Sunday, April 17, 2011


This weekend was quite the time for critters. Living in a rural/semirural desert area, one expects to see critters -- especially when they're encouraged to come around when people like us put food and water out for them.

Unfortunately, some critters are more welcome than others. Like ground squirrels. They can be pretty destructive.

So we invested in a "catch-'em-alive" trap so we could catch them and relocate those little varmints to other parts of the desert.

But we weren't prepared for the bees we saw for the first time yesterday! They took up residence under the roof where there was no piece of lumber to keep them out. $200 to have them removed this morning. They, like the ground squirrels, were taken to a rocky place out there where they can do what bees do in peace. They weren't Africanized and thus weren't dangerous, but they were too close to our front door and walkway.

Then there were the rats. The rats we have in the desert aren't like the disgusting Norway rats one finds in the cities. They're actually kind of cute!

They seem to like moving into a bale of Bermuda-grass hay that we use to add bedding material for our pet bunny and guinea piggy. But since that hay must stay clean, I caught the two rats and relocated them elsewhere.

Then, in the afternoon, we heard some faint "squeeks" coming from the bale, and my worst fears were confirmed: baby rats! They had fur but still had their eyes closed:

So, what do we do with them? I doubt they were old enough for us to take care of even if we had a way of doing so. I'm sure they were young enough so if we wanted to keep them as pets, they would have been perfectly socialized to life with humans.

But where does one get rat's milk? With two critters already keeping us busy, where would we put more critters (there were three babies)? I doubted Animal Control would want them. And I didn't have the heart to kill them myself.

So we thought about it, and -- as cruel as the Circle of Life can be, we decided to continue the Circle: we set out a shallow container and put the baby rats in it. For a roadrunner to find.

It didn't take long. The babies disappeared, one at a time, and thank God we didn't happen to see the roadrunner take them.

I hate stuff like this, and I wish we could have thought of an alternative. I hate killing, or being responsible for the killing of, animals, especially the cute ones. It literally sickens me. Sometimes the guilt is overwhelming. And it makes me hope there's a critter heaven someplace where beloved pets and wild animals alike go and spend eternity without fear of being attacked or harmed.

Is that too much to hope for?


FP said...

Your blog is interesting, has left a great impression.
Best wishes

Mark J said...

Thanx, FP!

Jack Kennedy said...

hi ya Mark...i shall try to post on your blog...haven't been in contact for awhile but i was touched and moved by your blog RATS...and i think there just may be an animal heaven and if so many of the animals you are so kind to in your live no doubt have your picture enshrined on they're altar...Jack K.

Mark J said...

Thanks, Jack! Glad to see you're still checking in!

Morgan said...

Thank you for writing this -- I happened to come across this post tonight, and it's made me feel a little better about a similar experience I had today. My cat brought home a baby rat at a similar age to the ones you found: he had fur, but his eyes were closed. He was still alive, but I had no idea where his nest was, and no way of finding out. If I lived alone, I would have brought him inside and tried to save him, but unfortunately, I live with someone who is very afraid of rats, so that wasn't an option. In the end, the kindest option I could think of was to give him back to my cat, rather than let him die of exposure all alone. It was a hard choice, and I still feel very bad that I couldn't save him... but it helps a little to know I'm not the only one who's found something like that to be the most humane decision. I just didn't want him to suffer any longer than was absolutely necessary.

So thank you for writing this. I think I'll sleep a little better tonight for having read it.

Mark J said...

I'm glad you found it helpful Morgan. Sometimes it's hard for those of us who love animals to see them under these circumstances. We do the best we can, which at times doesn't seem to be good enough, but it's all we can do. I think you did the right thing.