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House Guests

Bayou-Diversity (5 January 2019) HOUSE GUESTS A house guest of ours left recently. Now I love company. We have a big house in the woods with lots of room for folks to spread out if necessary—but three months is a bit long even for the best of friends. He didn’t say a word when he left either. I have to admit that I had been encouraging his departure for quite some time even to the point of—dare I say it—attempting his assassination on more than one occasion. He drove me to it you see. It started when he began eating the dried flower arrangements in the living room. This bit of thoughtlessness was only the prelude to fractious rude behavior.

This guest was a mouse, a native white-footed mouse, sometimes called a deer mouse. He was not to be confused with the common, smelly house mouse with the very fitting scientific name of Mus musculus. House mice immigrated to Louisiana along with your ancestors from the Old World. Deer mice are generally forest dwellers and were already here to great them when they got off the boat.

Deer mice are actually very handsome. They have white feet and stomachs, which contrast sharply with their dark backs. Large ears and huge black eyes make them easy to like when first introduced. One begins to question their character though upon learning their sexual mores. Females produce their first litter, usually four naked pups, at only six weeks of age. Breeding continues year round but for a marked lull in summer. It seems that the fertility of males declines significantly when the ambient temperature exceeds 89 degrees. Perhaps that’s why my guest left. He chose as a bedroom/dining room the space between two floor rafters just underneath the shower. As a result he was exposed nightly to steaming saunas that very well could have left him impotent.

Don’t get me wrong. I like deer mice fine so long as they stay in the woods where they belong. Everything else likes them there too—as food. Owls, hawks, snakes, foxes and other predators ensure that they rarely die of old age. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when he rolled individually a dozen hickory nuts from a bowl in the living room forty feet across a hardwood floor to his cache in the bathroom at 2 AM. I baited the snap traps. (Adapted from “Bayou-Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country,” LSU Press)


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