Monday, January 26, 2015

An Invasion of Mice

What do you call a collective of mice? I know about a murder of crows, a parliament of owls, and a flock of Canada Geese (more of a pest than their name suggests). But what is the collective of mice? Whatever it is, we’ve got it. 

We went away for Christmas, a wonderful three weeks with our families in Indiana and Pennsylvania. We enjoyed the travel, especially the drive to and from Pennsylvania with our son and daughter-in-law. Not to mention time with both sons and daughters-in-law back in Indiana (pictured right), and with my parents in Pennsylvania.
Even the flight back was enjoyable, delayed for seven hours out of South Bend, with the result that we flew to Grand Forks and our suitcase took a side trip to Fargo. But three weeks without people meant that mice could get in and ensconce themselves comfortably. 
Last Wednesday we realized we might have a problem—we found that something had eaten the corner of a loaf of bread sitting on the counter. Well, something equals mouse. We went out and bought some mouse traps, eight of them (about six more than I thought we needed). I set them strategically around the kitchen and checked them in the morning, with mixed results. Four had been cleaned off. One had been clearly touched a bit, but not completely cleaned. Two were untouched. The last one had a mouse in it. Perhaps his (her?) care with the other four had dulled his (her?) senses, and the last trap got him. Or maybe there were several, having a party. 

This mouse sent Lois into a Spring Cleaning frenzy, well before Manitoba has thoughts of spring. Our winter has been mild, but it is most definitely not spring yet. She attacked the garage, where we had already caught four mice—one just before Christmas, and three after. They had clearly eaten well from a big bag of bird seed.
She probed into dusty corners, finding ample evidence of mice in the house. That evening, as we sat downstairs beside our gas fireplace, we heard scratching in the walls. A really bad sign. That night we set 11 traps (having bought four more and thrown one out, complete with mouse). Most were not touched, but I found another dead mouse during my morning rounds, far from the kitchen beside the front door. We bought some more traps, so that I set 15 of them that night—three in the garage, eight upstairs, and four downstairs. The morning brought 14 empty traps, and another dead mouse, in the furnace room downstairs. Three dead mice inside, in three widely separate places. More traps on Saturday night, but no dead mice in the morning. We now have 21 traps set around the house and the garage. 

Sunday afternoon should have been a quiet relaxing time, nourishing our frazzled nerves. We had just finished lunch, sitting in front of our fire and noticing that there was no more scratching, when Lois walked towards the steps beside the laundry. The next thing I heard was a scream. I didn’t know Lois could scream that loud! She had found a mouse, a grade school youngster, in the laundry. 

I came to see what was the trouble. (Screams are rare in our household, and always worth investigating.) Up to this point I had been a rock, placing traps and throwing them out complete with dead mouse. But faced with a live creature I am a broken reed. I was up on a chair before Lois could find one to climb on to. From our respective chairs we plotted our course of action. 

A cat, we definitely needed a cat. A call to Marg, a farmer friend, obtained the information that her brother Larry had a cat that might prove useful. In response to a second call Larry said that sure, he could bring Choco over. Twenty minutes later Larry arrived, with good sturdy work gloves on and Choco, a beautiful eight-year old cat. Since most trips in the car mean that Choco was headed to the vet, he wasn’t sure what to make of this trip. He prowled around the basement sniffing, clearly puzzled and not sure what to do. 

Then the mouse appeared. The young of all species are not always real smart, and this mouse lived up to that stereotype fully. We cornered the mouse, and Larry proved to be a better mouser than Choco, catching and killing the mouse. We slept well that night. 

So today, I got a call at work just before I left—another grade school mouse, this time at the top of the stairs. We went off to the store again and bought four sticky pads, which we placed strategically around where we had seen the mouse. Soon it was trapped on the sticky pad, and Lois dispatched it. 

So now we have 21 traps set, three sticky pads around the basement, and nine dead mice in the trash. Not to mention a date with the exterminator to identify where they may have entered and work out how to be sure that we get all of the mice in the house. We know that our story is a small one. Our neighbour across the street told us how he and his cat had a competition in a previous house that he won—18 dead mice to 15. Nine’s not so bad, I guess, although we don’t know how many more there are. We do know that one litter is growing up, so there may be more in the next few days. 

Meanwhile, Choco is a beautiful cat, Larry is a wonderful friend, and I think I’ve figured out what the collective is for mice—an invasion of mice.

1 comment:

KGMom said...

Having consulted several websites, I suggest my favorite collective term for mice...a "mischief of mice."
This is repeat advice--get a cat, your own. They are easy to care for, need little tending when you are away from home AND they earn their keep in mice.