This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mouse in our house; unfortunately, the last one was discovered by my cats sometime in the night, and I found its dismembered remains in the kitchen the next day. Actually, one of my cats found this one too, but it was still alive when I noticed him playing with it. I was working on the computer when I heard my male, Jango, playing with something in the doorway. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, and when I looked over, I saw a small brown rodent streak across the hall toward the guest room. Jango followed it, and so did I. I shooed the cat away and then went to get a glass to catch the mouse. By the time I returned, the mouse had vanished. Doran has a live-catch mousetrap, so we set it in the guest room with some peanut butter in it. When we checked the trap the next morning, the mouse was in it.
Fortunately, it did not appear wounded – my cat hadn’t had much time to do any damage by the time I noticed them. It was either a White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) or a Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), two species that look quite similar but can only be identified in the hand by taking measurements. Doran didn’t want to put it out in the backyard, and I didn’t want to leave the mouse just anywhere on top of the snow’s surface where it would be exposed to predators and the cold winter nights, so I took it over to the Beaver Trail, as I had seen plenty of rodent tracks and “highways” there on Saturday.
Mice, along with shrews and voles, do not hibernate, but are active throughout the winter in the subnivean zone between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack. They create long tunnel systems and dens beneath the snow, complete with air shafts to the surface above. When you see rodent tracks running from the base of one tree to another, you will almost always find the tracks coming from a hole that leads down into the tunnels beneath the snow. I recalled seeing seeing such tracks at the Beaver Trail, and found the perfect spot at the base of a small tree.
I opened the trap, but the mouse was tucked inside one of the small metal boxes that allows it to enter the trap, but not to exit. I waited for five minutes, and when the mouse showed no signs of coming out, I put a couple of peanuts just outside of its little hidey-hole in an attempt to draw it out. I continued to wait as it ate first one peanut, then another.
It was a warm afternoon, and there were lots of families out on the trail. I am sure I got plenty of stares as I hunkered next to the tree just off the trail waiting for the mouse to venture out. After about 20 minutes, it finally did, and I was able to take a couple of pictures.
I guided the mouse toward the edge closest to the hole, then dumped it out. It sniffed the edges of the entrance to the tunnels, then hesitantly ventured down. It broke my heart a little seeing how tentatively he entered that subnivean world, where he had no den or food stores of his own. However, spring should be here in a few weeks, and I hoped it would find a safe spot and enough food for the time being until the snow melts and it finds a territory of its own.