with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Battling the Wilderness Inside – Florida

March 21, 1998 – Lake Worth, Florida

Just a quick note to tell you that indeed we are alive and so far the storms smacking Florida have left us dry and fine. Well, as fine as Brent and I ever get in our total weirdness. Our journal entry today will actually be about a bit of wildlife that is making us totally crazy. But first, this commercial break.

graphic of a squirrelWe had a blast staying with our friends, Maresa, Chuck and Patrick in Sarasota, Florida. We wedged in their long narrow driveway wedged between their house and the neighbors, which blocked most of the storm winds. It was fun and relaxing as Brent and Maresa took turns fixing awesome meals, and I swear I gained more weight. Maresa and her family rehabilitate squirrels and I was honored with a chance to hold one. “Bob” is just too cute and fun. Injured as a baby, Bob had his tail amputated, restricting his return to the wild. He’s a part of the family now, and quite a character. Chuck brought him in the house and he ran all over the place including UP our legs at the speed of light, his little pinching claws pin-pricking our skin as he crawled up. He thinks we’re trees. Chuck gave him nuts which would send Bob into a flurry to race all over the house to find a place to hide them. Patrick’s bed, down under the covers, is a favorite spot, causing the 14 year old to scream at his parents at bed time, “Mom! Bob’s been in my bed again!” Other favorite spots include under the couch, the fireplace, garbage cans, anywhere he feels would make a good permanent spot. After he is put back out in his large cage on the back deck, a search of the house rounds up the nuts for use on his next excursion. It was a riot. Maresa takes Bob camping with her from time to time, even though he’s still in the dog house from trying to eat out the fabric covering the speakers in the RV last time.

The day after we left Sarasota, a tornado swept through there and ripped the roof off a school nearby. No one was injured, but it was scary to think about. Florida has been smacked and slapped by so many storms this year, it’s frightening. So far, we’ve been very lucky and blessed.

We caught up with friends, Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, for dinner at the trailer in Ft. Myers. What good friends. Hopefully we will get to visit them when we head up the east coast later this year, if we make it.

Brent got more of his addiction to birds satisfied. Ding Darling and other nearby places were good this year for bird pictures, but it was really hard work. To quote friends of ours, the birds that remained in spite of the storms, were all carrying umbrellas, making it a bit of a challenge to get a “natural” picture. Brent went down to Corkscrew Swamp and photographed some great specimens, including photographing an endangered native snake. When he got home, he mentioned he had brought home a 7 foot length of shed snake skin to photograph. It was late and I didn’t give it another thought until I got in the truck to run errands the next morning and found it lying across the dashboard of the truck. From the scream that ripped from my throat, I’m sure the neighbors realized I wasn’t too happy to have this surprise passenger with me.

We did a lot of work in Ft. Myers, I practically wore my fingers out. We left yesterday and came across the state to Lake Worth, which is near Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge and other parks we want to explore and photograph. Brent figures that all the birds that should have been on the west coast will be here to escape the storms.

Graphic of a mouse runningOkay, now, we return from the station break to vent our frustration about a certain wildlife.

The hole chewed into our ventilation system.We have a mouse. And not just any mouse. We call it the MOUSE from HELL! Upon arrival in Ft. Myers, I unrolled the plastic bath mats we use to cover the hoses and electrical power cords so people won’t trip, only to find that in the space of a couple of hours between Sarasota and Ft. Myers, they were now well ventilated with huge holes chewed in them. Furious, I started pulling everything out of the small “basement” in the trailer. When I pulled out a plastic milk container filled with bird seed, a huge hole in the side of it spilled seed husks were spread all over the place. Emptying the basement, we found the booger had eaten a huge hole in our heater vent going into the bedroom, which gave the stinker access from the basement into our generator compartment.

Remains of mouse food like a paintbrush and wires.The thing has a fetish for plastic. Ate miles of covering off wires, hoses, even consumed 3/4s of the bristles off Brent’s favorite paint brush. The damage was extensive. We found mouse poop everywhere. So we cleared everything out of the basement and the generator. Oh, you wouldn’t believe what was eaten and bit on.

