Living in a barn, it’s nearly impossible to keep the critters out. Most people are used to spiders getting in, maybe the odd mouse or bat. One year, we had a small family of pine martens take up residence.
Now that they’ve moved on, it seems that every few months a deer mouse or two wanders in and starts exploring, nesting, and hunting for food. They’re like little refugees, searching for a safe home of their own. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if they weren’t also so destructive, noisy, and unhygienic. Mice can be carriers of the deadly hantavirus and can pass it to humans through contact with saliva, urine, or feces. I’m all for sharing my food and warmth, but not at the risk of anyone getting sick. Getting these guys out of the barn is an issue of safety and health.
But I’m not gonna kill ‘em. They don’t deserve to die for simply trying to live. I trap and release. I use two live traps that work splendidly, but they’re only good for one mouse at a time, and they aren’t that comfy for the mouse. Because I believe that no animal deserves to suffer, I’m conscientious about checking the traps often and, when needed, releasing as soon as possible. Until today, this has meant schlepping out into the woods at five a.m. in my jammies, before coffee and before anyone else has woken up (including Luna who, oddly, only wants to hunt mice outside).
However, the recommended release distance is one mile, to ensure the animal doesn’t just come back inside to where the humans keep the peanut butter Ritz crackers. Clearly, I needed an alternative. Walking one mile in my slippers with a panicky mouse just wasn’t happening. So, Mike suggested I get a holding pen where I can keep the mice until I’m ready to release further afield. I suggested a small cage with a little handle. He suggested an empty garbage can. We compromised and, behold, the Super Happy Fun House, the temporary pre-release hotel. It’s like a little mouse playground.
We’ll never be able to stop the critters coming in, looking for the same survival we all look for. The least we should do is not add to their suffering. Compassion costs nothing. Kindness is free. It cost me financially very little to achieve this mutually beneficial solution to our “mouse problem.” It’s a price I’d always gladly pay to co-exist peacefully with creatures great and small.