MEH, the Wild Life, and Me

Charlie II

We live a wild life in Maine. Oh yes we do.

Let me back up. It all started yesterday when I came downstairs and saw a mouse by the toaster. Let me back up even farther. It all really started last year when we trapped and released 51 mice.

Because, here’s the thing. MEH and I—and let me extend that now to our children—do not believe in harming woodland creatures. This extends to insects of all kinds (with exceptions noted below), rodents large and small (including the chipmunk that was loose in our house two years ago), and even scaly animals (yes, that was a snake we found in the downstairs of one of our houses years ago).

So it was this morning we found ourselves transporting Charlie II in the car to be released in the Dog Walk Park. As MEH carried the live trap to the car, I mused:

“Should it be in a bag or something, what if it escapes?”

“It can’t escape.”

“Famous last words…”

This post is not about Charlie II disappearing into the depths of our car. He did not escape.

MEH carries the trap to the car
By now you’re probably wondering: Why Charlie? I can say only this: last year when we trapped (and released) those 51 mice, MEH started to wonder…does this mouse look familiar? So when there was a new mouse in the trap every morning, he’d scrutinize it as he released it. Then he’d come back in the house (yes, in those naïve days we were actually releasing the mouse into the compost pit about 50 feet from our house), and say:

“That mouse looked awfully familiar…”

When our college age daughter came home for break, she suggested something startling. Maybe it really was the same mouse coming back again and again. (For the record, and since this is my blog it is my record, I still believe it was different mice, all those 51, yes. You say naïve, I say denial.)

So this morning, with our first mouse of the season, we decided to play it safe. When we got to the park, MEH carefully carried the trap to the softball field (yes the very one where we feed the crows). He opened the trap. My job was to get the picture as the mouse jumped out of the trap. But of that mouse? All we could see was a tail.

MEH shook the trap. Still only the tail. I took about six photos of a mouse tail sticking out from the internal workings of the trap.

“Really?” MEH said, shaking the trap a little more vigorously.

“Maybe it’s dead,” I said, remembering the years we’ve found dead mice in the traps. I walked away, not willing to take a photo of a dead mouse.

“It’s not dead.” MEH said, now shaking the trap up and down as hard as possible. “Seriously?”

Understand this. MEH may have been slightly enhanced for this blog—to the point of hero status. He does have his fatal flaws, just like all heroes. Patience with mice is not one of his strong suits. This may well be because he’s trapped and released approximately, give or take 7 trillion mice over the course of our marriage. I’m just sayin’.

Five minutes later, MEH pounded the metal trap onto the ground in a valiant attempt to dislodge what now must be a terrified mouse suffering from shaken-baby syndrome. I walked further away, but MEH reported later that the mouse tail vibrated back and forth with every pound. Finally the mouse gave up and jumped from the box to safer havens of winter in Maine. (I should add that this morning was a balmy 50 degrees—although we havereleased mice in subzero weather, Charlie II lucked out.)

Charlie II lives and breathes the good life in Maine. And our wild life is back in nature’s balance. For now.

This was the amazing sky we saw while we were
at the Dog Park releasing Charlie II,
feeding the crows…oh, and walking the dog!
And about those insect exceptions? We do kill mosquitos and house flies and we once killed a Black Widow that was in our then-baby son’s room. Yikes. We only lived in that house for two years although it backed up to a beautiful view of an open field in Colorado and we could hear coyotes howling at night, it was plagued by mice, snakes, and that Black Widow. We never knew what we’d find by the toaster in that place!

Have you had experiences with wildlife in the house?  Or outside? What do you do? For writers: my productivity went down to zippo while focusing on the mouse—although it did give me this blog. What reduces your writing productivity? Have you ever been inspired to write based on a wildlife experience?




  1. Loved reading this. It’s funny what gives you inspiration, isn’t it?

  2. Ann says:

    OH I got such a chuckle with “shaken baby syndrome” for a MOUSE!

    Julia – you have such a tender heart! I’m afraid that a mouse or snake might not make it if they ventured into my domicile!

    In my defense (and I’m knocking on wood here) we’ve never had mice….I live in the suburbs – but near a hawk sanctuary – which pretty much takes care of the problem!

    As for snakes, there are a LOT of poisonous snakes here in Florida and I’m not going to stop and ask him if he’s is or isn’t! ….and we had a copperhead snake at the door once! Scared the beejeebees out of me!

    We did, however, vacuum up a Salamander and let him go – he was HUGE…but awesome!

