Waging war on the wildlife…..

I should probably attach a health warning to this blog. Something along the lines of “all animal lovers and squeamish people, read no further….”

For anyone who hasn’t worked it out yet, I live in the country; halfway up a hill, in the middle of remote nowhere, surrounded by the beautiful countryside of Scotland.

On the plus side, I wake up every morning to views like this:

On the downside, Waitrose won’t deliver, there is absolutely zero chance of ever getting a broadband speed above 0.000001 MB/s, in Winter I can be cut off for days at a time, and the nearest pub/bus stop/pint of milk is a 5-mile cross-country hike away.

And I get invaded by every species of wildlife imaginable.

Now for all you city dwellers whose idea of wildlife is urban foxes raiding the dustbins, I’m guessing when I put a few pictures like this up:

(taken  from my bedroom window one morning when I woke up and caught him looking in) you’re all thinking “How cute!”

Well maybe. But however cute they look, deer are a menace if you’re trying to cultivate a garden. Ditto all the fluffy little rabbits, who’ve built themselves a multi-floored des-res around the heating manifold in the back garden (- though they’re in for a shock when it finally gets backfilled next week!) They’ll treat your lovely expensive new plants as their own gourmet dining experience.

To be perfectly honest, given the state of most of my land, overgrown as it is with 6ft high weeds, Bambi and Thumper are not my greatest concern at the moment.

My bigger ‘wildlife’ problem is actually indoors, not outdoors. MICE. Eeek! The house is overrun with them, an unpleasant but inevitable consequence of living in an old building surrounded by farmland.

They get absolutely everywhere, but they do seem to have a few favourite places. For some reason, the top step leading into the music room is the choice spot for a nightly Meeting of the Mice. It also appears to be the mouse public lavatory.

To be honest, I could (almost) live with clearing up the mouse poo if that was the only issue. But mice will chew through anything and everything. They even managed to get inside my heat pump and chew through all the wiring, causing hundreds of pounds of damage. So war has been declared.

IMG_0898My first attempts at introducing a ‘mouse-free zone’ was with an electronic rat trap. Stick a bit of chocolate on the metal plate, switch it on and wait. Mouse goes in, a flash and a bang, and mouse is dead – hopefully without feeling anything. In the morning, all you have to do is tip dead mouse out onto the compost heap.

It did work quite well. Right up until the time some other kind of wildlife got into the house one night, found a dead mouse in the trap and decided to eat half of it. I don’t know what kind of predator the visitor was, but I suspect a stoat or a weasel – and how it got into the house, I have no idea. But since then, the mice have been a bit wary of the trap – maybe there’s a lingering smell of dead roasted mouse that is putting them off. I should probably clean it out, but to be honest, even with the Marigolds on, I don’t really relish the idea of scraping the barbecued mouse innards from the inside of the trap.

In any case, one mouse at a time is a bit slow going. Rather than invest in another dozen or so electronic traps, I decided to try an alternative – which was to put down poison.

Mice don’t like poison. Though to be fair, neither do I.

I mean, conceptually it feels wrong: Mouse eats poison and dies is fine. But then neighbour’s cat eats dead poisoned mouse and gets sick. Or mouse dies outside somewhere and his decomposing corpse releases all the poison into the ground for some other innocent, unsuspecting wildlife to eat…

I also had nightmares of hundreds of mice feasting on the poison I put down, and taking a carry-out back to their nests to continue the party. Only to die there, becoming hundreds of tiny mouse skeletons piled high in the metre-thick stone walls (well I did warn you – this is not a blog for the squeamish).

But poison is effective, and let’s be honest, the little b*ggers cause too much damage to ignore; they have to go.

So I quashed all thoughts of the hypothetical horror scenarios above and liberally scattered my trays of poison in the boiler room. And the evidence of mouse activity started to disappear. The poison worked.

It was all going so well, until the day I found Mickey – the mouse so sick that he couldn’t run away. He just lay there, curled up in a little ball by the water tank, watching me. Looking at the poor trembling little creature made me feel like a mass murderer (which I suppose, technically, I was). I haven’t been able to put poison down ever since.

But I do still need to get rid of the pesky blighters – I’m not so soft-hearted that I want to put up with continually cleaning up the mouse poo they obligingly leave all over the house. I just had to find a less gruesome alternative than poison to solve my little furry problem.

As ever, in a situation like this, the internet is a girl’s best friend, so I googled “Mice – prevention of…”

Some of the bright ideas Google came up with:

Block up all the mouse holes.

Really? What genius thought that one up? At a guess I’d say someone who has never lived in an old building where the walls are made out of stone, rubble, cracks and gaps. I mean yes, it’s the most obvious logical answer, but trying to fill all the holes in my walls would be like trying to fill a sieve with water.

IMG_0852I’ve had a shot at it – armed with a job lot of expanding foam, I’ve attacked some of the more obvious holes that I knew were being used.

One of the favourite entrance places was through a gap between the ceiling plasterboard and the beam, where they would come in and run up and down the wall (leaving a lovely trail of evidence behind them.)

Not any more!

But unfortunately, blocking every single hole in the building isn’t possible. So what else can I try?

Mice don’t like tinfoil.

Apparently it hurts their teeth. (I have some sympathy – don’t you remember, as a kid, accidentally chewing a bit of your KitKat wrapper??) So the suggestion was fill all mouse holes with foil and wrap all pipes and wires in the stuff.

I have two objections to this idea:

  1. There are hundreds of holes in my walls. Do I really want little tufts of tinfoil sticking out all over the place?? Hardly the kind of trendy interior design look I’m after.
  2. Given the size of the house, I have oodles of pipes and wires. I would have to buy up every bit of tinfoil in a 10-mile radius, creating a severe local shortage – and in the run up to Christmas turkey time, I’m sure that wouldn’t make me popular.

Any other brilliant ideas Google?

Mice don’t like peppermint oil

The jury’s out on whether this one works. I did try it. Peppermint oil drops on cotton wool, strategically placed around the mouse lavatory. To be fair, there was no sign of mice for a few days, but I’m not sure whether it was the pink cotton wool balls or the peppermint that scared them off. And they were soon back. I’d try spraying a stronger solution of the stuff, but I’m not really convinced I want to live in a house that permanently smells like a Trebor mint factory.

And then I came across this little gem:

An ultrasonic, electromagnetic, ionising super gadget.


Apparently it makes the environment so uncomfortable for rodents that they’ll pack up their bags and move out, 100% guaranteed or your money back…

I plugged it in, switched it on, and stood back to see what would happen. It was instantaneous. The walls came alive; the mice went mad. There was a frenzy of scrabbling as they tried to escape the ultrasonic waves and electromagnetic vibrations.

But a few days later, the mouse lavatory appeared to be back in use. It may be that the stone walls are creating mouse protection barriers, so I’ve been moving the super gadget around to different sockets in different rooms – trying the attack from all angles. I may yet be asking for a refund…..

In truth I think the best solution is to get myself a cat. And maybe when my job no longer involves so much time away from home I will. But there’s a risk in that strategy – who can stop at just one? As I become the mad hermit cat lady on the hill…..

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