by guest writer Darlene West
We had been country dwellers for maybe a year when my husband, John, suggested casually one morning on his way out the door that we should pick up some mouse traps.
I drained my cup of coffee, dashed outside, and found him near the Quonset hut, tossing his wire cutters and Gripple tighteners behind the seat of his tractor.
“Did you see one?” I asked.
“A mouse. Did you see a mouse in the house?”
“Just some droppings,” he said. “In the mud room, inside the basement door.” He grabbed his hearing protectors, hopped on the tractor, and turned the key.
“We’ll just get some traps,” he shouted over the roar of the engine. He slipped the tractor into reverse and looked over his shoulder. Then he guided the rear forks under a stack of wooden bins, picked them up, and drove away. Our Border Collie, who had been asleep under a plum tree near the creek, jumped to his feet and followed.
I sauntered back to the empty house. In my basement office, I turned on my laptop, but I couldn’t focus. Would the mouse stay near the back door, I wondered, or venture deeper into the house? Would it head for the kitchen? A cupboard? A closet? It could be right in my office. I imagined finding the mouse in my desk drawer or taking a book off my shelf and meeting its whiskered face.
Alone in the house, I heard clicks and scratches I’d never noticed before. A heater squeaked, a floorboard cracked, a water softener hissed. Easy for John to be so blasé, driving his tractor through open fields where mice had their own lives and their own space.
My morning was already half wasted. I Googled “mouse extermination.”
When I opened the link to Trusty Rodent Removal a male voice boomed out of my laptop: “If you have mice affecting your property, you’ve come to the right place.”
I lowered the volume and listened to a 60-second spiel on how mice enter a wall cavity and den up in an attic or crawl space to have their young, how the young mice chew on electrical wires causing fires, how they sometimes die, causing odour problems. “Mice, like rats, will often infest a building for years, causing the building to lose its value.”
The Trusty Rodent Removal site had a wild animal information section with a substantial area devoted to mice. A photograph of what I took to be a dead mouse appeared above the caption: “view our mouse photo gallery.” I turned, instead, to the FAQ section, which addressed a dozen or so questions ranging from “What do mice eat?” to “Will mice hurt my dog?”
Mice, I learned, have litters of five to six babies that grow up fast. “They’ll be independent in about a month.” Multiply that by 5 or 10 litters a year. “You can see how one or two mice in the attic or walls can become 20 in no time.”
I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to read that mice quite often slip in through an open door, hang out near the entry, and leave. Instead, I read how mice get into your house in the fall by climbing right up the wood siding or brick. Or even by jumping or swimming. “Mice will tear into areas of your home or business and haunt it for years to come. Sometimes, so many shack up that the space becomes a mouse hotel.”
On the drive to town, I thought about life in a mouse hotel and felt a sad longing for the person I was before I knew about mice. It was tourist season. I envied the passengers in the cars I passed on the highway. People like me before I became aware that mice enjoy living in large electrical spaces such as the back of ovens. Before I knew that mice will eat anything and are not afraid of trying new foods. Before I learned that once mice get into your walls you can hear them climbing, squeaking, and fighting right above your head. I wished I could send this information back where it came from.
In the hardware store, I picked up a package of Victor conventional wooden mouse traps. On the same shelf, a round, plastic device caught my eye – a better mouse trap, the package said. The idea of the plastic trap was that the top, when shut, would cover the dead mouse so the user would never have to see or touch the body. I took the better mouse trap as well.
Later that evening we baited the wooden traps with cheese and placed them on window ledges and shelves around the basement where our dog wouldn’t spot them. Some traps were more sensitive than others. They sprung shut with a snap when we set them on the floor and had to be reset. I put the better mouse trap in a closet in a storage room.
The next morning, I was in my office when John got back from an early run and heard a persistent clacking noise that he traced to the storage room in the basement. He opened the door.
A mouse screamed across the floor and thrashed and crashed and tried to climb the wall. The better mouse trap was firmly attached to its tail.
I’d heard the clacking noise, of course. How could I not? Even with all I had read about rodents that racket was hard to believe. But I didn’t budge. I stayed at my desk. You wouldn’t discover a trapped mouse and then just walk away. A rodent would be dealt with by the person who found it.
I was certain that wouldn’t be me.
Gordon's note: Trusty Rodent Removal, whose website is quoted in Darlene's story, is a made-up name for a real company. We found the same scary copy on many exterminators' websites. The claim that mice "will tear into areas of your home or business and haunt it for years to come" appeared on a number of sites, in precisely those words, except that "mice" was often replaced with "rats," "skunks," or even "armadillos." "Trusty" also says that once mice figure out how to get into your house, bees, bats, and chipmunks follow the same route. The company stands ready to handle all of these pests, along with woodpeckers, toads, and wild pigs.
Next: Giant Mice Ravage the Land