The Deep Ecology of Deer Mice

Soon after the cottage was built, some mouse families established themselves under the cottage. Later, when the cottage was enlarged, they were welcome to the big western room… The mice have access to other rooms only upon special invitation. They are never invited to the kitchen… Sometimes the human occupiers of the place do not like them to nibble or eat certain things. It is a joy to find out how to limit the mice’s access to these things.
Arne Naess, from The Ecology of Wisdom

 “You don’t think that’s really true, do you?” my mother asked in disbelief when I read her Arne Naess’ thoughts on mice. Last summer, she had been snap-trapping mice in the house. I wondered if there wasn’t a different way of dealing with them. Like living with them, while limiting their access.

Smiling in response to her amazed face, I said, “Well, yes, of course it’s true – this is Arne Naess.”
Naess developed the philosophy of Deep Ecology. The philosophy’s first platform states: “All living things have intrinsic value.” If anybody could live with mice in such a way, it would be Arne Naess.

The one-room cabin

The one-room cabin

Fast forward to autumn, to these past few weeks when icy nights have left frost on all surfaces, the last of the autumn color has frozen away to winter, and snow highlights the mountaintops. The mice have decided to come inside, making my one-room cabin their warm retreat. I wouldn’t mind so much except they make a lot of noise at night, especially for such small creatures. So the trapping began – in a way Naess might approve of.

Simple. It’s my version of a live-trap. Take a tall plastic garbage can, drape a towel over the edge baited with a bit of dry cat food on the brink of the bin. Mice take the bait, then drop into the garbage can where a few more kibbles lie. Caught! Five nights in a row, mice in the can. Removed to the field.

Then the crafty little critters figured it out, and would take the kibble, but not dive into the abyss. My live trap was defunct.

For a week, I listened to the rustling chewing nibbling restless noisy little mice all night long. I do not have Naess’ luxury of only allowing mice into certain rooms – there is only one room. One! And I sleep, eat, write, read, live my indoor life in that one room.

“I will have to set a snap-trap,” I sighed.

That night – seriously – that very night when I was going to cave-in to the way things are done and set the snap-trap, the mice joined me by the fire, and became companions – and also helped with their own population-control.

Evening in front of the woodstove, good book in hand. The fire blazed, and the door stood cracked open to let some of the heat out of the small room. Then the mouse came out, small face, long whiskers, big ears, innocent, totally benign and undeniably cute. Methodically, he searched beneath the table, politely eating each crumb and morsel that I had carelessly dropped during dinner. He looked at me sitting in the chair, saw no threat, and continued in his gathering.

So much for traps, I thought, smiling broadly.
Then he worked his way over to the door and went outside.
Slam! I shut the door. The mouse was now out in the natural environs where he belongs! With which a second mouse appeared to take his place, cleaning up the crumbs. I let him stay.

The next night, same thing (yes it’s true). Mouse appears, cleans up crumbs, out the door, slam and that mouse gone. Another appears.

Four nights in a row. Let the mouse walk out of the cabin, and close the door. Another mouse out of the house. One night, I left the door open. A mouse went outside, came back in, went out again. His choice. I shut the door even as another mouse appeared from out of the closet. Maybe I was watching mice doing circles – out the door into the cabin? I don’t know.

Now they seem to be gone. I don’t think it’s because I pushed them out the door. But it has been very quiet without the cute little beasties cleaning up the dinner crumbs I left on the floor.

Their disappearance happened after a ruckus, a squeal in the middle of the night. Then again another night. Weasel? Maybe, hunting. Cleaning out the mouse nests, the mice. It’s the way things work: carnivore eating its prey. But my nights reading in front of the fire are less lively now – almost lonely. The mice are gone.

Arne Naess too had a weasel. After the weasel arrived, there was “indiscriminate slaughter. Now there have been no mice for about three years. The place is not as it should be…”

There is a sacred spark in all life, an intrinsic value.
In all life.
Deer mice are not excluded.

Postscript: The day I posted this blog, a weasel appeared in the log pile. I protected him from cat and dog, as I am happy to have the little mustellid around.
Last night I woke and listened to silence. No rustling, nibbling, pitter-patter noise of mouse nor scampering, searching, sluicing sounds of weasel. All was quiet.

And I have to say, all is as it should be; what was left of my mouse population seems to have provided life for another creature. The mice are transformed.

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