Continuing on from last week’s episode …..
That lesson taught us how to do it right when we had a mouse encounter. In spite of that the next time it happened we were outsmarted by one of the smallest mammals on earth.
We were watching the evening news when out of the corner of my eye I saw a slight movement along the wainscot of the wall to my left, just inside the limit of my peripheral vision. I turned my head look but nothing was there. My imagination or old age I decided.
There it was again, a quick flick of colour in the expanse between the TV set and the sideboard. I looked and again saw nothing. Nor did Fundi Dor.
We thought no more of it and went to bed.
The next evening I saw it again, this time in the lounge. No, this wasn’t imagination. A cockroach maybe? We never get them. A cricket? We would have heard it playing its raucous fiddle by now.
I sat and watched and what appeared: a mouse. A baby mouse trotting along the skirting, nose to the carpet, tail horizontal. An ordinary house mouse, or so I thought. But if there was one where were the rest? Babies never wander about alone. There should be a whole family, mother and several offspring.
Over the next few days we saw it a number of times because, we realised, “it” was in fact two, male and female. We also realised these were not house mice but something different. Unlike a house mouse they were not particularly bothered by our presence and and ambled about as close as two or three metres from us as long as we sat still. Sharp movement made them run but not very far or for very long.
They were pale brown with pure white underneath and about half the size of mus musculus, some 10 cm long, of which less than half was tail. Their ears seemed disproportionately large, nearly as big as those of cousin musculus. And by their deliberate behaviour they appeared to be adult, not pups.
Yet again we turned to our animal bible, ”The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion”, and there they were: pygmy mice, very appropriately titled Mus minutoides or “minute mouse”.
Also known as the Cape pygmy mouse because this is where they were first identified, they are found in a wide belt of Southern Africa from Zimbabwe in the north down the eastern side of South Africa and across the whole Eastern Cape and Western Cape to the Atlantic.
Rather surprisingly, to us, it is said they seldom enter houses, preferring their burrows under rocks and rubble. They have a trick that shows they are far from dumb and might even qualify as tool users. At night they stack pebbles outside the entrances of their burrows and first thing in the morning they drink the dew that has collected on the pebbles then go to bed for the day.
We have no qualms about setting instantly lethal traps for house mice because they can rapidly breed into infestations doing much damage and they may carry diseases. We had no such intentions for this quaint little creature because as far as we could determine they are not rampant breeders and are harmless.
Instead we opted to watch them briefly. They emerged after dark and scampered around the living room and kitchen, pausing only to snap up bits of bread or cheese or some other innocuous snack from leftovers. They never seemed scared of us although they never became quite as tame as the stripeys, which one could feed by hand after a while.
To be continued next Friday 9 January / –