I'm in a miserably hypocritical state these days. Fall has come, mice have invaded my home and my car, and I have had to commit myself to their destruction. As someone who has spent 25 years not eating meat and tens of thousands of dollars keeping animals I love alive through veterinary care, I now feel like one of the evilest people alive having to kill mice, who under other circumstances I would find utterly adorable and worthy of my protection. But I feel I have run out of options.
I spent countless hours a few years ago trying to mouse proof my house, digging a trench around the base of the house and burying aluminum flashing a foot deep and sticking up a foot to prevent their entry. I found other holes inside the home and sealed them with copper mesh and expanding foam. I have spent something like $500 on mouse deterring sonic devices. I spent another $100-200 for mouse deterring sprays, powders, and granules. None of my actions have ever kept them away, they have remained a recurring presence. And so with reluctance I have had to turn to far more severe measures: killing them in traps.
Killing them does not come easy. For many years I trapped and released mice using Havahart traps, but with the rise of the hantavirus that no longer seems like a wise or viable solution. The mice in my house are deer mice, and statistically 14% carry a very deadly Sin Nombre hantavirus; 36% of people who catch the hantavirus and show symptoms die within 5 weeks of exposure. All it takes to catch the virus is inhaling the aerosolized vapors from recent mouse urine or feces (recent being within one week). And mice produce a neverending supply of urine and droppings. You can simply walk into a room where a mouse has defecated within the last week and in five weeks you are dead; since this happens all the time and people do not die, clearly there are other factors reducing the odds, but the fact remains that is all it takes. Given that the risk of infection is so serious you are supposed to wear a P100 mask, goggles, gloves, and booties to be in the presence of these mice or their feces I do not see how one could safely transport and release the mice. If you have ever live caught mice you know that: the traps are not air tight (they need to breath), they defecate and urinate quite a lot once caught (out of fear or frustration), and you cannot release them in your own back yard (they will simply return to your house). As such, trying to live trap and release deer mice seems like a recipe for hantavirus infection. Killing seems required.
As for my mouse killing protocol, I have tried to make it as "fair" as possible, erecting the equivalent of warning signs at mouse height. Much like an East German border crossing of the 1960s, I do my best to scare the mice off before I demonstrate my uncompassionate, sadistic willingness to kill them. Each killing trap is placed within the presence of one or more deterrent products meant to warn him off. The mouse must ignore the ultrasonic sirens blaring only feet away and the almighty stench of the aromatic oils they are clinically proven to hate. Only after ignoring those do they reach the trap and die.
I keep trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that life is hypocrisy. Despite my avoiding meat and catching and releasing the odd bug, I accept that I am directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of animals, insects, and other living creatures a year. I walk to get the mail and must crush bugs under foot without a thought. I drive down the road and dead insects cake themselves on the windshield. I eat carrots fresh from fields where no doubt tractors made roadkill of moles. Simply being alive requires the direct and indirect killing of teeming masses of other creatures; there's just no way around it. So, maybe I should face those realities and feel no special qualms about my direct involvement here... But it is not easy, it haunts me, grieves me. When I see their lifeless body I see my dog, I remember my hamster, I connect with my feeling cold when camping and just wanting to find a shelter. I wish them no harm, and yet I bring them death. And I say I grieve for them, and I do, but clearly not enough to not set the next trap; I feel like a monster. And I suppose that is good on some level, to feel so horrible. Blithely accepting the killing of those we can relate to has led to countless historical atrocities. I take slight comfort that I am not likely to be the next Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.
In perceived defense of my life, I kill. No activity is more fundamental to our natures than that, I suppose. What a pity that it comes to that.