Monday, April 4, 2016

One Smart (or Lucky?) Mouse

     A month ago, I'm doing dishes in the laundry room outside when it's still dark (I'm sick and don't want to spread germs in our main kitchen sink area, much less use the common sponge for washing) and I feel something brush against my sweatpants near the ankle, which makes my skin crawl as if with centipedes up and down all over. I turn, hear scuttling, scampering noises, and look and think I see a small light-brown blur scamper beneath the sink. But when I check there and behind the washer and dryer, I see nothing remiss. A part of me doesn't want to see, because if I do, it's sure to mean trouble. Maybe I imagined it? I somewhat try to convince myself.
     Two weeks later, I'm putting on my shoes for work outside in the carport when it's still dark and I heard scuttling noises that give me the heebie-jeebies. They seem to come from inside an unused nightstand with door and drawers propped open to air out (I bought it awhile ago at a garage sale with the intention to air out, test for lead since it's “antique”, plane down the door that won't close, and refinish), so I walk over to look inside, and see a light-brown ugly-as-heck mouse crawl out and under our lean-to tower of shelves under which I store scrap wood and tools. It's about four to five inches long excluding tail and walks with the slow, arrogant confidence of ownership. (What type of mouse is this that seeks a lighted room and a human to brush up against? The washroom opens from the carport so why did it come in when I was there? Aren't they supposed to be afraid of people?)
     That lunch break I buy a pack of two traditional mouse traps. (I had contemplated buying a glue trap, but they didn't have any and I didn't look forward to having to mercy-kill the thing with a shovel. They sold a catch-and-release trap, but I doubted it would work and didn't want to have to release it where it became someone else's problem as I wasn't about to put the flea-ridden thing in our car to drive to an uninhabited area, and within walking distance, there aren't any such places.)
     Back home I set up one of the traps baited with peanut butter and cheese on a paper bag (to guard against blood splatters) in the cabinet with the bait side against a wall as per the instructions. Cringing the following morning to look inside using a flashlight, I see the bag, but no trap or mouse. I look for signs that the trap's been dragged out (perhaps it snagged only a tail or leg?) but see none. I look in a second time for blood, but see none. On the third look, there's the trap clear on the opposite side of the cabinet, snapped shut upside down with plenty of peanut butter still in. I place it on the garage floor and leave, wondering if the mouse will take the bait in the now unset trap. 
     At work I puzzle, How did it do it? and conclude the mouse must have crawled over the trigger, which when set off, must have thrown the thing clear of the trap before the snapping mechanism came down—just a fluke. When I get home, I see the bait licked clean, meaning the mouse has been active during the day. (Aren't they nocturnal?)
     I reset the trap with identical bait outside the cabinet in a narrow gap against a wall where the trap fits nicely and invitingly, with an inch clearance on either side. 
     A day passes. Nothing happens.
     The next day, no mouse but the trap is now upside down, snapped shut, with bait still in. I set it out like before unset, hoping the mouse will take the bait and begin to feel over-confident about the trap. (Free food!) The bait disappears by evening.
    I bait and reset the trap and place it at a strategic angle to the wall, thinking this will make the trigger unlikely to throw the mouse clear. Nothing happens for a day. Next morning, no mouse—nothing happened. But then I notice that the bait is gone, licked clean and that the trap has not fired! The trigger failed!
    That afternoon as I think the mouse is laughing at me, I get smart and set up both traps (they came in a set) and construct a paper tunnel to prevent odd approaches to the traps and place one trap above the other on a small cardboard box, thinking if the first trap doesn't fire, when the mouse goes for the second one, it might step on the first trap's trigger, or when it reaches up for the second (with bait side nearby and away from the wall), it will set it off when it tries to climb up. I also mash down the peanut butter and cheese combo into the bait receptacles so that they can't be gently licked clean, they have to be dug at to be consumed. I'll get him this time! I think.
    Two days pass. Nothing happens.
    The following morning, the first trap is snapped shut with remnants of bait unconsumed, the second is unchanged. I long for a video to see how it's setting off the trigger and avoiding the snap shut? Another unsolvable life mystery? I conclude it must be getting just the tail, and that's why the traps are always in different positions after firing. I doubt the mouse is prying its entire body loose after being clamped down upon by the wire jaw, as while I was setting it once, it snapped the tip of my finger (numb for a bit) and the spring has plenty strength to cause lots of damage and won't pry loose by the strength of a puny rodent. (This isn't cartoons.)
    I reset again and place the front trap at a right angle to the back one—impossible for the trigger to interfere.
    Two days pass and the same thing happens!—first trap fired, second untriggered, both licked clean!
    I do research wondering about my initial conclusion that it's a mouse and sure enough, mice only grow to 3.5 inches. It's a rat!
    Next up, glue trap... (I'm even more creeped out knowing it's a rat.)

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