Saturday, November 17, 2012

When Critters Attack

Mind your mice.

When Hieronymous Hickaboo took up hiking, he didn't expect things like this. "You know, I kind of crawled out of my tent one morning and went to put on my boots and they were full of diarrhea or something. Definitely excrement. I had to walk home in my socks."

If you think this sounds unusual, you're right, except that incidents of this kind are occurring with increasing frequency as more and more people take to the out-of-doors.

Just last week, for example, Jayde Higgins, enjoying a brisk morning walk in a suburban park, took off her headphones and set them down on a rock. Within seconds, a mongoose came "like, almost from out of nowhere I guess" and attacked the cord. "He musta thought it was a worm or something, maybe a snake. I dunno," said Ms Higgins, 38, of Swiffer Valley.

Although mongoose are not native to this area, the attack definitely is consistent with reports flooding in from all over.

Nature has taken the offensive.

"Well, you know, you reach a certain tipping point, and then the system will try to rebalance itself," said Dr Fritz Farnsworth, professor of ecology at Upstate University, speaking from his office on campus. "Obviously, we've encroached too far on nature, and now we're paying the price."

And at that very moment a barred owl swooped in through an open window, snatched Dr Farnsworth's toupee from his head, and flew out a second window, leaving behind a small cloud of feathers and a startled -- and badly scratched -- academic.

But what really is the root of these incidents, and more importantly, what can we do about them?

The answer may, possibly, be known to Rudy Trud. Mr Trud calls himself a "mouse whisperer", and as the title implies, he knows a lot about mice.

Mice, in fact, are by far the biggest problem, evidenced by such happenings as the giant swarm that overwhelmed the picnic at Cooberville's Backpacking Faire last summer. No one is certain of the numbers of mice, but estimates reach into the millions.

"This is not so difficult," says Mr Trud. "First you get to know yourself. Then you get to know your adversary. Then you discover that you are not so different after all. Understanding is the foundation of any true solution."

How does this apply to backpackers huddled in a tent miles from the nearest road while an onslaught of mice bounces like furry hailstones off the rain fly?

"Be humble," Mr Trud says. "Take a few snacks for the mice. Share. Show some respect. Talk to them quietly. We and they are more alike than different. Be patient too. It all works out in time."

Mr Trud was interviewed for this piece from his hospital bed, after being badly injured by jealous beavers while sharing snacks and partying with mice.


Aggressive owls attacking people at local state parks