    I haven’t had too much slow me down with blogging yet – but I’m a different type of blogger – and we have to eat ever day anyway! I suspect that illness would knock me down to zero. I had the swine flu several years ago and was in bed quarantined for 5 weeks….that would do it!

    Have a GREAT weekend!

  3. Oh my goodness – hilarious! Loved this post gazillions! I’m so glad you free your mice – I hate it when people kill them. Yet again, we are alike here Julia – I won’t kill bugs or beasties and always free them. The exception used to be wasps (wasp phobia) but I have come to like them just a little bit now, so I don’t kill them either. Because we don’t have deadly spiders here, or mosquitos, they don’t make the ‘kill’ list either. We have a garden mouse and lots of frogs – I love them! I also love spiders and snakes. I’m not keen on slugs, but all of these insects and animals are here for a reason, and I don’t see why I, or anyone else should upset the balance or decide that they are less important than we are. Long live the beasties eh?

  4. Charlie II is adorable, Julia. I love that you guys don’t kill anything that finds its way inside (well…with the exception of scary spiders). We used to have mice in the attic and sometimes they’d make night raids on the kitchen in NH. I killed one once, and felt terrible afterwards. I vowed never to do it again!
    In answer to your question about writing disturbances: pretty much anything can derail the writing, if I let it. (Twitter’s gotta be at the top of the list of distractions.) Keeping to a schedule seems to work best for me.

  5. Kelly, So glad you enjoyed it. Honestly, I hadn’t planned to post this morning, but Charlie II insisted! Inspiration is a funny thing, as you say! 🙂

    Ann, Glad you enjoyed! Yes, I do have a tender heart…. but if I lived where you live, I would NOT tenderly treat poisonous snakes — terrifying!! Mouse are the PITS to have in the house. Hate it & I bleach EVERYTHING, so keep knocking on that wood! As for the salamander, LOVE them, what color? And swine flu? YIKES. Hope you have a great weekend, too, wildlife free!

  6. Abi, So glad you loved the post 🙂 I suspected you and I might have the same tendencies toward all creatures great and small! I love frogs and mice (especially outside). Definitely long live the beasties — as you say, who are we to decide and upset the balance?

    Cynthia, Yes, Charlie is adorable (especially outside, by the toaster not so much!). I also must admit I’ve once killed a mouse — and felt terrible, so I know what you mean. In that horrible Colorado wildlife house we once had baby mice (newborn) staggering around the kitchen after we trapped and released their mother outside. I still sometimes think about those plaintive squeeks… ugh. THAT was even more distracting than Twitter could ever be!

  7. This may be my favorite post of yours yet. The humor, the love of animals, the “shaken baby syndrome,” the confusion over whether mouse no. 51 was THE same mouse over and over. I laughed out loud pretty much the entire time.

    But I adore that you and your family are so sensitive to all life (I am scoffed at for trying to bend butterfly wings into the right position, for saving rattlesnakes, for taking spiders outside). Glad to know there are two of us in this world. Well – five, counting your entire family!

  8. Melissa, Maybe this is your favorite post because it’s written from the reality of my very zany heart & soul…. haha. Truly, welcome to my life. Although I have never straightened out a butterfly’s wings, I am absolutely certain you and I share the same dedication to all living things….as you say, sensitive to all life. I say this as I watch squirrels, crows & other birds, and chipmunks frolic outside my window — I kid you not 🙂 Isn’t life grand?

  9. Erika Marks says:

    Julia, this could have been our house growing up (and is STILL my folks house to this day!)–My mom had/has a theory that it was the same mouse (or two) making himself comfy in our house for the entirety of our growing up. Out they went,in they came.

    But no tale (tail?) was sadder than when my sweet sister–as big an animal lover as all of us–took a seat in our couch and realized the mouse we’d been housing for months just happened to be living under the cushion! With all due respect, I don’t know who was more crushed. No, I think my sister was.

    Then there was the time I was at my office rushing around trying all morning to catch and release a little mouse only to finally get the box over him and lo! I am devastated to see I’ve caught him on the edge. I BAWLED in my cubby for an hour. Keep in mind this was when I was working at Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding magazine and the only woman on a floor of all men. It was quite a scene, as you can imagine.

    So, that all said, thank goodness there are people like you and MEH and my mother and father who are gifted at the art of the catch and release!

  10. This had me laughing. Is MEH totally into catch and release or has he just been doing all this because it comes with being married to you? Maybe the mice and crows are in cahoots now to distract you from editing!

  11. Awesome post, Julia. Charlie II is quite a character, and I love the description of YEH trying to dislodge the mouse from the trap!

