When Miss Mousey reached the potted fern, on the other side of the sink, she stopped. She liked the fern. It was familiar.  She felt safe.

Catching her took patience as her short travels led her to and from the potted fern and tea canister a half-dozen times. When she was again behind the potted fern, I moved my hand behind her.  Then, the most curious thing happened. There came a very faint, low, gravelly sound. Miss Mousey was growling! I had never heard a mouse growl before. Poor girl, no doubt it was out of fear, not anger. I spoke to Miss Mousey hoping to calm her. Animals can sense kindness, and I hoped she could sense mine. Chris moved the potted fern, and as Miss Mousey tried to make her way back to the tea canister. I lowered the container, and gently slid the lid underneath. I had her!

I took her outside to the rock garden. I opened the container, but she refused to go, so I gave her a little nudge. She scuttled across my hand, then across the rocks, to disappear in the ferns where mice belong.

Of our nineteen years as forest dwellers, and with nature so close to our doorstep, this sort of thing was bound to happen sooner or later. I did learn a couple of things for the experience—that mice growl, and to be more attentive to shadows.

After her release, I spent several hours scrubbing the kitchen from top-to-bottom with bleach, killing any germs left by Miss Mousey. Unfortunately, deer mice (and other rodents) but especially deer mice, are carriers of hantavirus. Harmless to rodents, this virus is often fatal to humans. It’s transmitted by direct contact of rodent feces, urine, and saliva. For more information about hantavirus, just click the link.

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Copyright 2016.  All rights reserved.

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