ESCANABA - November is mouse month in Upper Michigan.
Frosted Ferns, earthy brown, flannel shirts and vests of down.
Frosted ferns, and puddles with ice,
Karen Wils photo
“Cute as a button,” the native deer mouse is always welcome as long as he is outside.
Creeping into sheds and barns come the mice.
When the north wind blows and the gardens and forest turn brown, the little rodents look for a place to call home. All during the growing season, several types of mice and voles live in the grass and woodlands all around us. For the most part they go unnoticed.
Just before the snow is ready to fly, the long tails look for cover in a hollow tree, woodpile or a rock crevice. By the time the milkweed down flies, the mice have gathered a large cache of maple seeds, flower seeds, thistle, corn and nuts. Their pantry is full.
Next they need a good cozy bedroom. Tiny teeth and claws shred leaves and bark to make their famous fluffy mouse nest. Yes, this is the time of the year when the mice make a mess out of the toilet paper in the outhouse, the cushion in the deer blind and the old gunny sacks hanging in the shed.
Overnight the mice can transform one roll of toilet paper into a huge mound of poof. Most Yoopers keep important things in mouse proof containers in late autumn.
Even though they can be a bit troublesome at times, mice are a very important species of wildlife. The tiny little deer mouse and white footed mouse of the north woods may be on the bottom of the food chain, but they are number one in providing a healthy ecosystem.
Mice are like popcorn to the wild world. They are usually easy to pop into your mouth and you can't eat just one. Wolves, bobcats, lynx, coyotes, fox, owls, even snakes like to snack on mice.
Mouse hunting is a favorite past time for most predators. If you've ever had the chance to watch a fox or coyote diligently stalking the harvested cornfields or the leaf cover forest floor for a tasty mouse, you will see how much work it actually is.
Should we feel sorry for all the cute little Mickey and Minnie Mouse out there? I don't think so. Mice are nice if there numbers are within a good balance of nature. Come spring, mice are really great at reproducing.
Upper Michigan is home to the big-eared deer mouse, house mice and round faced voles. Watch by your bird feeder or pet food pans for these hungry little visitors.
Little gnawing marks on the last of the pumpkins or apples might be from the mice. When the firewood is being hauled in watch for signs of mice. Farms, lumber camps and homesteads all have known the importance of having cats. Domestic cats are good to have around the garden even today. Cats are more effective and way safer than Decon.
As the cold weather settles in think of the old cartoon "Tom and Jerry," and think of the movie "Mouse Hunt." Mice are nice as long as they stay in the wood shed.
Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.