Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most recognizable mouse of all?
Of course, it’s Mickey Mouse! Since 1928, Mickey has won over hearts big and small with his oversized ears, red lederhosen and bright yellow shoes that match Bozo’s but look three times bigger on Mickey.
There’s an empire built around Mickey that includes a fairytale castle, a glow parade every night where he’s the grand marshal, the biggest, brightest fireworks display anywhere, and nine nominations for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film—and one winner (in 1942)! In 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (I’ve even heard he’s considering a run for president. I think it’s a great idea.)
Mickey Mouse is endearing. Just like Stuart Little is amusing, Mighty Mouse is a superhero, and El Ratón Pérez is similar to the tooth fairy in Spain (“Pérez the Mouse” in English).
We have The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse), Miami Mice—J.P. and Tito—on Sesame Street, and Jerry who is perpetually chased by a cat on the Saturday morning cartoon Tom and Jerry. Two pizza chains have mice as mascots: Chuck E. Cheese used to be a rat but he morphed into a more likable mouse in 1997, and Mitzi Mozzarella, a member of the rock bank at ShowBiz Pizza.
My favorite mouse of all times is Topo Gigio, who in the 1960s gave my little-girl-stomach butterflies when he leaned in to Ed Sullivan and said in his little French voice, “Keesa me goo’night!”
Who could resist the charm of Mrs. Tittlemouse, who appeared in a children’s book in 1910? How could a mouse not be cute when it was drawn by Beatrix Potter?
All these mice, they have big ears, innocent eyes, cute wiggly noses with tickly whiskers, and long, graceful tails. In a word, they’re adorable.
Except they’re not. They’re rodents. Mice, to be exact. If you used to have a heart for these charming little characters, you are enamored no more, now that you’re being overrun by them this summer.
They’re everywhere! If they’ve gotten into your house it’s because they can squeeze through a crack the diameter of a dime. They squeak and they scratch and they leave minute seed-like droppings in the most inopportune places.
These tiny hellions are prolific. After a short gestation period of 22-26 days, one mouse may have up to nine babies in one litter and up to 14 litters in a year (We’re talking about deer mice here. House mice aren’t quite as copious.) I’m getting goosebumps writing about them, and not because they’re related to Topo Gigio!
Because of their impossible-to-ignore, creepy presence these days, we no longer conjure up images of mice looking like the sweet, lovable Micky Mouse. Now we think of mice to be more like the evil, seven-headed Mouse King from the Nutcracker. Those tiny ears, those beady black eyes, the pointed snouts with twitchy whiskers and that greasy, wire-of-a-tail!
Why are we having a mouse population explosion this summer? I asked Jason Clay, Public Information Officer for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“There’s definitely a big boom,” he confirmed. “It’s just the natural cycle.” In other words, some years there are more mice and some years there are fewer. Clay said the rodent population explosion is not related to COVID or climate change. It’s just the natural evolution of things.
The Oxford Academic BioScience Journal provides somewhat different information, saying that high rainfall periods and other “favorable weather conditions” may lead to mouse outbreaks. Yeah, summer has been pretty nice, hasn’t it? Our gardens have loved all the sun and warm temps. But so have the voles and rabbits—and grasshoppers in the valley—loved our gardens. They’re eating up everything! Where are the coyotes, owls, foxes and mountain lions? They’re not doing their job of eating the rodents that are eating the gardens. And they’re certainly not consuming their fair share of mice.
Fortunately, someone has come up with a Better Mousetrap. This DIY contraption involves a five-gallon bucket, some wire, a pop can and peanut butter. People are catching a dozen or more mice per night with this invention, but it doesn’t seem to be making a dent in the mouse population—yet. (Look up “Walk the Plank Mouse Trap” for instructions.)
Meantime, There’s good news and bad news: The good news is that the outbreak in the first year is more abundant than the second year. The bad news? There’s a second year.
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© 2020 Sarah Donohoe