The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Mouse Slayer

Audio version of "Mouse Slayer" (link opens in new window)

How can I have nearly reached the age 40 and never had to deal with a mouse before?

And yet there I was a couple of nights ago trying to coax Maggie down from the chair she was standing on in the kitchen, wondering if she had an over active imagination or whether she really had caught sight of a mouse shooting across the floor out of the corner of her eye. The blood-curdling scream that had had me charging into the kitchen expecting to find a severed hand crawling across the worktop, left me in no doubt that Maggie was quite certain about what she had seen.

Maggie has an extreme phobia about small rodents. She has never understood why anyone would keep hamsters, gerbils or especially mice as pets. Bats are probably her worst fear, as they are “mice with wings”, but we don’t have too many of them about in this corner of Southern Scotland. Dealing with an hysterical Maggie is something I’ve not often had to cope with; dealing with a mouse, though, was a complete unknown

The following morning I phoned the local council Environmental Health Pest Control Department. They have a man who works Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and it would cost a £25 callout fee if we wanted to see him; £17 for any repeat visits. I checked the web: mousetraps started at 99p.

Down at the hardware store there were a baffling array of rodent disposal units, ranging from contraptions looking like they were made from little more than a clothes peg and a paper clip, through to boxes the size of a small garden shed that allowed you to humanely trap the beast, then release it unharmed into your garden so it could re-enter your house at its leisure.

Eventually I settled on a pair of plastic, ergonomically designed, easy-to-set, safe-to-use, no-blood-or-odours mousetraps that promised me 30% extra force over conventional spring-loaded traps. A basic but pleasant diagram on the box showed how you could pick up the trap without handling the mouse and dispose of the creature by gently squeezing the release mechanism. So I wasn’t prepared to be woken up the following morning by another blood-curdling scream from Maggie.

Hurtling down the stairs I skidded to a halt by the kitchen door where I could see the mouse (less it’s head and one front paw which were caught inside the trap) pathetically dragging itself in erratic circles across the floor. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The blurb on the box had quite specifically used the phrase “…killing it very quickly”.

I felt sick. I am the product of a society that buys its meat cellophane wrapped. I live in a family that gently places a tumbler over spiders, sliding a piece of card underneath so it can be released unharmed into our garden, able to re-enter our house at its leisure. The harsh realities of nature are something we watch on television with a David Attenborough voice over. Wasps and midges are the only thing I consciously make a point of killing; small mammals are outside my comfort zone. We had even used high cocoa content, fair trade chocolate as bait.

Clearly I had to put this creature out of its misery as quickly as possible, but I couldn’t just stamp on it, or squeeze the trap tighter until I felt a crunch. I stood there for 20 seconds. There was no way Maggie was going to be able to deal with it. It briefly crossed my mind to call my ten-year-old son down – he might think it was cool – but no, I could feel Maggie’s disapproval of that idea without having to mention it. It was down to me and the longer I took to decide what to do, the longer the mouse was suffering.

I’m not sure where the idea came from but drowning it was the only option that leapt to mind. So I scooped up the mouse and trap with a plastic sandwich box and dropped it into a basin of water.

The mouse started swimming.

Using the edge of the box to hold the trap and its contents underwater, all the time praying I didn’t accidentally squeeze the release mechanism, the mouse let out a last bubble of air a short while later.

The next question is whether this was a lone mouse, one of a family nesting somewhere in the house, or the scout of a hoard waiting to invade.


Andraste said...

Oh dear. Yes, if you've got one mouse, chances are you have a nest or two. But having to kill it yourself...ugh. Fair brought tears to my eyes. (I'm fond of rodents, yes, I think they're cute. But I have cats, so I don't ever have to worry about the fact that they are vermin, and not the cute wee fellas in the cartoons.)

There are these repellant thingies, a small console you plug into the wall, that makes a high-frequency noise, which humans can't hear, but which drive mice away. They do work.

I used to work in an Army/Navy store, which had a terrible mouse problem. We'd come in to find them drowned in the toilets, or sitting in our employee lunch room, munching happily on people's lunches.

