Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Sunday, January 01, 2006

"That helmet makes me look like Ralph, you know, the motorcycle mouse." - Erik Estrada, Sealab 2021

The Vole in The Mist - I could so be the Dian Fossey of voles. Except I'm not a girl. And no one can poach something that anyone could go out and kill a billion of legally, and there would still be billions left.

Once upon a midnight midafternoon dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten Internet lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping rustling of wrapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my messing with a cereal box near my chamber fridge door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my messing with a cereal box near my chamber fridge door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Then this ebony bird little friggin’ rodent beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven mole.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven vole wandering from the nightly shore into my peanut-butter flavored Cookie Crisp -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven vole, `Nevermore.' “Are you going to kill me?”
-with apologies to Eddy Poe

So, yeah, I found a critter in my Cookie Crisp. Actually it wasn’t my Cookie Crisp; it belongs to The Boy. Like I’d eat Cookie Crisp. Oh, sure my diet would probably kill a monkey or one of those cute albino rabbits that they test my shampoo on (do rabbits eat steak?), but I draw the line at Cookie Crisp. A man has to have some standards.

Step one was to get the critter from the cereal box into a suitable container. The Mrs. was sleeping, so a series of bad ideas went through my head before I recalled we had a nearly empty container of peanuts. I marched out to the pantry to retrieve the peanuts, holding a jumping box of Cookie Crisp in one hand.

I emptied the peanuts into a cup for later consumption. I took a handy drill and put enough holes in the top of the peanut container so that I wouldn’t suffocate the critter. I upended the box and the very surprised critter and the few remaining cookie-shaped pieces of cereal ended up in the container.

The Boy was on this like stink on The New Boy’s butt. “We need a mouse cage. A little mouse cage. He can live in my room.”

“No,” I responded with parental finality. “No.”

“Why not?” His question was reasonable.

I pondered that for a second or two. Why had I gone to the trouble of putting air holes into a container for the four-footed cereal pilferer?

I resorted to that final parental bastion of logic. “Because I said so.” If my brain had been running faster at that point in the day, well, I would have also have come to the conclusion that The Mrs. would skin me, The Boy, and the critter if we tried to keep it. I didn’t let this one to go further. The Mrs. loves me, and puts up with a lot, but a small rodent living in our house on purpose is not on her agenda.

Not that she’s scared of mice. I’m not sure that she’s scared of anything, really, since when we were dating she saw some sort of spider the size of a 1969 Camaro RS (the one with the headlight covers – the car had headlight covers, not the spider) and said, “Oh, spider.” Then she killed it with a claw hammer. Took her ten minutes, but she got it done.

My first thought was that this might have been a mouse. I looked at the critter a bit closer, and found that indeed it wasn’t. I used the handy dandy purveyor of all information, the Internet, and found that indeed this was not a mouse. It was a vole. Specifically, a Northern Red-Backed Vole (Clethrionomys rutilus).

Not listed in the "official" description of the Northern Red-Backed Vole (Clethrionomys rutilus) is that they can move with the speed of a cobra. And that they have four inch long fangs. And that they're venemous. These facts are probably not listed because I just made them up. But if you leave a Northern Red-Backed Vole (Clethrionomys rutilus) in a peanut canister long enough, they will jump up repeatedly into the lid. Which is kind of funny to watch.

From the description (stolen from here):
Red-backed voles usually have a broad reddish stripe down their back and buffy-red sides. These small to medium-sized voles have small eyes, and small ears reaching just above their fur. Their average total length is 5 ½ inches including their 1-½ inch tail. They can be distinguished from meadow mice by their conspicuous reddish back.

This species is omnivorous but eats mainly greens, berries, seeds, Cookie Crisp, lichens, fungi and insects. Red-backed voles are found in cool, damp locations and are partial to forests and kitchens; however, they are sometimes found on the tundra and near General Electric appliances. Northern red-backed voles are active year-round and do not hibernate, especially if they have a large supply of cereal.

Also, I found on the site that they aren’t endangered, and that there is no limit on trapping as many as I’d like to trap. I can envision setting up like a million little two-inch steel jaw traps around the house. It would certainly keep our dogs on their toes. Maybe it would keep them off of their toes . . . but that would be a lot of work.

The Alaska Trappers Association would so laugh me out of the place if I showed up with a bunch of vole pelts. I suppose you could make wooly tea-cozies out of them . . .

