Long ago, my family kept mice as pets. I've always felt an affinity for them, but I must admit that my heart grew as cold as the weather when mouse droppings began to appear in our kitchen drawers one winter. Hoping to end the problem before it became an epidemic, I set inexpensive wooden mousetraps and occasionally discarded a mousetrap and a dead mouse.
One day, though, after I heard a trap slam, a series of squeaks echoed from the kitchen. Selfishly, I worked in my office for a while, hoping that the agony would be done when I returned. Alas, I still heard squeaking.
My husband and I own a farm and have a worker who lives with us. I asked him if he could handle a rather gross, depressing task. He abidingly replied that he would, and he dealt with killing the wounded mouse. I continued setting the traps, throwing them away when they'd killed a mouse.
But the last time I went to buy traps, I discovered that the store only carried plastic traps. They take centuries to decompose, so I opted against them, buying a more expensive, humane metal trap. It would catch the mice alive, and I would let them free.
For several days, the set trap contained only bait. But this morning, I heard a commotion in the cabinet; when I opened the door, I found that a mouse had found the trap. "But where shall I release the mouse?" I wondered.
I learned online that mice, like dogs, have a homing instinct that guides them almost a mile, so I decided to take my mouse to Anderson Park in Carrboro. It would have access to lake water and duck feed. Driving the five miles, I considered the expenditure of gasoline, which soldiers fight and die for, just so that I wouldn't injure a mouse.
Still, at the park, I found a spot near the lake and opened the trap door. The mouse was too terrified to move, so I gently dumped it onto the ground. Free at last, it scurried alongside the water and jumped into the lake.
"My God," I thought. "I've killed the mouse after all, and with a long and torturous drowning!"
To my surprise, my mouse began swimming. As I watched, it headed swiftly toward the center of the lake. I wondered if distance-traveling mice can also swim long distances, and I hoped that a big fish wouldn't want a morsel of mouse.
My mouse finally turned around and headed back toward shore. It disappeared amidst floating greenery. I bid it good-bye, picked up my humane mousetrap and returned home.
The mousetrap is back in its cabinet, baited again. Next time, I think I'll take the captured creature to a dry field on the opposite side of the Haw River.
Well, either that, or I'll put it into a terrarium with an exercise wheel.