We installed two of these little machines, and Bob's yer uncle, no more mice. They were driven next the bakery. I never ate there again.

Charlie said...

I agree with that electronic thing: they do in fact work.

But you know, Kim, I was under the impression that St. Patrick drove all the mice out of Scotland. Huh. I must be wrong.

Kim Ayres said...

I did wonder about these electronic things, but wasn't sure if they were just some kind of con. I mean, how would you ever know that it's working? Or if it stopped working, for that matter? Other than noticing a mouse in the kitchen again.

Still, I will look into it, thanks.

Oh, and Admiral, wasn't that Hedgehogs in Wales?

Anonymous said...

The humble mouse - small enough to get into your house but to big to kill without guilt!

Anonymous said...

o (missing from my last comment)

BStrong said...

Haha, sounds like you were almost defeated by a mouse. I think stepping on it or crushing it with a big rock would have been a bit more humane than drowning the poor guy. Drowning probably rates right up there with catching on fire:)

Robin's the same way when it comes to for legged creatures that have no business being in our living space. I think that applies to 8 legs too.

Congratulations to you on your first kill. Boy this has been a pretty busy week for you with your 10,000 hits and mouse hunting expedition. I can't wait to see what’s in store for you next week.

PS. You should have taken the mouse to a taxidermist to get it mounted as a paperweight.



Kim Ayres said...

Sandy - nicely put! I think that probably gets right to the root of it.

BStrong - no sympathy from you then. So are you one of these guys who goes hunting moose at the weekends with his drinking buddies?

34quinn said...

Hickory dickory doc the mouse ran up the clock!!!
my goodness what a story. As much as I would be likely to want it dead and out of my house I have to admit I feel for the little fella.
The other day my son was in the front yard and out of the blue a mouse fell out of the tree just missing landing on his head.
Mind you this mouse..was in fact dead. I found solice in believing it fell out of a birds mouth as it passed over us..but hubby informed me that mice can indeed climb trees so now the thought of enjoying a nice lunch under the shade of one of my backyard trees does not appeal to me quite as much.
oh, as for the mouse.we got a pair of pliers and picked it up by its icky yucky tail and tossed it in the back of the yard in the bushes...ewwwwwwwwww.

LindyK said...

My cat used to think it great fun to leave me trophies of her latest kills right on my doorstep... so I'd find odd bits and pieces of mice every so often... never a whole one, mind you, just enough to be able to discern what kind of critter it used to be. That was always fun -- never knowing what I might put my foot in first thing in the morning.

Dr Maroon said...

You phoned the council? You’ll be blacklisted now.
Had the wife hitched up her skirts and was the mouse rattling the chair?
You townies kill me. In the country, ie where you now live, you are never further than two foot six from a mouse or rat and I’m sorry to say for your wife BATS.
When one sets the traps (peanut butter, smooth) also have to hand a piece of flat wood about 24 inches long, two by inch is best…

[digressionary note to Americans: Big dimension first, ie 4 by 2, NOT 2 by 4. Thank you]

…anyway, and if little Jerry survives the first snap, you whack him smartly with the stick. You don’t torture the bugger with a slow drowning death.

Bstrong is right! A tasteful little stuffed scene, perhaps climbing some dried corn stalks, would set off any desk and would act as deterrent to any other vermin which may fancy nesting behind your walls.

It will be worse in winter. Remember, peanut butter.

St Jude said...

I could lend you big girl. She is my 'humane' mouser. I wrote about her in my post 'Oh Mickey You're So Fine'. It's in my sidebar. She's amazing.

Kim Ayres said...

Quinn - Hmm, my wife's in the room as I write. If she looks over my shoulder and reads what you've written, she'll never walk under a tree again.

Phew, she's just left the room - that was a close one!

Lindy - someone suggested we get a cat. Apart from the fact that I'm alergic to them, the idea of the "gifts" they like to bring in is more than enough to avoid giving that option serious consideration.

Dr Maroon - You're the rocket scientist. Can't you invent something a bit more useful than a 2 foot stick?

