I catch a mouse, take it for a helicopter ride, and set it free at Grand Canyon Airport.
Anyone who has been reading these blog pages carefully should have noted that my trailer at Howard Mesa has a mouse problem.
The problem started last season. The trailer is parked here from late spring to early fall. Last season, we didn’t spend much time here. On our last stay, when I opened the door I found that the fringe on the throw rugs was gone and there were tiny black mouse droppings all over the floor. No other sign of the little buggers, though.
We bought those noisemaker things that are supposed to keep rodents away. We plugged them into an inverter that we left plugged into one of the trailer’s cigarette lighter-like outlets. Then we left for a few weeks. When we returned, we found that although the batteries were still charged (thanks to the solar panel on the roof) and the inverter worked fine, the two noisemakers were dead. There were more mouse droppings on the floor. And the little buggers had begun chewing the white threads off the sofa upholstery.
We hooked up the trailer and took it home. Mike went at it with whatever mouse removal tools he wanted to use. That usually includes sticky pads and nasty, snapping traps. I don’t like those. I don’t like seeing dead animals. So I just avoided the trailer for the whole winter season. Mike assured me sometime in January that the problem had been resolved.
This spring, we took the trailer back up to our property at Howard Mesa so I could live in it while I worked at the Grand Canyon. It’s only 36 miles door to door, and it beats the trailers with housemates program Papillon makes available to its employees.
I scattered moth balls around the trailer’s tires. Someone told me that would prevent mice from climbing up the tires and into the trailer through openings we knew nothing about.
But when I returned to the trailer after being home for a week, guess what I found? More droppings, chewed up Kleenex, and less white thread on the upholstery. The mice were back.
Mike planned to come for the weekend. I asked him to bring the humane mouse trap. That’s a mouse trap that actually TRAPS the mouse. It doesn’t kill it. It holds it in a tiny metal box so you can do something humane with it. And I went to Flagstaff and bought another rodent noisemaker.
When Mike came, I gave him an assignment. I told him that the mouse nest must be under the sofa. That was the only place we hadn’t searched thoroughly. I asked him to check it while I was at work. When I returned at the end of the day, he showed me where all that white thread and throw rug fringe had gone. And he repaired the ductwork for the heater.
Had he seen a mouse? No.
We left after the weekend. Mike had set up the humane mouse traps (we had two) in the trailer. I closed them up, explaining that they wouldn’t be very humane if we caught a mouse and let it starve to death. Instead, I set up the noisemaker.
I returned to the trailer on Wednesday evening. Opened the door and looked inside. And guess what? No mouse droppings, no torn tissue, and the sofa looked just as bad as when I’d left it — not worse. The noisemaker was still making its weird noise. I unplugged it and put it away, then set up the humane mouse trap, with a dab of Skippy peanut butter as bait.
At around midnight, I was wakened by a snapping noise. And then a tiny rattling, kind of like a very small mouse trying to get out of a metal box. I’d caught a mouse!
The tiny rattling went on for a half hour and I soon realized it was likely to go on all night. I got up, fetched the trap, and put it outside on the picnic table. Then I settled back to sleep.
In the morning, after having coffee and getting dressed, I went outside to look at my prey. What a cutie! I would have been shattered to see such a cute little guy stuck to sticky paper. He looked scared. And cold. But I had no pity for him. Not after what he’d done to my sofa. In my eyes, he was lucky to be alive.
Now what to do with him? Sure, I could take him out to the road and let him go. But what if he was some kind of homing mouse, one that could easily find his way back to the trailer? I could drive him down the road and let him go. But that would take time, and I had to go to work. So I decided to take him to work with me and let him go there.
I’d flown my helicopter to the trailer the evening before and that was how I planned to get to work that morning. So I loaded the mouse trap with its prisoner into the helicopter, along with the odds and ends I was bringing to work. I started the engine, warmed it up, and took off. I’m pretty sure that was the first time mousie was ever in a helicopter.
I landed at Grand Canyon Airport and set down on one of the transient helipads. I cooled down the engine, shut down, and unloaded my stuff. I brought the mouse trap over to the grass at the side of the helipad and opened it up. I shook the mouse out. He landed at the base of a tall clump of grass and looked at me as if to say, “What now?” Then he was gone, into the grass.
I set the other trap tonight. Let’s see if I can get another one.