The House Listing Mentioned Wildlife

…but failed to mention the wildlife living inside the house

…but failed to mention the wildlife living inside the house

Baby Field Vole, used with permission Deposit Photo © 2015

Baby voles are cute little buggers I had never heard of before moving to the Colorado mountains. They look like the little field mice in Bill Murray’s Scrooged. Cute little ears, small and delicate looking, with soft fur (or so it seems…I’d do just about anything for research , but petting a field vole is a bridge too far).

I’m telling you about voles because I recently moved to the mountains.

Purple Mountain Majesty.

Like most Americans, I have a nastalgic view of mountain living founded in the verses of purple mountain majesty while willfully ignoring stories of the Donner party.

I grew up a city girl with a dad who was a country-living, horseback-riding cowboy, so much of the allure comes from his myopic memories and my idealized lens. While I like to hike in the mountains, I also need indoor plumbing and a roof (not a tarp) over my head at night, so I’m not even what most Coloradans would call an outdoorsy type.

But when the mountain place opened up mid-pandemic at the same time the short-sighted homeowner where I was renting decided to sell (it’s still on the market, and I take perverse joy in that), I had to find a place. An affordable place, with room for the kids and the dogs, and wow, look at that, something I can afford “in the mountains.”

“In the mountains,” said in that reverent tone reserved for holy places.

Did I mention the wildlife?

Yeah, they saw me coming, but it’s a cute little place with lots of trees and wildlife, and a lot less crowded and closer to the hiking I love. Did I mention the wildlife?

Deer in forest, stock photo, Deposit Photo © 2015

We have two mama deer and their babies who traipse through our yard every evening. Sometimes the babies are on their own during the day, and well, that’s quite disconcerting to hear fawns bawling for mama, but so far, it’s only happened once during a thunderstorm, and what baby hasn’t cried for its mama in a storm?

Nala, the neurotic little digger-dog, sits at the window every day, watching for the deer who commute through the yard. She thinks she’s died and gone to heaven. Or maybe hell, because she’s banned from running the property while the fawns are still about, so to her dismay, she’s confined to the dog run.

Starting early last week, Nala, in retaliation, began to dig in the dog run. She hasn’t done any digging in years. Was she trying to get out? Pretty impressive hole that I sent my son to go fill while I hauled her upstairs to give her a shower.

Mud dripped from her snout and covered her ears, but she wouldn’t go willingly, so I donned my swimsuit and climbed into the shower with her. Took awhile for the water to run clear, and she nearly made a mad-wet dash through the house, but while she’s faster, I have opposable thumbs. Closed the door to the shower and made her suffer the indignity of a wash-and-rinse with baby shampoo.

I’ve been watching her like a new puppy every time she goes out to the dog run, because I can’t have her digging up the yard, and I figure at some point, she’ll get the hint and quit digging like she’s in Alcatraz.

Vole tunnels via Deposit Photo © 2015

By this point I’ve identified some runways — vole tunnels — leading away from our dog run and have visited the extension service website, and I kinda-sorta have a plan to eradicate the things, because that’s a little too close to the house for my liking, and the tunnels can and do cause serious damage.

As an aside, when we first moved in, we thought we had a mouse. I do a lot of things as a single mom that I’d rather not do, but mouse patrol is pushing my boundaries.

Building a better mousetrap.

First, we tried “safe” non-poisonous baits, which if you focus on the word non-poisonous sounds like a kindler, gentler method, but everyone else realizes this means the stuff works as well as a human placebo. Made me feel better but didn’t do a damn thing to the mouse. But I don’t want any of our pets to eat poison — or to take a bite out of a mouse that’s eaten poison — still toxic — so I use the pet safe stuff. And it works about as well as shredded money.

I finally set up a good old-fashioned mousetrap and we caught our first offender. I opened the kitchen drawer about three inches to peek inside, and all I saw were tiny feet pointing straight at the ceiling [yes, I have since cleaned, sanitized, and bleached every counter, cupboard, drawer, and utensil…I am and continue to be a city girl].

I closed the drawer and practically begged my son to do it.

I know it’s not fair. I’m a strong and independent woman, so damnit I should be able to handle a mousetrap, but I just couldn’t. So my boy — a high school graduate this year, so not so young — does the deed. All he said was “I’ve done grosser things at work [fast food].”

Thank God, because I wasn’t sure who I would call next to take care of a damn mouse, because I simply could not dispose of the body.

So as I looked at that sweet picture of the vole on the extension website, I realize that the mouse I thought we trapped may well have been a vole. I didn’t get a close look, because I was too freaked out, but… that’s starting to sound about right.

Added to that, my son has a room in the basement — real nice setup for a teen with lots of space and privacy — and he’s been hearing something scratching from inside the wall at night. First of all, if that had happened in my room, we would have moved out, immediately, but thankfully he’s more pragmatic and said, “well, I figure it will die soon.”

Apparently our mouse problem is really a vole problem, and if I can’t handle a mouse, what the hell am I going to do about a vole?

​While I cogitate on this particular problem, my daughter and I watched our evening dose of Gilmore Girls. It was the one where there’s a play of Romeo & Juliet at the school, and Dean almost finds out that Rory kissed Tristan. Yes, Dean and Rory were broken up, but still, the tension was high when Nala started talking to me. She’s part Husky and impressively vocal — so to shut her up, I let her outside, sans chaperone.

Meanwhile, in the show, Rory almost gets busted a couple times, and I’m doing my stress walk away from the TV when I realize that Nala never barked to come back in.

“How long?” my daughter asked.

“I don’t know. 35–40 minutes.”

Nala comes in without me having to call her. She’s panting and wagging her tail like she did the first day we let her run free on the property. She’s covered in dirt, her normally yellow snout is the color of a dung beetle, and she has mud and gunk all over her face. It’s eleven o’clock at night. My son is at his dad’s house, and while I’m still that strong independent woman, I’m not headed into the dog run in the dark with God-knows-what other critters out there. I’m also not crawling into a swimsuit this time of night to take the reluctant dog to the shower.

I grab a towel, rub her down, wet wash her face — and wasn’t that fun — all the while the neurotic dog is nudging me because he doesn’t think it’s fair that Nala gets all the attention. I finally get her clean enough for the night and head upstairs to check Twitter before bed.

Little Miss Muffet, sat on her tuffet.

I’m scrolling away when I feel a pinch on my inner arm. I brush it away even as I realize that it wasn’t an itch but a sting. I check my arm — red and sore — and then turn on my phone flashlight to get a better look around my seat. Where I find a nasty little creepy crawly with more legs than I want to count. I crush him with the flip flop I keep handy for this kind of thing. The move was instant and instinctive, and then my arm really starts to sting. The burn moving along the nerves down toward my elbow.

Fan-freaking-tastic. I go, knock on my daughter’s door. We examine the offending bite in the light and see two very defined puncture marks.

​If you’ve never searched spider bites after midnight and looked at the images, you’re really missing out, but we figure out our little bugger wasn’t a poisonous variety (still stings like the devil), so I’m willing to call it a night, but I’ve got that feeling, you know the one, that creepy-crawly-I-feel-bugs-crawling-on-me buzz that runs through your body faster than a spider bite?

Yeah, I had to shower all those heebie-jeebie’s down the drain, put on clean and closely examined PJs, and realize that in the morning, I’ve got to go out to the dog run and see what kind of damage a happy little digger dog can do in 40 minutes.

​Did I mention the wildlife?

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