August 23, 2019
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Trying to keep a mice-free home in northern Maine

Julia Bayly | BDN
Julia Bayly | BDN
Reggie sees no reason to lose any sleep over a mouse or two in the house.

Let me just say right off the bat, I have no real issues with mice.

In fact, I think field mice with their huge, round eyes, fuzzy large ears and kangaroo-like hind legs are among the cuter denzions in the wild.

As long as they remain where they belong — in the wild.

When they are in my house, it’s another story all together and they suddenly transform into giant, ravenous beasts with saber-tooth like fangs and massive claws bent on destroying my home as well as my sanity.

Basically, what is cute and bucolic outside is sneaky and disease-ridden once it passes my threshold.

And when it comes to tolerating a rodent invasion into my house, my tolerance threshold is pretty low.

Which is why I am engaged in open warfare with an invasion of mice this fall, ostentatiously coming in looking for a warm spot to spend the winter and a possible steady food supply.

I never have liked freeloaders.

It was bad enough when I started hearing them scuttling behind the walls, but a line was crossed when I saw one taking a stroll in the living room and into my downstairs bathroom while I was watching television one evening. He actually stopped and looked at me like, “S’up?” before continuing on and out of sight.

My first reaction was to leap up, shouting — with apologies to William Shakespeare — “Cry Havoc! And Let Slip the Cats of War!”

If only my cats cared.

Reggie, the elderly and somewhat curmudgeonly cat, did not even notice the mouse. The younger huntress Miss Kitty Carlisle noticed, but simply could not be bothered. Apparently she punches off the clock when she comes in after spending all day hunting outside.

Julia Bayly | BDN
Julia Bayly | BDN
Rusty Metal Farm mouser Miss Kitty Carlisle considers herself off duty when she is inside. Despite the presence of mice in the house.

As for tiny dog Chiclet, a mix of two small breeds known for being rodent chasers, she figured it was just another pet moving in.

I was obviously on my own.

My first move was to secure any food or trash that could be attracting the small creatures. Then to figure out just how the heck they were getting in.

The only obvious point of entry I could find is the the open PVC pipe leading underground from the basement to heated shop in the garage.

That pipe was installed so we could run the water pipe through it to the shop and it is open on both ends.

I know there are mice in the shop.

How do I know this? The mountain of sunflower seed shells on the floor that they have left after a summer feasting on my stored bird seed is my best evidence.

My first move was to clean up all those seeds and make sure they were stored properly, hoping to starve them out, much like the warriors of Ye Olde Days laid siege to medieval walled cities.

Then, I plugged both ends of that pipe.

At this point I should note that would seem an easy and cheap fix. It’s not. Something I learned last winter when, after plugging both ends, that water pipe froze because the heat from my basement wood fire no longer could reach and warm it.

One call to the plumber and a not insignificant bill later, it was lesson learned and I have made a mental note to unplug that pipe before the real colds set in.

My next battle plan after the most recent mouse sighting was to gather up any traps I had in the house and set them in what I suspected are high mouse traffic areas.

Unlike the traps of old with their copper wire bar that could break a human finger as easily as a mouse’s neck, these new ones are plastic and are designed to allow baiting and the removal of a dead mouse without ever having to touch the bait platform or the dead mouse.

Around 2 a.m. the first night I had set the traps, I was awakened by a snap coming from the basement. This was followed by a disturbing and ongoing clattering sound, which of course caused me to leap from my bed to see what was the matter.

The basement trap had worked — to a point.

The peanut butter bait had attracted a mouse and had clamped shut, but had only trapped it by the barest tip of one of it’s teeny tiny claws.

This left the now very angry mouse not only thwarted from a late peanut butter nosh, but with three perfectly good legs on which it was doing an impressive job running around the basement, dragging the trap and looking for an escape route.

There ensued a chase I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to forget. Suffice to say, every time I tried to grab the trap by the end not occupied by the mouse, the mouse, in turn, either went for my exposed hand (who has gloves handy at 2 a.m.?) or did a tuck and roll in an effort to escape — no easy feat when connected to a trap.

Finally, I was able to grab the trap, pick it up and drop it into the nearest bag.

I then took the bag with the now super agitated mouse outside and as far from the house as my feet would take me at 2 a.m.

I then upended it, found the longest stick I could and used it to ever-so-carefully open the jaws of the trap and set the mouse free.

With one glaring look back at me, he scrambled off into the woods, hopefully never to be seen again, and with a warning to his buddies thinking of moving in.

Since then, I’ve replaced those traps with newer and apparently more reliable versions and they are set in strategic locations around the house.

So far, things seem at a standstill with nothing in the traps or actual sightings of mice.

I’m hoping they have moved out.

Because the alternative is too fearful to contemplate — that they are busily planning a full-scale invasion.

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