Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

December 4, 2009

A Very Lucky Mouse

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 11:44 am

Ah ha! Caught in the act. There was no way this White-footed Mouse could deny his guilt. He was convicted fair and square by a jury of two. Guilty to the charge of hoarding corn in the museum store room. Guilty of peeing on our T-shirt supply and scaring museum visitors. Guilty  of making at least one staff member scream like a little girl (she was actually a girl, but not a little one). Guilty of  stealing my Freshwater Drum teeth. And guilty of the most egregious crime of eating our supply of “Chips Ahoy” cookies and licking the rest! This last count was cause enough to inflict the death penalty upon this pale-footed marauder. The sentence: death by a two jawed Victor snap trap.

Justice was quickly delivered in this case. It was an open and snap shut case. It only took about 6 hours for the offender to find the trap and attempt to taste it’s tempting offering of peanut butter (there were no more “Chips Ahoy” available as bait). Late in the afternoon, a muffled snap, followed by a high – nearly ultrasonic – squeak, told me that the sentence had been delivered by the cold plastic jaws of rodent death. I knew that the crime spree was over when a long period of silence followed that short burst of activity. “V” was for victory of  Hominid over Peromyscid (that’s “Man over Mouse”).

Rounding the corner to retrieve the lifeless body and revel in my conquest, I was surprised to find that the criminal was still alive.  Expecting to deliver some clever barb like “Sic Semper Tyrannus Chippea Ahoyi” I was instead forced to say, in plain Downriver English, “What the heck!” Yes, the jaws of death had descended in a non-lethal manner and, rather than snapping his cookie stealing little neck, they had only secured him in a half nelson grip (see below). This appeared to be a very lucky mouse.

The problem was in the trap itself, however. Luck had little to do with it. I have a trusty Mcgill Mouse Trap that I normally employ in such cases. This baby has steely serrated teeth and a super strong internal spring. The McGill never failed to administer Scottish “moertus instantanea” upon small uninvited mammals. Faced with capturing this museum mouse, I hastily grabbed one of my secondary traps from home – a cheap plastic Victor modeled on the same plan as the older McGill.

Earlier in the month I used this same Victor trap to catch a shrew that was terrorizing my wife (I thought him cute, but I had to do the deed in order to keep my marriage intact). I say “catch,”  rather than “kill” the shrew, because the mechanism only managed to grab the poor little beast by his nose. Have you ever heard a shrew scream?  I was actually relieved. Since shrews don’t really damage anything, they don’t deserve the death penalty.  The indignant creature was delivered out the front door as he dangled nose first from the trap. He was tossed out into the darkness and scurried away through the leaves.

So, I should have known that this trap was a wrestler and not a killer when I set it for the museum mouse. Looking at the creature I was intrigued at the unusual white spot on his back. White-footed mice normally have a solid reddish brown back. This one had a significant white patch, a birthmark, that would have easily made him stand out in a criminal line-up if the situation came to that. The feature was slightly endearing  and my decision to release him was “instantanea.” For some reason I took pity upon this freak as if the spot made him underprivileged. I imagined a childhood full of mockery from his fellow mice (White-footed Mice can be cruel) and a forced exile requiring him to survive on old corn, cookies, and freshwater drum teeth.

When dropped out onto the leaves, the mouse froze in position as if not believing his luck (see above). Apart from holding his neck in at an odd angle, the freed mouse before me was an un-harmed creature now free to re-enter the wilds. Saved by a weak trap and a weak-minded trapper, he  bounded off into the field. Yes, now he was free to be crushed in the non-plastic jaws of a fox or the hemorrhaging grip of a Red-tailed Hawk. At least his would be a noble death.

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