A heavy early snow blankets the grounds at EarthfirePhoto by: Earthfire

— by Susan Eirich, PhD —

It snowed the other day, a heavy early snow. Too soon! That was the consensus of man and mouse; woman and chicken. I was looking out at the gloomy day when Jean came to me to and accused, “You didn’t feed the chickens!” “But I did!” I protested. “Well, they say you didn’t.” “But I DID!” He looked at me doubtfully. “That’s not what they said” (actual conversation).

I don’t know which is worse, lying chickens or a partner who chooses their word over mine. I ask you, with all due respect for chickens and their trustworthiness, (or not) – who had the most to gain by lying? What they had done, I assumed, is play extra pathetic because they didn’t want to get their chicken feet wet in several inches of heavy damp miserable snow and Jean interpreted that as hunger. That is the charitable explanation. Also the snow meant no bugs and they wanted their bugs. So they sort of hadn’t been fed, if you sort of twist the truth.

For the record, recent research on humans suggest that lying and stealing originates in the reptilian portion of our brain – a part we share with chickens. It makes sense really – survival is important and lying, stealing and manipulating all work. So why wouldn’t it be found throughout the animal world?

These are the circumstances under which I am forced to work. It reminded me of a children’s book series my Distinguished Professor father loved to read (for himself – he would steal them from my bedroom). It was called Freddie the Pig. Farm animals could talk and hold wise council, led by Freddie. That is not the case here. “He did it!” “She didn’t feed me!” “Well- not enough!” when pointed to the evidence to the contrary. “She got more treats.” “Of course I stole the hose and watched you get mad – it’s really good entertainment?” “Where is my Sunday cookie?” “You like her better!” “His water is better than mine.”

It’s just rough, all these individual personalities. Frankly the species doesn’t seem to matter much; the complaints are the same. This, if one is not too annoyed to think about it, is profound.

A second consequence of the snow was that mice moved into the cabin. Why wouldn’t they? Warm, dry, cozy and always some kind of crumbs. Jean can forget and leave a loaf of bread on the counter- and sometimes even cheese – he’s French.

Tin Cat Live Trap | Photo by Earthfire

I brought out the Tin Cat live trap and put it on the kitchen counter – their favorite place. It didn’t take long. The trap works really well. Before long I heard the banging and clanging of a very lively, very angry mouse. It was late at night. I wasn’t about to get up and go out into dark cold night and walk in the snow far enough away that there was a chance that she wouldn’t come back. That decision cost me a good night’s sleep as she was really very persistent and loud. First thing in the morning I released her into the snowy woods with ample morsels of dog food and bread to ease the transition, though I had the distinct feeling that was not appreciated in the overall scheme of things. But – there are limits to what we can put up with….a mouse in the house maybe. Many mice – not nice…….

 “Oh no….too soon!”

Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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