North Woods Bloodbath

Canadians move slowly, but when they are aroused they move with remarkable speed. Our way of life is puritanism touched by orgy.
Claude T. Bissell

Seven mice and a black vole died in the cabin on Friday: a horrific rodent bloodbath that had me shrieking in the middle of the night as the little broken bodies twisted in their death throes behind the chesterfield. (It’s a Canadian couch, so I guess it’s a chesterfield. Even though no one seems to use the term.) The vole looked especially pitiful dangling from the trap by the bridge of his snout. Fortunately it had cracked his skull.

Ranger Tim emptied and reset the traps for me—I’m not steely enough yet—and explained that you had to spread the peanut butter right right into the mechanism, so that they put their whole weight on the spring as they tried to lick the last smears. Ten minutes after he laid the traps:

Whiffle. Snuffle.
CRACK
Squeal! (mouse)
Squeal! (me)
Flap. Flap. Flap.
Silence.

I wanted to blubber. They were small, and cute, and just trying to stay warm and fed in the woods, like me. If only they were continent. But Tim says I too will become ruthless and coldblooded the first time a mouse runs over my sleeping face or shreds my birth certificate for a nest. He padded out to the porch to throw the warm bodies into the woods for the weasels. I shouted after him.
    ‘Did you wash your hands? Don’t come back in here ’til you wash your hands!’

The next day I recounted my rodent trauma in the staff kitchen. Derek, a very young maintenance ranger, perked up.
   ‘See, what you need is a bucket trap.’
   ‘What’s a bucket trap?’
   ‘Oh, it’s great. Just the thing for bulk killing. You get a bucket, a wire, and a tin can. The tin can is open on both sides, and you string it across the bucket on the wire, so that it rolls like a barrel. Then you spread peanut butter on the can. You put a little ramp up the side of the bucket, so the mouse can run up when he smells the food. He can see it, he can smell it, but he can’t reach it, see, cos it’s in the middle of the bucket. So he jumps from the rim onto the can, which spins and dumps him in the bucket.’
   ‘And there’s water in the bucket? The mice drown?’
   ‘Yeah. Well, you can do a lot of things once they’re in the bucket. You can put a heating element underneath so they boil alive as soon as they hit the water. Or you can trap ’em in a dry bucket and just put ’em in a bag and crush ’em, or what have you, eh?’
   ‘Jesus Christ. That’s really grisly.’
   ‘But the drowning is cruel, see, because the little fellers will swim for hours. Better to crush ’em or boil ’em. Or collect ’em and drown ’em fast. But the bucket is great, eh? You catch so many mice so fast, no screwing around with emptying traps.’

Now I know how they occupy themselves all winter long up here.