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July 13, 2003  

Summer Mice

The winter mice are usually quiet and reserved. They don't scamper around at night, they practically use a litterbox for droppings, and they're usually not very streetwise -- a winter mouse traps in a day.

The summer mice, though, are entirely different. The weather is fine, life is good, and for a mouse who's willing to climb a little, the eating is grand. These buggers are lookin' for the high life. All-night soccer matches, turds everywhere, and now they've licked the peanut butter out of the traps three times. This last time, both traps sprang, but too late. Arrrgh!

So now I've put a canvas thread in the peanut butter. The thread wraps the bait platform, and with any luck (for me), the mouse will have to tug a bit on the thread to get the peanut butter off.

Summer mice are almost always field mice. You'd think (at least, I think) that they'd mellow out once they're inside... less of a predator-eats-mouse world in here, and the chance to kick back a bit would seem welcome.

But it's just the opposite. These summer mice carry on like there's no tomorrow; living in some sort of cargo-cult dream. Yet, they're still wary and agile... they're hooligans.


The winter mice are all prim and proper. Sneak out for food when I'm asleep, don't crawl under the floor above my bedroom, poop in corners. And, of course, this is just the opposite that I would expect. Having come in from the cold, with scarce food and tons of competition, I would look at a warm, rich house as some sort of paradise... "Surely I have been promoted to a higher life form, for surely no mouse has ever seen this!"

Half these mice are field mice; the other half are "house" mice, having escaped captivity (or being abandoned). Sometimes I think that these house mice (the easiest to trap) are retirees, who want to winter in the mouse-equivalent of Florida. Have they been conned by a crooked agent into paying hard-earned money for a trip the death-house? Does the mouse media world have a campaign planned to educate mousedom about this horrible mouse-on-mouse cruelty?

Sometimes I feel sorry for the house mice I trap... really sorry. For the field mice, life is a struggle, and when the trap gets them it might as well have been anything else in the array of mouse-enders -- cats, owls, coons, hawks.... But maybe the house mice have had a chance to become more domesticated than wild; to have a trust in their environment; to think, "If it's in the house, it's good." Is that thought crushed there in this "tame" mouse's head, freshly snapped in the kitchen trap? Have I betrayed the trust of dominion over my little piece of Earth?

I don't know. Right now I've got to throw the trap outside; by morning the mouse will be gone and the trap ready for another use. Everyone eats.