Keeping in mind that we are thoughtful and dedicated nature lovers, we bought two live traps. They are small grey plastic tunnels where you put the bait. As the mouse runs inside, it tilts, snapping down the lid and capturing the mouse. We filled them with peanut butter and cheese and have, to date, caught NOTHING. A few days later, I was cleaning the kitchen cupboards and found massive signs of mouse infestation there. It got into our whatnot drawer and consumed the wicks off our spare emergency candles and broke into Toshi’s catnip seed. It even ate THROUGH the metal of a tea light candle to get to the wax. This is ONE SICK MOUSE! Friends had given us a huge container of Giarrdelli’s Cocoa for Christmas and the mouse ate 1/2 the plastic lid off and jumped into the cocoa. We could imagine it using the lid as a diving board. WHEEEEE! Here I go diving into expensive cocoa! Yahooo!!!!

Brent cleans the mouse remains. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenWe tossed that out along with tons of other things. We washed all the pots and pans and dishes and canned food and everything that was down there with hot soapy water and rinsed everything with a bleach bath and then rinsed it again. I found my little portable telephone with a headphone/mic for talking while making interview phone calls, since it leaves my hands free to take notes by hand or on the computer, chewed up all along the microphone wire, cutting it up into little pieces.

While we had been in Sarasota, our phone from the trailer to the house didn’t work. We thought that was odd, and Brent’s investigations found the wire had been cut in three places. We thought it had been pinched and caught under the cupboards which it runs under and just worn apart by all the traveling. Little did we realize that the DAMN MOUSE had been in there doing the damage even THEN.

The next two and 1/2 weeks was spent living with our stuff out from its storage places. Everything in the kitchen’s lower cupboards were added to the stuff from the generator compartment and basement to huge piles all over the living room and kitchen area. We had a small path so we could get to one seat at the table and to the sink and then to the desk and that was it. A MESS!

As loving, gentle, yet passionate, lovers of nature, we finally upped our defenses and bought snap-traps. We were determined now to nail this invader. Eventually we found a huge hole eaten out of the floor in the basement around one of the pipes. The alien was now in our floor boards causing who knows what kind of damage. It’s living in our floor! That’s how it got from the basement in the front to the back of the trailer. I sent Brent, now the great warrior hunter, out for more snap-traps.

We now have seeds all over the 14 traps in the kitchen cupboard area and the basement. So far, nothing. A trap snapped and we found teeth marks on it this morning. But no DAMN MOUSE. I am terrified at what this monster is doing under our floors. It seems to not like food as much as it likes wood and plastic. This trailer is nothing but wood and plastic.

Graphic of a fat mouse - maybe the look of the monster eating up our trailer.I’m almost ready to seal up the two access holes and hope the thing just dies in the floor boards, but I have this vision of this monster mouse with a huge bloated plastic-filled belly using a huge splinter from our floor supports to pick its teeth while lying back on a couch made from our floor insulation, staring out the “doors” chewed in our heating system. He’ll keep eating away until I step down the hall stairs into the living room one morning and hit ground as the floor gives way. Oh, GAWD!

We will survive. I keep yelling at the floor “DEATH!!!” and stomping really hard but it doesn’t seem to help. We’ll keep you informed on our attempt to use the DEATH PENALTY to its fullest potential as we seek and destroy the MONSTER PLASTIC EATING MOUSE.

3 Comments

  • Arlene
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 8:47 | Permalink

    How can I tell the difference between mouse and roach poop. I have found what looks like mouse droppings in the back of my bathroom cabinets. We have just moved to FL so I suppect roaches, but don’t know what their dropping look like.
    Something is living back there. Any ideas???

  • Posted May 4, 2007 at 1:30 | Permalink

    Does it matter? Put out poison or traps for both and get rid of them. In Florida, it could be ANYTHING, even things you can’t imagine. ;-) Or at least, don’t want to.

    As for a straight answer to your question, I don’t know. That’s not my specialty, as you could tell from my article.

  • Toni Anne
    Posted September 17, 2007 at 18:58 | Permalink

    I unfortunately came across a great way to get rid of a mouse. I was cleaning my basement the other night and moved some extra pieces of vinyl siding that had been propped against the wall. Low and behold a mouse nest made from lint out of the laudry room wastebasket. Next to the nest was a snake skin. It appears he had the mouse for dinner and I’m wondering where he is now. He’s been named Sammy the snake only because I have to remain lighthearted about it since the game room, fitness room and laundry room are all down there. Maybe he uses the treadmill at night.

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