St Jude - I am definitely not reading my wife that post. If she thought the critter might run up her arm she'd have a heart attack.

Dr Maroon said...

Well of course I could, but one has to think of collateral damage. No good taking out Mr Jinks' pesky meeces, if you have to replace half the kitchen.
No, in the history of human progress, the two foot stick still does best.

Kim Ayres said...

I think these electronic ultrasonic thingies sound more promising, and less physical, Dr M. Certainly Maggie's drawn to it.

Foot Eater said...

No, I'm sorry, Doc Maroon, but I can't let this pass. Why 'big dimension first'? I'm fully aware that I work in wetter, more derivative sciences than you do, but surely 'two by four' trips off the tongue more merrily than 'four by two'? If scientific literature is to become more elegant, it needs to take some lessons from the arts.

fatmammycat said...

Long ago, when I lived in a blasted ancient house with a wild garden, the bigger of the cats caught and brought home countless mice/rats/shrews, some dead, some he'd just spit across the floor where the poor wretched things would just lie in a soggy heap. Some of them would try to run for it and he'd pounce on them and carry them around for a while, finally he would tire of tormenting them and just crunch them up. It was disgusting, and almost as bad as the magpie he brought in one day screaming and flapping one wing, I ran him outside but I could see him from the french doos, putting it down and trying to get a better grip on it. It took him almost half an hour to finish it off.
The moral, don't get a cat if you think trapping mice is minging. Besides I hear those electronic thingies are the business.

Mine is a Gin said...

I've had mice in the house a few times, and have got rid of them with traps (humane and non-humane), poison, cats. The last time they were in the ceiling of my office and I could hear them scurrying & squeaking above my head while I was working. I had no hesitation in lifting the floorboards above and laying down mouse bait. That has the benefit of killing all of them, as they take it back to the nest to share. A horrible way to go, but so would be electrocution or a housefire if they'd nibbled their way through the wiring!
There is no such thing as a single mouse invading your house, I'm afraid, and if you use humane traps you have to take the damn things a couple of miles away to make sure they don't scurry back in again.
My ex had a phobia about mice due to an unpleasant nocturnal incident. I might even be inspired to write a long-overdue entry on my blog about it!

Kim Ayres said...

FMC - I went and bought one of those electronic thingiess this morning

Mine is a Gin - 2 months since your last entry! Let me know if you write another.

Naomi said...

I remember having mice in the house we were living in when I was in ym teens. They would run around the inside of the coving - using it like a race track. I lived in fear of them burrowing out and landing on my bed in the middle of the night.

Kim Ayres said...

Yup, I can understand why that would be a fear *shudder*

Stella said...

ROFL Kim, I really enjoyed this post, read it first then listened. Yuck yuck yuck to mice - we had them last year, freaked me out. We caught 6!!!!! I believe the electronic devices do work, gonna get some before the summer comes to an end, cos the thought of mice in my kitchen turns my stomach.

Mary Witzl said...

Maggie would have had a hellish time in Japan; we once had a Norway rat in the toaster oven. It was cute, but I really had to draw the line.

They have humane 'Have a Heart' mouse traps in the States; all you have to do is put a little bread in them and you can catch up to about half a dozen rodents in relatively spacious accommodation. But you have to remember to empty it, and that can be a little tricky.

My housemates once allowed one of these to get full, then completely forgot about it -- for the poor mice, a fate much worse than drowning, and it makes me cry to remember it.

Unknown said...

hate mice...absolutely HATE them! I have two cats. I pray they never present me with a mouse dead or a peace offering....ugh!!

glad to see you again...found you hanging out in Jayne's world :)

Kim Ayres said...

Hello again Roschelle! I did wonder what had happened to you. You first visited when I was in the middle of having masses of visitors after the Blogs of Note thing. Now things have calmed down a bit, I hope you'll be back more often :)

Pat said...

I enjoyed reading that. How brave you are:)

Kim Ayres said...

Well it's not an experience I ever care to repeat, Pat. Fortunately the high frequency plug in things, originally suggested by Andraste (see first comment) seem to have done the trick. We've not been bothered by mice for a few years now

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