    I also do my best to take spiders outside – I have a spider-trapping methodology and a special container. 😛

    Productivity kills for me include persistent errands and any house maintenance (there’s been a lot of that this month!)

  12. I catch and release as much as possible. This year I had to help a few bees and butterflies back outside. But I have to say that our yard is a risky place for rodents. Lola is a good hunter and she’s only getting better with practice.

  13. Erika, That’s so funny that your mom and you had the same conversations… except it sounds like she had my daughter’s opinion! Your poor sister, yikes, any of us would’ve been traumatized — and your story from work, devastating! I actually caugh a mouse in a box once, and I don’t know who was more surprised, the mouse or me! So, I suppose your parents, MEH and me, we’re part of the elite mouse-whisperers! 🙂

    Sara, Glad to give you a laugh! When I asked MEH your question, he would neither confirm nor deny his dedication to catch and release beyond his marital status. So you may well have opened up an interesting discussion point for a long upcoming car trip! 🙂 p.s. I think you’re so right that the crows and mice are in cahoots!

    Mahesh, Charlie II is quite a character, and don’t get me started on Alejandro the Cockroach, Abercrombie the dog, or Herman the Spider! Although, it sounds like you may be a kindred spirit to MEH and me… wish we had our spider system down to a science like it sounds like you do — we just have the mouse system down! p.s. and definitely don’t get me started on house maintenance issues — hope your house is newer than our 120 year old “antique,” sigh.

    Shary, Yes, we help the bees and the butterflies as well. And I so wish we could count on Abby like Lola to take care of rodents. Abby either mildly perks her ears or just continues sleeping. I guess she’s just is in the family spirit of catch and release!

  14. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not, but we’ve had quite the wildlife experiences since we got cats. They find all sorts, including bringing in a little bunny. Luckily Bryan saved it and put it outside. We don’t like to kill either. We do have to occasionally kill rats. But I feel bad for those little mice. But other little creatures we like to let live (unless the cats get to them first).

  15. country wife says:

    You are so funny! The wildlife experiences I have had are a few mice and snakes (

    With the two farm cats now, we haven’t seen a mouse in the house in years.

    Thanks for the laugh this morning!

  16. says:

    Apparently, the woodland creatures have spread the word that your place is safe. They’re all headed over there now…

    Love this post, Julia!

  17. Leah, Your cats are amazing hunters — I can’t believe they brought a bunny into the house! Thank goodness it was okay! As for rats, I think I might make an exception…. (did I say that?)… yikes!!

    Country Wife, I read your post — YIKES!! We’ve also had a snake in the house and I definitely DID NOT manage it myself. But once I had to take a HUGE wolf spider outside — found it in the newspaper pile. My then-7-year-old son at first was very interested in helping…. then I think he realized how huge it was and called dependable old mom. I screamed the entire time I transported it outside! Hilarious in retrospect… glad to give you the laugh & thank YOU for a great memory and the suggestion of a good mouser!

    VV, Yes, I think the word has spread: head to the Martins’ house — safe haven for all creatures great and small 🙂 p.s. glad you enjoyed!

  18. That mouse must have been dazed and confused by the time he was released. I bet he stumbled out into the field wobbling around like he was a bit tipsy. 🙂
    Kudos to you and MEH for having such a robust catch and release program. Though it might be time for a C-A-T. 🙂 (Don’t tell Abby I said so.)

  19. Jackie, Mum’s the word to Abby about the C-A-T…. but mum’s the word even more to MEH who is not a cat lover… yes, the mouse was quite dazed, but we are absolutely dedicated to our catch and release program! (Does Reggie catch mice? or do you have a cat, too?)

  20. Barb Riley says:

    What an adventure! I loved this post and all the running commentary you inserted within it—it’s so Julia! 🙂 Like others, I’m pleased to hear you are a catch-and-release type of gal. We’ve only ever had one field mouse in our house, and somehow, my husband got him out the door. We also had a couple toads show up in our window wells (which are covered, so I’m not sure how they got there), but my husband opened the basement window, caught them, then put them outside. (You might notice a pattern here…Ahem… I have a tender heart and don’t want to kill anything, but I’m a bit squeamish and uncertain of my abilities to catch quick-moving wildlife, so I call upon the husband to help.)

    Outside, we used to have a family of raccoons under our deck, but enter Murphy, our Treeing Walker Coonhound, and lo and behold, the coon family has since relocated. And no one was harmed except Murphy who got stuck under the deck (I need to write a blog post about that one…)

    Fun post! Great distraction from novel-writing, and well worth the time it took to write up the blog post to entertain your readers.

