There is a mouse in the house!

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House mice are good jumpers, climbers and swimmers, and are generally found maintaining contact with vertical surfaces. It is funny how this adolescent mouse found himself trapped in this plastic bucket. Photo by DON BARTLING

Actually he wasn’t in the house, he was in the garage and in a six-gallon plastic bucket, which somehow he placed himself into and couldn’t get out. My wife alerted me to his presence with a loud exclamation, “You better come out here and see what is in the bucket.”

I responded quickly and saw the adolescent mouse peering up at me as if saying, “what did I get myself into and could you be so kind as to help me out.” I always exterminate mice, but this one with his soft brown eyes gave me pause.

The house mouse has thin whiskers, narrow hind feet, and short, sharp claws; its long, slender, scantily-haired tail and prominent, thinly-furred ears appear naked, but on the rest of the body the fur is short. House mice have an adult body length (nose to base of tail) of three to four inches and a tail length of two to four inches. The weight is typically 1.4 to 1.6 ounces.

In the wild they vary in color from light to dark. They have short hair and some, but not all, sub-species have a light belly. House mice thrive under a variety of conditions: they are found in and around homes and commercial structures, as well as in open fields and agricultural lands.

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is a rodent native to Eurasia but introduced worldwide through association with humans. They are highly adaptive as indicated by their ability to survive in buildings and aboard ships. They have a tendency to move into agricultural fields and leave when the habitat changes, and have a rapid rate of reproduction that allow them to thrive wherever humans do.

House mice are primarily nocturnal and terrestrial. Nervously active, they are agile climbers and jumpers and are also good swimmers. Outdoors, they excavate burrows in which to build nests of dry grass, but they will also den among rocks and crevices.

House mice living outdoors eat insects and seeds, and are also considered pests; essentially omnivorous, they construct nests in any protected place and can contaminate food and damage property. Gestation lasts 19-21 days, and each female of these prolific rodents can produce up to 14 litters per year; five to six is normal, although litters of up to 12 are sometimes produced. Life span can be as long as three years in laboratory mice but is considerable shorter among free-living mice. House mice usually live less than one year in the wild, due to a high level of predation and exposure to harsh environments.

House mice usually run, walk or stand on all fours, but when eating, fighting or orienting themselves, they rear up on their hind legs with additional support from the tail, a behavior known as “tripoding.” Mice are mostly nocturnal and they are averse to bright lights. They live in a wide variety of hiding places near food sources and construct nests from various soft materials.

House mice primarily feed on plant matter, but are omnivorous. They, like most other rodents, do not vomit. Mice cannot belch either so if they drink soda they cannot burp to relieve themselves of gas buildup in their stomach. Mice will drink soda because it is sweet and they will die from the carbonation in the soda.

House mice are thought to be the primary reason for the taming of the domestic cat.

After looking at the big brown eyes of the trapped mouse, out of sympathy I decided to take him about a mile from our house and turn him loose in the forest. Hopefully he won’t come back to our garage again.

Enjoy Boundary County and all its beauty!

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