Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Pero, The Luckiest Mouse Alive

©Bert Gildart: Last night my six-year-old granddaughter called to tell me that she had read my posting on mice invading my Airstream. She hoped, she said, that I was encouraging their presence, just as I did when her mother (my daughter) had to contend with them as a child–the days when I worked summers in Montana’s Glacier National Park as a ranger and when we actually had wild mice as pets.

Pero the luckiest deer mouse alive

Pero, the luckiest deer mouse alive

At the time, we lived in a remote log-cabin ranger station in Cut Bank Valley surrounded by towering mountains inhabited by elk, grizzly bears–and mice. For my daughter, Angie, mice may have come to be pets out of some degree of boredom, but it all began one morning when we discovered a mouse struggling in our ceramic sink to keep its head above the water we’d left standing. Apparently, it had slipped, for ceramic provides no purchase. Angie wanted to save the forlorn-appearing creature from drowning, and so we reached into the sink with a spatula, intent on lifting it out. The mouse came out easily, for it was too weak to resist.

“Should I throw it out?”

“No, Daddy, let’s see if we can make it all better.”

And so we placed it in a cardboard box and then nursed it back to health. And all the while I thought this could be a wonderful learning experience. From a mammal book we quickly learned that a mouse that was dark on top and light beneath (protective coloration) was a deer mouse and that its generic name was peromyscus.

And, so, we called it Pero. Before long, Angie, seated, would have Pero climbing up her blue-jeaned leg. The trusting mouse dug in hard with its tiny sharp claws, knowing that when it ascended just above the bend of the knee that it would find some cheese, cracker crumbs or maybe even some scattered bread crusts. There it would nibble, peering at Angie with huge deer-like eyes that seemed to adorn. And, then, after feeding, Pero would clean itself thoroughly, for as we learned, deer mice belong to a group that is exceedingly fastidious.

Daughter Angie explained all this the other night to my granddaughter, and now Halle wants to know if I’m really going to kill one of these deer mice.

“Are you really going to kill Pero, Grandpa?” asked Halle, who so guilelessly sat on the lap of Santa Clause just a few weeks ago. “Can’t you trap them, alive?”

Of course I can, Halle; I have live traps. And maybe if I move them far enough away after trapping they won’t find their way back. But that’s not likely for scientists have marked deer mice and then proven the species has exceptional homing instincts.

Still, that’s my plan. I won’t kill Pero; I’ll move him. And should he return to our Airstream before we can leave on our trip into the Southwest, I guess I’ll have to move him or welcome him once again. And then, because deer mice are usually the most abundant of all mammals in a given area (probably why we hear owls each night), I guess I will also have to welcome any new friends he might have made on his journey back to his new home–our immaculate Airstream.

So have at it, Pero. (Pero, you may be the luckiest didly-durn mouse alive!) And since, God bless you, you make babies year around (as many as eight in each litter), the stuffing in our sofa (our bed, too) should make good nesting material, and we welcome you.

Isn’t that the least I can do for my daughter who has done such an extraordinary job of retaining environmental lessons from her childhood–and then passing them on?



7 Responses to “Pero, The Luckiest Mouse Alive”

  1. Kimmy Says:

    What a wonderful story! Your daughter will be proud. :)
    And here my kids thought I was crazy when after first moving out here in ‘99, I bought a humane trap and caught on 2 different occasions, Pero’s cousins, and drove them 2 miles down the road to a nice cemetery they could call home. It just wasn’t in my heart to do it any other way.

  2. Tim Says:

    ha ha ha. Yes, I too perused web sites proffering live traps after your last post. I don’t like to kill the little buggers when they get in the house, even though they may be carrying Hantavirus.

    I would say that the luckiest mouse alive is one that I caught in a traditional snap trap. Actually it would more aptly wear the title of the Toughest Mouse Alive, for it survived. I heard the snap and went to look and found the poor guy still struggling. So I opened the trap into a bucket, and the pitiful mouse hit the bottom with a thump and lay there feebly wiggling. I thought it was dying. But as I walked down the road to drop it off in the bushes somewhere, it got stronger, and by the time I tipped the bucket over to deposit it in the bushes, it was able to walk. I hope that there are little mouse chiropractors out there.

    How far can they travel back home, do you know?

  3. Bert Gildart Says:

    Tim, biologists in GNP once tagged mice and if my memory serves me correct, they can return over a distance of several miles. But here are a few other interesting facts about them. Because Pero has so many predators, he must be thoroughly familiar with all the details of the landscape in which he lives. Home range for these little guys can be as small as a backyard (probably my case), but it can also extend up to ten acres. Within their home range, they usually travel along the most convenient routes, which can be the trails of other animals or trails Pero may have created over time. As he and other of his kind travel, they may even trim the plants along their runways. And now that winter is upon us, you’ll often see his tracks on the snow. But more often, his runways are transformed into tunnels under layers of snow, and several years ago, we’d watch in fascination as our Malmute-like dog would cock its head, then pounce downward, front legs stiff, pinning some mouse-like creature beneath them. As you can tell, I’m fascinated by the little buggers, and in the spring, will look for their runways, which often form fascinating mazes. Well, that’s probably more than you wanted, but I appreciate your comments, Kimmy’s comments, and the comments of several others who simply dropped me emails.

  4. webdoc Says:

    I see their tunnels all the time in spring. And I’ve seen coyotes do just what your malamute did, diving headfirst into the snow. I had no idea their home range was so big! Wow. Or that they could travel home from such a great distance. Wow! again.

  5. Woody Schlom Says:

    Mouse-proofing:

    You should consider using the fine copper mesh stuff specifically intended for mouse-proofing instead of steel wool.

    The copper stuff lasts forever instead of rusting quickly. I’m not sure if there’s a danger of galvanic corrosion between the Airstream’s aluminum and steel wool or copper — but it’s worth looking into.

    My sister has been using the special copper mesh stuff for years to mouse-proof her log house. It’s expensive, but seems to be well worth the expense.

    Great photos!

  6. Leahh Allcock Says:

    Hi, im 14 and i’ve just rescued a mousey from my cat, max. i have nursed its wounds and begged my mum to let it stay for a night incase somethings not right. i shall hope to free him back into the wild tomorrow, cause he looks fighting fit :) i will miss it though, i called it mousey loll :)

  7. Susan Says:

    I drop a comment each time I appreciate a post on a site or if I have something to add to the conversation. Usually it’s caused by the sincerness displayed in the article I browsed. And after this post Pero, the luckiest mouse alive | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer. I was actually moved enough to leave a comment ;-) I do have some questions for you if you usually do not mind. Could it be only me or do a few of these comments appear as if they are coming from brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are writing at other online sites, I would like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post. Would you make a list every one of all your community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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