Mice in the kitchen

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.The mouse traps were empty when I slid out of bed to check. I’m glad.

I know about disease vectors and the bother of the little critters nibbling into the sleeves of saltines crackers, leaving a carpet of tiny black pellets on the pantry shelf. But, really, they don’t eat much.

I lived for awhile in a cabin in a wood. On a winter evening, we would watched a tiny critter appear on one side of the living room, scurry around the top edge of the tongue-and-groove knotty pine sheathing to the pantry – where he (or she) – knew a tube of Ritz crackers waited. He took one, then retraced his path to his family.

We had a deal. We took from the single tube of crackers, and he left the rest. One cracker a night was all he took on his raid, possibly because we kept the rest of our food stuffs stored in sealed containers.

My partner in mous-i-cide (she plans the crime and I am charged with its execution) is loath to share crackers with the little guys; thus I have lately been tasked with baiting traps with peanut butter at night, and checking for expired mice in the morning. The good news is, she has learned that mice strongly object to ultrasonic noise and peppermint. Thus we have three plug-in sound makers in the kitchen, and the charming aroma of peppermint oil throughout the house.

It seems to be working. We got one each of the first two nights, but so far, no more.

Meanwhile, outside the back door, another, cuter, rodent stands looking in the window, wondering why we have been delinquent in serving the morning ration of peanuts. These Gray Squirrels are not afraid to come up and knock on the glass if we don’t take the hint voluntarily. Of course, they do not come indoors, which likely would be detrimental to their health.

Squirrels – at least the ones around here – are nearly domesticated. Emphasis on “nearly.” It’s not that they don’t fear humans. They are a bit like cats – they just don’t care. They know if you twitch in a manner they do not like, they can be up a tree or the house roof in a flash. And if one of them gets close enough to grab, don’t. Any teeth that can open an acorn are not going to tickle when they open a finger.

While being friendly with certain animals can be fun, one must be careful of actually trying to get too close to most wild critters. Some of them are downright ugly if they get the idea they are cornered, or that a human is getting too close to their offspring.

And every year there is a story about a human passerby finding a “sick” baby alone in a grassy pasture or under a dead tree. I once stumbled upon a Mama raccoon and her kits snuggled under a piece of deadfall. I came upon them rather suddenly, before they had chance to run off, so they simply hunkered down to await my departure. I grabbed a couple of camera shots and slipped away.

Under no circumstance should a human pick up a “stranded” wild baby. The parents likely are not far away, and may be rather testy discovering a stranger playing with their kids.

I love wandering though the woods. There are all sorts of wild critters out there, and finding and cataloging them is a satisfying challenge.

The most kick is coming home with a picture, or at least a story, of something I’d never seen before. Especially if it was not in the kitchen.

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