This story was originally published in The Weekly on December 29, 2011.
This holiday season, while people everywhere are noshing on delightful goodies, one little mouse will dine on organic goodies from his new home on Dutton Street.
He will not make a bed from the stuffing in my car.
He will not collect goodies from dog treat bags.
He will not make “doggie bags” from remnants of food discarded in the passenger seat trash bag.
Instead, he’ll be foraging for nuts, berries, and discarded food left by visitors to Bass Park and in the horse barns. This country mouse will be a city mouse.
As a writer for the Bangor Daily News and a professional photographer, it’s true that I live out of my car, especially June through October. The trouble is, a white-footed mouse started living out of my car, too, sometime during those months.
And he was living high on the hog inside the Hyundai until I started putting two and two together.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, I noticed what appeared to be dust inside the map lights.
At first I thought it might be a fluke. Then the next day I noticed more dust — and some small black “pills.”
Mice? I hoped not.
I started getting paranoid. I emptied the car of almost everything in it. No noticeable evidence was on or under the seats. Monday afternoon I swore I heard something scuttling around behind my seat.
By Tuesday, it was game on. My husband and I don’t have the best track record with kill traps, and the last thing I wanted was for a mouse sans paws to crawl into my car and die.
My co-worker — an expert mouse catcher — loaned me a live trap and showed me how to set it. I filled it with yummy banana bread and set it on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat.
The next morning, the trap was tripped. I was excited. Alas, there was no mouse, only the piece of banana bread I left for him.
He was a smart little guy, so I put myself in his paws. If I were a mouse and had set up house in the Hyundai, there must be food somewhere. I looked under the seats and in the engine compartment. Then I searched the trunk and its spare tire.
Bingo! I found a stash of dog treats and chewed paper securely saved in the hollow of the spare tire.
So I reset the trap, this time placing it in the trunk and filling it with goodies, including peanut butter crackers and dog treats with peanut butter on them. I shut the trunk and headed inside for the night.
The next morning, like a giddy kid at Christmas, I raced out to the car to see what I caught. And there he was: a white and brown field mouse cowering in the corner of the trap. I raced inside to show my husband and the cat and dog. To prevent an accidental release, I put the trap into a box, and the mouse and I took our last trip together to Old MacDonald’s Barn at Bass Park.
With the mouse released, I visited the insurance company; there possibly was minimal damage. Then again, there could have been lots of damage by a mouse enjoying upscale living inside my Hyundai.
Fortunately, Met Life covered mouse infiltration.
And it’s a good thing. After getting the clear from Met Life, I took the car o Kontio’s Automotive Repair in Hermon. Jeff Kontio, the owner, said he had seen instances where cars were destroyed due to mouse infiltration. But at the worst, it would likely be the headliner that would need to be replaced.
Several days later we got the verdict: The mouse had lived in my Hyundai for quite some time. In fact, he had created several pads within the car. He had a summer home behind the rear passenger seat, a vacation home behind the other rear seat, and a winter home above the front passenger seat (near the map lights).
And he was working on a fourth development near the front console.
If you think about it, it’s the perfect “bachelor pad”: lots of space, an enclosed area away from predators, and climate controlled housing. The only thing my car didn’t have was a wet bar and restrooms. Luckily, we didn’t find any evidence that he was a ladies’ mouse.
However, we did find that he had made multiple nests and turned part of the headliner to nest shavings. Padding that should have been solid had been relegated to gnawed foam. And for some reason he liked aluminum, Jeff said. The mechanics found evidence of aluminum foil throughout the center console where the mouse was building a nest.
Perhaps he considered my car a mobile home. And he has travelled the state with me as I went from assignment, to assignment, wedding to wedding, shopping trip to shopping trip.
On the upside, all of the fabrics, including the seats, will get a thorough cleaning to eliminate any remaining mouse residue. I’m in a pretty sweet rental — a 2011 Dodge Charger — and my hitchhiker is now living it up in the city.
The meek may inherit the Earth, but my little hitchhiker is inheriting nothing but a new environment this winter.
And I’m inheriting a bill. It pays to have insurance at times like this.