When The Mrs. woke up and began scrounging around the kitchen for coffee, I pointed out the Northern Red-Backed Vole (Clethrionomys rutilus). She looked at it. It looked at her. She looked for her claw hammer.

“What are you going to do with it?” she asked, after being unable to locate her hammer.

This could have been a loaded question, delivered neutrally. As it was, the implied, “it isn’t living here” was coming through loud and clear.

As we drove to town, we stopped and The Mrs. upended the container, leaving our friend the Northern Red-Backed Vole (Clethrionomys rutilus) in the forest. We continued to go shopping. To buy new Cookie Crisp. And mouse vole traps. The next one won’t be so lucky.


Blogger Woofwoof said...

Cute critter. But as you know, you can't have just one vole. They are like roaches, and they multiply quickly. In the time it took you to get rid of little Joey there, they probably added a bunch of quintiplets.

You have to find Mom and Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Sister Abigail, Aunt Marge, and Cousin Lorenzo and purge them all. Otherwise they will eat all your cereals, beer nuts and steaks too.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, wait. Voles are indigenous to GE Appliances? I learn something new every time I come here!

We have a law in Washington State banning "cruel traps," the kind I'm assuming you'd use to trap a plethora of voles. (Crybabies, the lot of 'em) But there's no law banning Cookie Crisp, so I'm on my way to the store to get some. It's bound to attract the Godfather of Mice living in my laundry room. Just in time, too, because I could use another wooly tea cozy.

7:49 AM  
Blogger John said...

I believe the Northern Redback is the "cousin nobody talks about" of the vole species. This one (fingers crosses) appears to be a singular version in our house, since a trap baited with tasty, tasty peanut butter has just sat there for two days now. The Northern Redback actually avoids houses, so, we might be lucky on this one.

Surprisingly, I did read that voles were indigenous to GE appliances! Of course, I had just typed it . . .

Does the Washington law forbid mouse traps? Since, you know, I'm unsure if there's a non-cruel way to smash a mouse or to trap 'em on mouse-paper. Perhaps a Washington mouse trap would require an upgraded living standard for the mouse, perhaps a nice home in the country, an infested homeowner matched 401k, and just enough money that they wouldn't walk away from their dead end mouse job?

Something to ponder . . .

2:13 PM  
Blogger Lady Luck said...

Edgar and Voles with Cookie Crisp! MMM....makes me hungry!

6:13 AM  
Blogger Duck Hunter said...

my wife's birthday is coming up. Can you set aside roughly 20 vole pelts for me? I want to make her a purse.

Please brush the cookie crisp from the fur.

1:38 AM  
Blogger Dame Koldfoot said...


Ah, this reminds me of the time I found a Clethrionomys rutilus, or as it is more commonly known, a Northern Red-Backed Vole nesting in a pair of jeans that Koldie left on the floor. The jeans had been on the floor for quite a while since I was on a "help around the house and put it away yourself" binge. The little thing stared at me with its beady little eyes and twitchy little nose. We must have stared at each other for three days before the little red-backed monster started to make his move. As he moved into the Soaring Pelican position of the vole's secret jujitsu training, I just knew if I went to get a jar, drilled holes in the lid, found the barbeque tongs and put on my rubber gloves, the nasty little creature would have escaped and procreated more nasty little creatures. Grabbing the heaviest object I could get my hands onto, which happened to be a small coffee can full of loose change, I proceeded to smash its friggin' little head in. Ah, yes, it was quite the scene. I was most particularly saddened by the little Clethrionomys rutilus, or Northern Red-Backed Vole writhing in agony as he shuddered his last breath. But it was either him or me. Him or me.

Speaking of J. Peterman (AKA John O'Hurley or the GCI guy), guess who was on our flight to Seattle? None other than Mr. Dancing With The Stars champion himself. He even smiled at our youngest little Coldfoot as she came out of the first class head.

Glad to be back where winter is cold and legs are hairy. Keep the cards warm for us.

4:09 PM  
Blogger John said...

lady luck,
Yes, they go together, like jam and greenbeans!

Got the voles. Now I need to find an eensie brush.

HAR! See, you and The Mrs. with your blunt objects.

See, you needed to snap some pictures of O'Hurley with a vole! That would have been juicy, like your vole . . . heh heh

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the voles at our house refused to eat peanut butter or cheese, we lured them in with apples. Who knew?

9:48 AM  

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