    P.S. I won’t comment on insect control. You won’t be happy with my bug-phobe issues.

  21. Barb, It only seems fair to distract my readers from THEIR WIPs since I’ve been distracted from mine! 🙂 So happy to have another catch and release friend! Luckily we both have husbands willing to help! As for squeamish? ME TOO… about mice (and other furry critters) AND bugs too. I can’t wait to read about Murphy stuck under the deck… poor guy 🙁 but still, must’ve been funny?

  22. Jen says:

    51 mice! Holy crap. I would not have been able to handle it. We had mice in our last apartment – only two or three, at different times – and everytime I saw one, it gave me the heebie-jeebies.

    My worst experience was when I lived in Queens, and our landlord brought those sticky traps to our apartment. A mouse got stuck on one, and the lamp cord got stuck on top of it. When I tried to pull the cord off, the mouse moved, and I would freak out that it was going to jump on me. I called my landlord to come take care of things. Now I think those sticky traps seem cruel, so we call an exterminator. You guys are much more heroic than me when it comes to wild creatures in the home, that’s for sure!

  23. Wow, Julia. You have a very patient and tenderhearted husband. Although my husband possesses both of those traits, I think he would start bypassing the no-kill trap when that second mouse started looking “familiar.” Way to go, hero MEH! 🙂

  24. Jen, Yes, 51 mice (or one mouse 51 times) was too much — not matter how you look at it. Our hole-y granite foundation has let in more than mice: chipmunks, hornets, and spiders (and who knows what else!)… and yes, I get the heebie jeebies too! UGH about the sticky traps; I HATE those too, for exactly the reasons you said. So cruel and sad 🙁 Thanks for saying we’re heroic; definitely friends to all creatures 🙂

    Jolina, Yes, MEH is very very tenderhearted and patient. I think if we knew again that there would be 51 mice, we both might bypass the no-kill traps — but mouse after mouse, it gets kind of mesmerizing and you start to wonder and be amazed, and you want to set that record 🙂 As for being a hero, yes he is that!

  25. Lisa Ahn says:

    Oh, Julia, this is fabulous — I laughed out loud!!
    I’m good with the catch and release for all kinds of bugs and spiders (we don’t have any poisonous ones), but I need to work on my mouse skills. You’ve inspired me yet again.
    As for writing distractions, let’s see . . . kids, dog, homeschooling, internet, dog, chocolate, coffee, dog, little child flooding the bathroom, nap, dog. That’s about it 🙂

  26. Emma Pass says:

    I grew up at an environmental studies centre, so I have a deep love for wildlife – even spiders and snakes!

    When I was a kid, we got mice in a cupboard where we kept all our suitcases, and they chewed holes in everything. My dad put some humane traps down to catch them, and when he’d caught them, he released them in the centre grounds.

    …But holes still kept appearing in our suitcases. In the end, my dad clipped a tiny piece of fur off one of the mouse’s backsides (very gently – it didn’t harm the mouse at-all) so we could see if it was the same one coming back. And it was! He had to take this mouse several *miles* away before it stopped turning up in our suitcase cupboard. Obviously, it had decided the cupboard was a perfect home.

  27. Lisa, Glad you enjoyed it — it was great fun to write as well…. welcome to my rather crazy wild life 🙂 I’m so happy to have inspired your catch and release of mice… it’s quite the experience! As for distractions, you’ve got me beat I think… although I’d take little kids over mice any day of the week…. you’ve got the good life!

    Emma, Ah-ha! I’m soooo glad you commented! It’s exactly as MEH and my daughter suspected, we must have a cupboard mouse like you did as a child! Thank you for your story! And next time, several *miles* away it is!! 🙂

  28. Aww, I think it’s wonderful that you release creatures back into the wild. Nature and animals deserve the respect. 😀


  29. CMSmith says:

    I know I’m late, but so glad I came back to read this great story. You are such a good story-teller. I can’t wait to read your book.

    Probably the scariest thing, for reasons unknown, were the birds that got into the house. I don’t know how birds got in the house. I managed to talk one out of the basement door. The other flew out a window I was able to open. But birds are scary when they are scared and in the house.

  30. Ashlee, It’s nice to find another respect-er of nature! All creatures deserve respect, no question! 🙂

    Christine, Glad you enjoyed the story — I’m still working away at the LONNGGGG story (my book) and so I hope I’ll finish soon… thanks for your support! As for birds in the house, YIKES!!! Very scary (I’ve seen them in places like Walmart, poor things, so I can imagine…maybe you’re the bird whisperer! 🙂