Mouse Mad About The

The People's Friend Special - - NATURE -

AWEEK back, I spot­ted a mouse shin­ning up the cord that held our bird feeder above the reach of the lo­cal grey squir­rel.

That mouse was do­ing a high-wire act of epic pro­por­tions in his at­tempts to reach the peanuts there. He was a wood­mouse – the most com­mon of our small mam­mals, with ap­prox­i­mately one for ev­ery two peo­ple in the UK.

I was full of ad­mi­ra­tion for his de­ter­mined ef­fort.

Not so my wife, Max­een. It was a re­minder of the prob­lems we’ve been hav­ing with the mouse’s kith and kin over the past few weeks.

“We’re over-run!” she de­clared.

True, we had been some­what in­un­dated with the crea­tures re­cently. It seemed our abode had be­come a refuge for the lo­cal ro­dent pop­u­la­tion.

As the day ends,

Dex­trous Dan’s mate wakes from her af­ter­noon sleep and stretches in her nest.

Her stretch wakes her young from a litter born two weeks ago. She touches them and smells them, check­ing their con­di­tion.

Her young will be weaned and com­pletely in­de­pen­dent in an­other two weeks.

sources. Keep such items in tight-fit­ting con­tain­ers. Make sure all floors, sinks and counter tops are kept clean and free from food de­bris.

3. Find any en­try points where mice can get in. Mice can squeeze through holes less than ¼ inch wide. Fill in gaps round all pipes in walls, cup­boards and along skirt­ing boards.

Dan and his friends seem to be very con­tent with their ac­com­mo­da­tion. Even a Pied Piper wor­thy of his tune would have had a hard job to give them their march­ing or­ders.

In the past weeks, they’ve led us a merry dance. Hav­ing waited most of the day, they set off to pat­ter nightly across the loft and ab­seil down the wall voids.

I hear squeaks of de­light as they drop down to rum­mage in the kitchen cup­boards for a tasty morsel or two.

Camem­bert, brie and roque­fort seem to be par­tic­u­lar favourites.

Then there’s the prob­lem of drop­pings.

“It’s un­hy­gienic,” Max­een com­plained as she swept out the piles she found be­hind some jars of flour.

I had a cou­ple of

Long­ford traps – the ones used to cap­ture mice alive – but my merry band seemed to sense that scut­tling into a steel box after cheese wouldn’t bode well for them. They avoided the traps like the plague.

“Per­haps if I moved things around, it would put them off,” I suggested, the doubt in my voice show­ing how un­con­vinced I was.

A mouse likes undis­turbed ter­ri­tory, and a box moved is a cri­sis for him. So maybe shift­ing things around could put Dex­trous Dan and fam­ily off their noc­tur­nal wan­der­ings and con­fuse them into shift­ing quar­ters.

The only con­fu­sion oc­curred in Max­een.

“Where have you put the Shred­dies?” she de­manded one break­fast time.

“I can’t find the bis­cuits any­where,” she moaned on an­other oc­ca­sion.

When I swapped the salt con­tainer for a sim­i­lar one that held sugar, she poured salt on her ce­real.

Not a sweet mo­ment for her. Or me.

Not con­tent with the kitchen, Dex­trous Dan ex­tended his ter­ri­tory.

I’ve got an un­savoury habit of snack­ing in bed. This means a plate of crumbs and the oc­ca­sional ap­ple core is left on the bed­side cab­i­net.

Two nights back, just as I was about to turn off my light, a mouse skipped on to the plate, lifted the ap­ple core be­tween his paws, then dashed off.

I won­dered if it was Dex­trous Dan, the cheeky mouse I’d seen weav­ing up the cord to the bird hop­per. I wouldn’t be sur­prised.

How sweet. So I de­cided to take a pic­ture.

Last night, with cam­era bal­anced on a chair, I was ready, sprawled across the bed in my un­der­wear.

“What are you up to?” Max­een queried, com­ing into the room.

I tried to ex­plain.

“I’m hop­ing to get a pic of the wood­mouse that’s been steal­ing my ap­ple cores.”

“You’re ob­sessed,” Max­een de­clared, get­ting into bed and switch­ing her bed­side light off.

The mouse ap­peared.

“Say cheese,” I squeaked as I clicked my cam­era.

A fam­ily of wood­mice lead Mal­colm D. Welsh­man a merry dance . . .

Mal­colm is the au­thor of “An Arm­ful Of An­i­mals”, avail­able on Ama­zon. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.mal­colmwelsh­

Dex­trous Dan, the wood­mouse.

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