I know, it's a bit unusual, but I really like small furry critters. Mice, voles, moles, lemmings, rats, hamsters, shrews, and all the assorted other small furry mammals that I haven't listed. There is something very endearing about these small creatures and how industrious they are. I've always liked them, which in my opinion is a wonderful testament to my parents, who taught me to love and respect all creatures, great and small.
I have had pet guinea pigs, a dwarf hamster, chinchillas, and a pet rabbit. All of these were sweet little pets whom I loved dearly, but they are quite different from the little creatures in my own backyard. Over the winter, we had voles making tunnels under the snow in the yard. When the snow melted, you could see a wonderful pattern emerge, showing how busy they had been. They did a nice job of aerating the lawn in some areas and I think that helped it grow back more vigorously in those spots!
Once, when I lived in a rental townhouse in Guelph, Ontario, I fed the birds a seed mixture and I fed the squirrels peanuts in the shell. One day, when re-organizing the closet, I pulled out the bags of seed and peanuts. Much to my amazement, I had a very organized little house guest. Although I didn't know what it was at that point, my guest had arranged extremely neat and tidy piles of seeds. It had taken the seed mix from the bag, separated the seeds into their various categories (sunflower, safflower, cracked corn, millet) and made completely separate piles of each type along the back closet wall. Likewise, there was a pile of peanut shells, separate from the seeds. I did have to buy a trap, because I knew I didn't want to share the inside of my home with this guest, so I bought a live trap. The next day I met my house guest - a darling little deer mouse. I commended my mouse for its organizational skills and had a discussion with it about why it couldn't stay. I took it, and its piles of seed, to the woods, and set it free, but I put the seeds out for it in the same spot so it might be able to re-stash them somewhere. I hope it lived a happy life. I used the trap on a number of other occasions, notably in an apartment I lived in that was located where a corn field had been the year before. I had a few mice that fall. They were all caught and released into the woods too.
So the other day I was in the barn giving antibiotics to a poorly chicken, when I heard a little scrabbling noise coming from inside a cardboard tube that was on end. Hmmm...I thought to myself...what have we here? Upon inspection, it was a very distant relative of my previous house guest. Another darling deer mouse. This time, I took some pictures. He was very appreciative of the chicken scratch that I gave him when I deposited him in the bucket for viewing purposes. I had a discussion with him about not getting stuck in cardboard tubes, and after a few photos, I let him go. It's a barn, not a house, so I wasn't that worried about it. One can't keep all mice out of a barn, and they have a right to their space too.
Here's a picture of my little friend. I hope he finds a warm spot for the winter. He can always drop by the barn for a little chicken scratch and a friendly chat.