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Saturday, March 24, 2018

So much for building a better mousetrap

More than six centuries after the rodent-driven bubonic plague nearly wiped out Europe, you’d think science would have found a sure solution for vermin, but they are still around. 

In fact, if the world were to end in a nuclear conflagration tomorrow, three organisms would survive — the real Axis of Evil: cockroaches, lice and mice. So we continue to fight rodents as best we can.

When our cat died and mice took shameful advantage of the situation by showing up in our garage, I did what any self-respecting homeowner would do and went after them.

I am no stranger to doing battle with rodents. I used to live in South America, where I once caught a monster house rat that measured — sit down if you are standing up — 18 inches from nose to tail tip. I almost needed a tractor to haul it out.

So when I discovered mice in my garage, I laughed at the diminutive creatures and headed off to a hardware store to get some traps.

There, I made a startling discovery: A whole lot has changed in the mouse trap world since my trembling fingers first splayed open the steel snap trap I laid for that South American beast. 

Namely: We no longer seek to utterly destroy mice. Considering all the grief and pain rodents have wreaked upon the earth, total annihilation is my earnest personal preference. But judging from the traps being marketed today, it’s apparent we now have mouse huggers among us who would treat mice more affectionately.

There among the traditional snap traps that kill mice instantly were instruments of peace: scent repellents that compassionately keep mice at bay with odors; sonic repellents that use sound to tenderly suggest rodents stay away; and most disturbing of all: catch and release traps.

I know we live in a catch-and-release culture when it comes to fly-fishing our Montana waters, but I didn’t know it now applied to mice.

The new, benevolent traps are basically little baited apartments that mice wander into and can’t get out of. Once the mice are captured — one trap lets you know with a little sign that pops into view saying, “Caught” — you release them, in the words of the trap packaging, “in a desired area.”

There were different varieties of these traps in the store, like a one-mouse model and a four-mouse version for extra tenants. One trap advises trappers to “release mice 2 miles away.”

Release 2 miles away?

So this is what our society has come to: You don’t kill mice, you catch them in a nice plastic house, then get in your car, drive 2 miles into the countryside, and lovingly release one of the world’s most prolific killers into the wild.

I can bet you our ranchers would not be too happy with the catch-and-release approach — they have enough problems with barn mice already.

And I’m not too happy, either. If you’re going to trap mice in a mouse doll house, for crying out loud, don’t go releasing them near my home.

Dwight Harriman is the news editor for the Livingston Enterprise. He can be reached at dharriman@livent.net.

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