By Gretchen Wehmhoff

“In fact there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioral research laboratories running round inside wheels and conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on man. The fact that once again man completely misinterpreted this relationship was entirely according to these creatures’ plans.”

– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Adams had something.  

For the record, a family of mice is not only referred to as a nest, but also a mischief. Of all animals, that is the most appropriate group label I’ve encountered … so far.

I am starting to believe that the mice are also well-organized.

For instance, have you noticed that we rarely see them – only where they have been? As soon as we spot a mouse (vole, shrew and any cousin), we run for the traps, lures and bait. We are obsessed with the concept that we can outsmart the fast little critters.

“Quick! It ran there. Put the trap there.”

But what if that was a decoy mouse – a reconnaissance mouse, assigned by the leader of the mischief, whose mission is to run a course through the house, carefully making sure it is seen. The humans, in their best attempt to outsmart the enemy, quickly place their chosen deterrent or trap exactly where the mouse had made its appearance. Of course, this clever maneuver was a plan. Now the mice know where not to run because they had laid out the trail. And because these buggers have a great sense of smell, the others in the mischief have been warned. This can be proven by the number of snap traps, humane plastic boxes or sticky sheets that stay in place untouched for days, weeks and months waiting for that mouse to return. It never does. It never will. 

We go years without mice in our home. There were decades that the neighbor’s outdoor cats kept the nests under control. Last year we had a family of hawks living in our yard.   

Athena and Diva (two of our dogs) were mousers. In her younger years Athena came into the living room with a mouse in her mouth. She dropped it in the middle of the floor then leaned back on her haunches to watch it. The rodent reminded me of a cartoon character crawling across the desert seeking water. Athena and I sat mesmerized as the small mouse painfully pulled itself over the carpet and disappeared under the media center. Never to be seen again. 

Diva couldn’t keep a secret. She had a strong tail attached to a very active rear end. I’m not sure Diva ever sat still unless she was sleeping. She caught my attention one day because she wasn’t panting, her mouth was closed and her tail was moving at Mach speed. I studied her enough to see about two inches of tail protruding from her mouth. I told her to drop it. She looked at me knowing that if she let go, her new playmate would be taken away. So she swallowed it. I wondered if it “wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.”

The surgical exactness of some mice can drive a human to insanity. A large slice of cheese is gone, the peanut butter is licked clean while the trap is left undisturbed. Traps were meant to tease the human. Traps will surely snap shut during the baiting process, or in the last second of placing it carefully on the floor. Snap! The humans reload as the mice observe the antics, most likely rolling on the floor back in the nest, “And did you see him step on that sticky stuff?”  

I used to feel bad about catching and trapping. In fact, I’ve gone to lengths to save the “cute” furry things. I once saw mice as adorable furry animals decorating Christmas cards or helping Cinderella with her dress and coach … until one ran across my arm while I was sleeping. It fell into a plastic shopping bag containing photos I had just picked up from the store.

I was immediately awake. I grabbed the bag, got in my car and drove out of the garage.  I figured a few miles away would be sufficient, but the mouse wasn’t going to wait. It started chewing through the bag and just as I pulled out of the driveway, I had to heave the bag into the empty lot next door. The mouse scurried off in the direction of my apartment building. I grabbed my photos and headed back in. 

It was apparent I was a mouse novice.

I tried small traps that closed around the mouse giving me the ability to drive far away into the woods and let it go. Some removed the bait without being caught. Of course, before I was married, my allergy to peanuts kept me from using peanut butter.

We tried D-Con until I came out for coffee one morning to see our hundred pound, gentle German Shepherd Ty, staring at his large water bowl. He looked up at me for help. Two dead mice were floating and well, dogs, thankfully, don’t like things in their bowls.  We dropped that plan thinking of all the animals that might be harmed by eating a poisoned mouse.

But thinking back, it could have been a ploy of the well organized mouse militia.

“Harry, find a partner and pretend to be dead floating in the dog bowl. That will stop them from dropping that dangerous blue compound around.”

After Joe and I were married, we spotted a mouse. With a great deal of ignorance, we purchased some sticky pads. I thought they were poisonous and the rodent would die a quick and humane death.

We were so naive. We caught one and it didn’t die. Googling ways to remove glue and sticky substances with cooking oil, I found a box, a pair of work gloves, two pairs of rubber gloves, a syringe, a dull table knife and dropped the mouse with its adhesive in the box. With three pairs of gloves protecting me, I gently injected cooking oil around the mouse, I pried the knife under its legs, face and torso, eventually lifting it off the pad.  

I took the box outside, turned it sideways and imagined that the sweet thing would break away and find a new home … after it licked all of the oil from its fur.

I told my sister about it. She was quiet on the other end of the phone call until she calmly said, “you know you just marinated it for the next predator.” 


Author’s note: We did find the plug in pulsars to be helpful keeping the mice, hornets, spiders etc. out of the house.  It works great and won’t bother dogs or cats.  Just don’t use them if you have hamsters.