Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Andy Young: Dealing firmly with uninvited guests

By Andy Young

It’s autumn in Maine. The tourists may be gone, but the seasonal trespassers are back.

I have long respected all of Mother Nature’s creatures, but only up to a point. As far as I’m concerned animals, insects, fish, and plants own all of the outdoors. If I’m bitten by a mosquito or eaten by a Grizzly Bear outside, well, that’s on me.

However, should an uninvited non human guest invade my indoor space, I reserve the right to respond by either gently escorting the harmless interloper out, or taking decisive action against intruder(s) such as stinging insects, house-destroying termites, filthy rodents, or similar vermin.

Which brings me to last Friday afternoon, when I returned home after a tough week at my place of employment. I pulled my car into its accustomed space, then electronically shut the garage door behind me.

And that was when I saw it.

Well, I didn’t exactly see it. But I sensed motion, enough to strongly suspect that a mouse had invaded my allegedly impregnable garage.

Were mice capable of communicating with humans I’d have politely but firmly asked the cute-as-a-button but potentially disease-carrying trespasser to leave. Sadly though, these tiny rodents are incapable of understanding human speech, and while I have nothing against any particular Mus musculus, the fact is one’s home rarely has a single mouse; there are either none, or a great many. And because this particular encroacher was clever enough to get into the garage, it stood to reason that sooner or later it would figure out to get into our actual living space, which I zealously maintain solely for occupancy by our family and occasional invited guests.

The industrial-strength mouse traps I’ve used previously have been quick and efficient, so I put a dollop of peanut butter on one and left it near the spot where I had detected the motion. Then I got on my bike for a quick ride down to the grocery store, certain that when I returned the problem would be solved.

But I was in for a shock when I got back an hour later. It wasn’t just that there was no mouse: there was no trap! The only plausible scenario: whatever the metal-and-plastic ambush machine had snapped on had taken the device with it!

No one would have blamed me for thinking I was seeing things when I returned to the garage later that evening. I heard a scraping sound, and seconds later saw the trap, seemingly dragging itself along the garage floor. Closer examination revealed that the object was being propelled by a determined but gravely injured chipmunk, one that had the misfortune of not only springing the trap but was too sturdily built to have been quickly and humanely dispatched by the contraption. That left just a single compassionate option, which was to put the suffering creature out of its misery by whacking it with a shovel.

I felt sick at heart; I had never physically slain a living thing before, aside from a few thousand mosquitoes and deer flies that had instigated hostilities with me for no apparent reason. Wracked by guilt, it probably wasn't coincidental I slept fitfully that night, at one point dreaming a friend and colleague I like very much had gotten killed in a plane crash.

If, as some religions maintain, there’s a penalty in the hereafter for taking the life of a fellow living thing, I’ll have a hefty price to pay.

But in the court of the here and now, I’m reluctantly pleading guilty to Justifiable Rodenticide, which, fair or not, is still generally considered just a misdemeanor. <

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