Mousey Adventures, Part 2
I had not actually seen a grey furry rodent in the house proper since that first evening. That fateful night, as I sat in the downstairs powder room, the beastie scurried from behind the wastebasket, across the vanity and hung a sharp left into the hallway towards the front door. By the time I rose to follow, the creature had disappeared. My hopes laid in the fact that there existed a small opening in one corner where the flashing met the door jamb, and he had somehow escaped into the outside world, never to show its furry nose again.
Alas, it was not to be.
A little backstory. A few weeks earlier, a grey squirrel (Scientific name: Sciurus carolinensis), ratty and scraggly, began eating a hole in my one-inch thick solid wood garage door. A friend recommended hot sauce as a deterrent. So I immediately went out and bought a pint of the cheapest, hottest red chili sauce money could buy, and painted the area around the breach. I can only assume the tree rat liked his food spicy, because the hole get even wider.
Travis of Ehrlich came to assess my rodent problem. His tree rat solution: A five-day trial with a baited live trap, two hundred plus dollars and no guarantees.
I declined the offer. Metal flashing closed the hole eventually, and the tree rat left town. (Thank the heavens!) But my mousey problem did not end there.
To be quite honest, the whole situation was my own fault. I feed birds in the winter after the local black bear goes into hibernation, and stop once Ole Smokey emerges from his den, ravenous and on the prowl for an easy meal.
As an aside, OS is a female who brought her four cubs on a field trip to my feeder one fine spring afternoon while I napped in the screened-in patio room in the back of the house. Lying on the futon, I heard a sound, no more than a couple of feet from my head. I turned to see a large furry black butt pass by followed by four adorable cubs of about four pounds each. Mama stopped at the location where the bird feeder once hung on a shepherd’s hook. I had already removed it for the season. The quintet reversed its steps. Mama stopped and looked me in the eye. She asked, “Where’s the chow, lady?” She may not have used English but the meaning was clear. I didn’t move, except to shake my head by the tiniest amount. She rustled up the kids, who pranced merrily all over my terracing, and headed back out to the woods across the street.
Now we return to the original story:
Although I passed on the live trap option, Travis of Ehrlich saw signs of mousey droppings in the garage. Nothing terrible, he insisted. But, a mousy extermination plan loomed in my future. Sir Ronald of Ehrlich came to set the traps, and I removed the incentive for the furry invasion, left over birdseed from the winter. I jettisoned the food source into the woods across the street, cleaned out the plastic storage bin, and waited for Sir Ronald to arrive and rid me of those tiresome pests.
To sum up, he set six traps in the garage, four in the utility room and another half dozen in the crawl space under the house. (Reputed to be the finest crawl space in the Poconos by one who has scrabbled through many!)
Twelve mouses, known to the scientific community as Mus Musculus, and nicknamed ‘the Little Thief’ due to an ability to squeeze into a building by a hole as small as a quarter of an inch, succumbed to the lure of scrumptious mousey bait over the course of two weeks. All in the garage. So did this mean the end of the furry barrage, you ask?
HECK, no! It only got worse; they invaded my house.
I had become complacent, and they were clever beasties and tenacious.
Being an environmentally responsible citizen, I collect paper in a box in the corner of the kitchen next to a radiator. The box was full of junk mail, and I pulled it out to take it to the car and off to the recycle center.
Horrors! The area between the box and the wall was full of empty sunflower seed shells and insulation from under the floor. My heart started pounding, the adrenaline surged through my body. But worse, the pile of seed and pink fiberglass began to move! I grabbed my broom, ready to sweep the vermin out the sliding door onto the back deck. But I was too late. The beastie squirmed its way down the pipe to the crawl space below where all my plumbing led.
After a call for help, Sir Ronald arrived a few hours later. No traps in the crawl space were triggered. However, sunflower seed shell caches (say that fast three times!) were found, not only under the radiator, but behind both the washing machine and the oven. My knight in gray armor set two traps in the corner and two under the oven with instructions on how to clean up the mess.
I wore long trousers, rubber gloves and a mask over my nose and mouth (it was 90 degrees!) Sprayed the area with a bleach solution and swept up the spent shells. Two mice were caught behind the stove. No where else.
But my nightmare was not over. I started hearing noises in the walls.
They were still here. I pounded on the wall, I slept on the couch.
But I swore, I would not be vanquished by a four-legged furry beastie!
Now I would go on the attack. First, the downstair hall closet. I cleared out the broken stereo equipment, the abandoned craft projects, the box of optics too heavy to take to the university (out of sight, out of mind). And beheld the largest pile of defunct shells yet. Donning my armor once again, I bleached and swept. Then sprayed with a solution of mint essence and water. (The same friend who told me about hot sauce insisted mouses hated the smell of mint.) I placed three ultra sonic mousey deterrent devices in the kitchen.
Next I tackled my butler’s pantry. I cleared the floor. Recycled about a thousand plastic grocery bags, dozens of used gift bags. But saw no mousey signs. (Thank the heavens!) The bay leaves left over from an invasion of those pesky mothy things may have thwarted them.
The last skirmish.
I had Sir Ronald put two additional traps behind the oven. Early one evening, as I sat reading in the living room….
SNAP! Squeal! Screech! Squawk! Slam! Bang! Sounds of a struggling mousey caught in a trap hitting the metal oven storage drawer in an escape attempt.
I waited til morning to check. No mousey body, but one trap was sprung. Mouses do hate those ultra sonic devices! I still check every few days– no more mousey infiltrations.
The battle may have been won, but it is unlikely the war is over. The traps are still in place, waiting for the autumnal invasion when the weather turns cold.
Lest you think that my war with nature ended with the Battle of Rodentia, a brief synopsis of other woes follows. I have been stung by yellow jackets on two occasions. The welts on my thigh have faded after two months. A yellow demon attack on a trip down the driveway resulted in a cauliflower ear despite immediate first aid with a baking soda paste and Neosporin. That ear still feels a little funny, but Sir Ronald removed the yellow viper nest hidden beneath the mailbox. A black parasitic wasp got my upper arm in the living room one evening while watching a nature program on PBS.
Splatting spiders, stepping on carpenter ants and chasing away carpenter bees were daily events. BYW, I now have a contract with Ehrlich, Inc., my local Pest Control Experts. I rarely squash or splat anymore in the house. I do, however, keep a keen eye out for ticks when I fight the Japanese Stilt Grass invading my yard.
Such are the joys of living in the Poconos. I’ve been offered two cats (they make me sneeze). Stay tuned soon for another installment. This time my adventure with Wally, a pileated woodpecker who decided to turn my cedar house into his love nest.
Mary Anne Moore, physicist turned mystery writer on mouse patrol