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WHAT THE WALRUS SAID--Our Authors' Blog--

CREATURE IN OUR CLOSET

We've had a trying week with nature.

 

Snowstorms. Single-digit temperatures.

 

Meanwhile, a deer mouse cached food in our car's heating system, requiring a visit to the dealer for an expensive fix. It's not our thing, but this time we set traps, because mice can severely damage a car. Also, a house's wiring. We caught four mice, and after that the influx stopped.

 

Then we saw what looked to be a tiny, dark-furred mouse racing across our living room carpet. This visitor—it's practically a pet by this point—didn't act mouse-like, because it regards us resident giants with contempt, practically running over our feet.

 

It turned out to be no mouse at all. It's a short-tailed shrew. It weighs about the same as a dime (we looked it up), but it's our smallest, yet fiercest, mammal. It's a predator. It will attack prey several times its own size. Luckily, we're bigger than dragonflies or mice. Shrews may fight each other to the death, with the victor eating the loser. Daily they must eat their own weight.

 

We tried a mousetrap baited with peanut butter. No dice. We tried a plastic pail with a bit of smoked salmon on the bottom and a ramp offering an easy way up, theorizing that once the shrew dove off the pail's rim to get at the salmon, it would be trapped.

 

No dice.

 

We'll be getting a Havahart humane trap, hoping for a speedy capture and release, far out in our woods.

 

Also, we've installed netting around our hemlock shrubbery to keep our neighbors, white-tailed deer, from decimating it this winter.

 

We watch them, on these frigid mornings, hoofing the snow to find plants to eat. We imagine living out there, as they do, and it horrifies us.

 

Once upon a time, animals had these forested hills to themselves, including the black bears who occasionally lumber across our lawn and the red fox that patrols our pinewoods and the wild turkeys marching across the snow, down by the pond, and the two resident woodchucks, currently snoozing for the winter in their burrows.

 

Now we're here, and we're trying for détente.    

 

--Joyce & Richard

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