Indeed, mice seem to love the warm environment of Washington DC’s high powered workplaces—where there are always lots of food scraps, piles of paper to serve as nesting places and utility conduits, described as “subway tunnels to the tiny.” According to the article, “President Andrew Johnson was known to feed mice at his desk. . . [and] . . . Jimmy Carter grew furious when the General Services Administration and the Interior Department argued over which agency was responsible for the dead mouse he smelled in the walls of the Oval Office.” Some office workers want mice nuked while others plead not to hurt them. Some employees will even spring the mouse traps, “. . . turning mouse bait into mouse hors d’oeurves.”
This situation is particularly problematic at the Dupont Circle headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). One PETA employee was so upset at seeing mouse droppings that she asked to work from home, whereupon Ingrid Newkirk, PETA founder, told her to “man up.”
“They are one-200th your size and they are harmless,” said Newkirk.
Harmless? Newkirk obviously has never seen what happens when mice get too numerous. My husband witnessed a mouse swarm in Australia and it was not pretty—see this video clip to get an idea. They cover the ground, eating everything, then form huge piles where they eat each other. They will crawl over pigs and basically eat them alive.
Rat sightings in offices create more concern—even animal lovers who want to spare the mouse agree that rats are true vermin and must be eliminated. Rats are bigger, they eat more, can be more vicious, and they spread disease.
I am reminded of Bill Gammage’s wonderful book, The Biggest Estate on Earth, which describes the land management techniques of Australian Aborigines. The Aboriginal peoples sculpted and shaped the land and waters to create an abundance of plant and animal life, but they also took steps to avoid over-abundance. If the kangeroos or eels got too numerous, they engaged in wholesale slaughter—maybe this is why the plains Indians ran the buffalo off cliffs. If mankind manages affairs to create abundance, we also have the responsibility to keep the species in balance.
Here on the farm, we keep the mice at bay by encouraging a population of wild cats. We feed them a little raw milk each morning to keep them fit, but not enough to make them lazy. Since we have grain around the farm in tubs, bins and animal feeders, the cats are absolutely essential to keep the mice population down. And if the cats get too numerous, we get rid of some. That’s man’s role—to encourage abundance but also balance—and what better way to do this than with competing species of animals, rather than poisons. And thank goodness for predators! Without them, no food production would be possible.
If you have mice or rats in your house, you really need to get rid of them before they take over. Even when few in number, mouse droppings can be as allergenic as mold. The first step is to clean up all clutter and keep food stored in mouse-proof containers, such as good old-fashioned glass.
Mice can get in through openings around pipes. A great trick is to stuff these openings with fine steel wool—it works beautifully. Any remaining mice should be trapped. I like the Intruder type mouse traps—the old fashioned wire traps frighten me—too easy to get your fingers snapped under the wires. There are also traps that catch mice alive so you can put them outdoors (they’ll make a nice morsel for the next hawk that flies by). The worst choice is the type of trap that the mice stick to—you may find not a mouse but a mouse foot or leg, leaving the amputated mouse to die in agony behind a wall. Then you might need to call the General Services Administration or the Interior Department to get the body out.
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2 thoughts on “The Mighty Mouse”
Peppermint oil is said to be a deterrent on cotton balls in the pantry – or where needed
Dear Sally and other farmers, Yes, many animal groups and the educated public agree that PeTA is not a good source of information and is best avoided. My grandfather farmed on the prairies. My mother noted how the cats worked to help control mice and how cats were often injured or killed when fields were worked so controlling their population didn’t seem to be an issue. Apparently healthy stray male dogs were usually neutered and released. There were fewer options to safely desex cats back then compared to 2016. I believe it is important and expected now by consumers and the public to maintain high animal welfare standards, even for non producing animals on farms so I’d like to present a modern option.
I encourage you to get in touch with animal groups, shelters or veterinarians in your area who may be able to humanely manage the wild cat population rather than choosing to just “get rid of some”. It’s called Trap, Neuter, Return, TNR. It’s been used for over 50 years in Europe and over 30 here in North America. Many organic farmers maintain such cat colonies with some animal shelters offering free or low cost barn cats who are sterilized and were previously used to living outdoors. Evidence shows the sterilized and fed cats will still kill rodents but will enjoy improved health with fewer nuisance issues, like noise and smelly urine spraying. Desexing all the cats will reduce diseases. Kittens under two months are often adoptable too.
If you or a family member are maintaining a Facebook page or farm website, they could easily organize a TNR and cat care fundraiser to post online. To avoid hidden fees, direct donations via PP might be better. Some people and groups arrange with a vet to accept direct donations for the fund.
Sources of reliable information, studies and resources on this include Alley Cat Allies [www.alleycat(.)org], Barncats(.)org, and Neighborhood Cats(.)org – with free colony care downloads. Catinfo(.)org is great at explaining species appropriate nutrition and some basic health info, based on circumstances of animals. It’s a non commercial site recommended by many shelters and rescue groups. Also shows photo examples and instructions for cat feeding stations that raccoons can’t access.
I hope this will help anyone out there who wants solutions to controlling rodents and cats on their property while demonstrating humane cat care standards to current and potential customers and potential followers. I’d really love to see your article updated with info to help others with their mouse and cat issues, and to show how you are using TNR and working cats on your farm. Thank you.