The Great Mouse Caper of 2018 / by Beth Winegarner

(Stock photo; not one of our visitors.)

(Stock photo; not one of our visitors.)

A couple of months ago, I woke from a deep sleep to the sound of our daughter entering our room. I looked at the clock; it was 7 a.m.

"Mommy, Pigeon caught a mouse and brought it into my room," she whispered. Pigeon's our cat.

"OK, I'll get up and deal with it in a minute," I said. 

"No, Mommy. The mouse is dead. I have it right here." She held out her hand. The dead mouse was curled in her palm. She was stroking its fur with her other hand. 


I quickly got up and helped her put the mouse's body in the compost bin. Maybe I seem nonchalant. That's because it wasn't the first, and it wouldn't be the last. 

Pigeon is a terrible hunter, to put it mildly. For years she could only capture bugs and spiders. The backyard critters weren't scared of her because they'd seen her hunt and knew she wasn't a threat. But in recent months, she's brought a succession of small mice into the house, most of which escape because she is only interested in catching them--not killing them. Some of them were reasonably spry and took days to locate and extract, but some were injured already when she brought them in. Slower and weaker ones are easier for her to capture. 

Soon, though, we realized we had a bigger problem. Like many garages, ours is kind of a mess--filled with junk and half-finished (or never-started) projects. We've had the occasional rodent in there before, but nothing like this spring. First, a bottle of malt syrup for beer-making tipped over, spilling a long river of brown sticky liquid across the floor. We were not, shall we say, expeditious about cleaning this up. D. found a couple of live mice stuck in the syrup, and tried to wash them off and put them outside.

But then we didn't go into the garage for a few days. When I returned, I discovered two mice dead on the floor, glued to it with malt syrup, quickly decomposing because they'd become a feast for ants. They looked almost ... melted. A friend said we should call it the "Malt-ea Tar Pits" and sell tickets. 

After D. cleaned up the malt situation, I turned my attention to an old bag of sunflower seeds we'd stashed in a large rubberized trash can. It was no good for the bird feeders; it was so full of dirt and debris that it clogged the holes and made the backyard birds give us the stinkeye. We'd covered it with layers of denim insulation and plywood scrap, but I could see that something had chewed holes in the insulation anyway. 

When I peeled it back, I discovered large handfuls of empty sunflower seed shells. And a hole in the side of the bag. About the top half of the bag was also full of empty shells, while the seeds at the bottom were still intact. I scooped and scooped them into the big compost bin until all the seeds were gone. And, without thinking, I put the garbage can back where it had been before. 

A day or two later, D. went down to the garage--and heard shuffling and squeaking coming from the bin. When he looked, there was a single mouse at the bottom, scurrying around. He let it go in the backyard. The next day, more shuffling and squeaking; this time, there were six. It seems the mice were jumping into the can, trusting that the food supply was still there and plummeting to the bottom. The next day, I found one more mouse, looking battered; it probably hurt itself in the fall. I let it go outside, but not where Pigeon could catch it and bring it into the house. I put an old pillow in the bottom of the can, like a safety mat under the trapeze. But no more mice jumped in. 

I'm not sure if that's the end of the mice in the garage. Probably not. But maybe we have a little while before they discover any more sources of food.