Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Mice are more Dangerous than Snakes

Yesterday evening, my son was playing around the neighbours' chicken coop, when he found a wild mouse and decided to pick it up. According to him, the mouse clawed rather than bit him, but the end result was the same: two puncture wounds on his hand. 

My son's reaction was to saunter off and ride his bike up the street, but the concerned neighbours reported the incident to me and warned me that they had put poison out for the mice. Poison would explain why the mouse was sluggish enough for my son to catch in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, when in conversation with the after hours paediatric clinic, the phrase "and the mouse may have been poisoned," elicited the response, "Yeah, you're going to need to take him to the emergency room." So off we went, armed with iPads so my son could play mine craft and I could type up this post. It was a much more peaceful visit than my first parental ER run. My son was in no immediate pain or danger and was pretty pumped about the whole experience. (He was also unfoundedly optimistic that it might result in a day off school. It didn't.)

The end result was that he had an X-ray to be sure there were no fragments of mouse tooth or claw in his hand. Since his tetanus shot was up to date, he was prescribed a course of antibiotics, and we were released to find a 24 hour pharmacy. Bedtime last night was 10:45pm. I was not overly impressed.

Nor was my husband whose first reaction was to ask my son how he could be so stupid as to pick up a mouse. After all, what did he think would happen? That was when I realised that this was all my fault.

In the past couple of weeks, the cats have brought a live snake and a live (but tail-less) lizard into the house. So far as I can tell, our cats never eat reptiles but they consider them excellent toys. The problem is that they aren't very good about taking them back outside when they are done playing with them.

As our cats are almost twelve years old, I am well used to dealing with unwanted wildlife in the house. These days, I view it as a good experience for the kids. I don't want them to grow up squeamish about snakes and such. 

The lizard was too lively to handle. We found it, lost it and when it turned up in the cloakroom cupboard the next day, I popped a glass food container over it and slid some cardboard underneath so we could carry it safely out. My son wanted to hold it, but it wriggled out and away at the first sign of an opening, so instead the children studied it as it froze between the stones in the flowerbed.

The snake, on the other hand, was a grass snake, which has a small, toothless mouth and eats insects. They're relatively easy to catch and perfectly safe to handle (if you wash your hands afterwards--I understand all reptiles can carry salmonella on their scales). 


I picked it up from where the cat had left it and asked the kids if they wanted to hold it. My daughter didn't but my son did. I took it back, and it coiled around my fingers (which was adorable but definitely a sign of undue stress) so we released it into the reeds beyond our fence. 

I was very proud of myself for raising budding David Attenboroughs up until yesterday's mouse incident, when I realised that in his seven year old experience, it made perfect sense. If he could hold a wild snake, why not a cute, fluffy, bottom-of-the-food-chain wild mouse? Yet the truth of our local fauna is that small mammals are actually more dangerous than most reptiles and bugs because they have teeth and claws and they will use them when they're frightened. 

So I learned a lesson on giving disclaimers, the children received a lecture on not handling any wild animal without asking a grown up first, and my husband has presented the case that the most responsible course of action is simply to let nature be.