The kinder side of dealing with wildlife

For the past few weeks I’ve been on vacation.

Vacation for me is transporting myself to a remote part of the Georgian Bay, a long boat ride away from stores, newspapers, the “buying” complex, technology, and the daily responsibilities of city life.

A funny thing happens when you’re in a place where “making do” with what’s available presents every day challenges.

We’re living in a water-based community and our regular facts of life include muskrats (who are quickly depositing blue dock foam on every shore around us), racoons (who are spending the season rolling our garbage can around the back deck in an attempt to unfasten the stretchy cord that’s securing the lid to the can), brown bears (who this year are staying on the shore opposite ours), rattle snakes and fox snakes (who mercifully let us know when they’re around so we can avoid them), bats (inside and out of our humble abode), and mice.

We are a non-fishing family. We both grew up in fishing families, but neither us, nor our children have ever been able to hurt worms. People have tried to introduce us to fancy lures, but then we just end up hurting the fish, so we just don’t do it. We have nothing at all against people who do.

I’ve been enjoying my time away. I’ve been rowing regularly a couple of miles at a stint, taking in misty water sunrises. I’ve been watching the northern lights. I’ve been enjoying “ladies dinners” with my buddies up here. I’ve been enjoying my own family, grown kids and their friends. I’ve been painting cottage trim, replacing screens, catching up on photo albums, reading books, baking… things that my city life doesn’t usually have time for.

My husband has been building rock steps and walkways. It’s amazing how little one big bag of concrete mix actually accomplishes. He’s worked his way through a lot of concrete.

Anyway, that’s our setting. It’s been lovely, restorative, and I’m preparing to come back to work that I love in the best city in this country.

But, I thought I’d share our little family challenge of today. Down near the water we have an eight-foot-long “dock box” fashioned from plywood, with screened air holes, a tightly fitted lid which clamps down or is ingeniously held up by a sheared-off paddle. The dock box houses all the junk that would normally litter the waterfront… gas cans, life jackets, oil containers, bailers, floating line, chain, rope, and the oars for our rowboat.

As I came up from the water after my row this morning, I announced that something is living in the dock box. Ready evidence as the “leathers” around the oarpins have been chewed. I brought the oars into the cottage and hoisted them up on the rack in the kitchen. Every kitchen should have an oar rack and a paddle rack, in my opinion.

Later in the day we removed everything from the dock box, and discovered several clothing articles long lost to our oldest kid. He was happy.

And tucked behind one of the supporting two-by-fours was a little dormouse. And inside a large plastic container of nails was the house of the mouse… constructed mostly of lifejacket foam and bits of leather. The little mouse had focussed its enormous eyes on us. We looked back. “C’mon out,” I urged. “Your nest is gone; you better leave, too.”

We considered the possibilities. We could scoop it with a bailer. We could set a trap. We could leave the dock box lid up and hope the mouse got tired and left. We tried this tactic for a few hours. The mouse knew that the bailer could never reach him in his little wedge between strut and frame. He wasn’t budging. Neither of us wanted to hurt the wee thing; however, this was far too big a house for a mouse and we had now far too many things cluttering the shore.

I went on up to the cottage. “I do bats,” I told my other half. “You do mice.”

He arrived, triumphant, up at the cottage awhile later. He’d burned through three more bags of concrete mix AND the mouse was gone.


“I just swished a huge bucket of water onto him and he scampered out like lightning!”

Build a better mouse trap, and they’ll leave every time!