Keith Anderson

I don’t like mice. I don’t like seeing them in a cage, running crazily on a treadmill wheel. I don’t like seeing them skitter about in the wood shavings of a child’s plexiglass pen. And I certainly don’t like seeing them darting about my yard. And in the house? Game over.

My dislike for Mus musculus goes back a few decades and is perhaps misplaced because of an incident that involved a larger member of the rodent family. As a fourth-grader, our family made the move to a farm in southern Minnesota. We were not farmers, but we did need a large country home to accommodate our growing family. This particular farm site was semi-retired, but our farmer landlord still used the barn, a random machine shed and worked the fertile land that surrounded the property.

What he didn’t use was an old corn crib, even though it still had remnants of dried corn partially filling both sides of the structure. Since the building was aging and was no longer part of the operation, the owner decided it was time to flatten it.

We did our best to help, by shoveling out the remnants of dried corn.

Farmer Phillips then attached a canvass strap around the building, jumped onto his red tractor, engaged the well-worn gears and jerked the building from its foundation.

What happened next was certainly unexpected, at least by me.

Dozens of rats were exposed to the day’s sunshine. It was as if General Patton had snuck up on a German foxhole and caught the enemy napping.

The rats seemed dazed, but only for a few seconds. Then they scattered in all directions as those of us who were there to help were momentarily frozen. Thankfully none headed in the direction of the house. Most just darted away from the toppled corn crib. Their fat bodies jiggled quickly as they scampered about.

The blacks of their eyes and snake-like tails were unmistakably disgusting. My brother chased one into a grassy ditch, where it escaped the fate of a flat-nose shovel. That night, as darkness fell, I couldn’t help but think about all those rats that were most certainly sneaking about in the grass, searching for their next home.

That one childhood exposure likely led to my lifelong dislike of all rodents. I don’t want them near my house, and will certainly use any known method to rid them of my property if I ever see any trace of their existence. I’ve used rubber mallets (sorry PETA), poison, sticky paper, one-way traps and spring-loaded snappers. All have been effective.

Mice are incredibly destructive. So much so that the U.S. Census Bureau tries to track their existence. The 2020 census shows that nearly 15 million U.S. households reported seeing mice or rats in their homes in the last 12 months. And since females get pregnant 5-10 times a year, with each litter producing 3-14 pups, it’s easy to see how menacing these rodents can become if they set up shop in or near your home. The Census Bureau tracks this because mice can carry dangerous diseases and will chew through home wiring just to keep their teeth sharp.

Squirrels, which are just rats with fluffy tails, are also aggravating. I once had a nest of them in a roof overhang above our front door. I didn’t realize it at the time, as I was attempting to clear a wasp’s nest out of an awkward spot. It wasn’t until I was standing atop a wobbly ladder, fully compromised with my balance, that the wasp issue became inconsequential. As the top half of my face peered carefully over the edge of the roof, a mama squirrel leaped at my face. It startled me to the degree that I fell backward off the ladder, landing in some scraggly bushes below. I had a few scrapes but was more concerned about the show I just provided for neighbors. I could feel curious eyes peering from behind living room curtains across the street. It must have looked cartoonish. The only item missing was the ACME anvil landing on my head. But again rodents had invaded my domain.

Last week I strategically positioned a child-proof plastic box with mice poison on our front step, hoping to rid our home of the menacing mice. Although I don’t like mice, and I have used mice poison to control them, there are better alternatives to poison, which can potentially end up harming or killing other animals or birds that may consume a rodent that died after eating poison. Consider live traps that don’t involve the use of chemicals.

Even If I need to purchase a dozen snap traps, mice and men will not co-exist in harmony. At least not on my street.

(Editor’s note, Oct. 25, 2021: I updated this column after receiving feedback from a few readers who pointed out the dangers of using mice poison and the trickle down effect to the food chain. Thanks for your feedback.)

Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota.

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