On the afternoon of Sunday, May 21, my tenderhearted William spotted three wee little abandoned mouse babies. Concerned, he came pounding up the stairs to my workroom. I sent him back to the woods to watch from a distance to see if their mama would show up. Perhaps she had been moving her babies to a new location and was watching from cover nearby. Thirty minutes later, he came up the stairs again. I sent him back down with a tiny box and tissue to place babies in at the base of the tree from which they most likely had fallen.
My boy slept poorly that night, fretting over those tiny bits of wildlife. Early the next morning, after we sent him back over the mountains to school (with a thermos of strong coffee), I went as promised to check on the babies. Two were in the box still clinging to life and, yes, you guessed it, were soon snug in a plastic box, in a nest of shredded tissue, in my kitchen, under a warming light. I went back out to look for the third, and found it curled up in a small divet at the base of a neighboring cedar nearly 8 feet away from where the small box had been. As I scooped it up, I was amazed to hear it sound a tiny “peep.” He was soon tucked into the box with his siblings. How in the world had all three survived the cool, wet night?
As the mouselings warmed, they began to move. I did a quick search online, determined their age to be about seven days, and was encouraged to give the babes their chance. A few drops of flea and tick killer on a nearby tissue rid the little ones of pests. (Small wild things are usually infested, so this is a must!) I sighed as I read how often they must be fed.
Every hour or two last week (except in the night, I just can’t bring myself to do that…you know?) I mixed and warmed a small amount of infant soy formula, and patiently eyedropper fed the tiny mice . First feeding by 5:30 or 6 am, last feeding as late as I can manage. In between feedings they are nested into a hollow of a warm, rice filled sock, covered with shreds, and a night glow lamp placed over head. By Thursday only one remained; the strongest, the wanderer. I still doubted he would make it, and I rather hoped he would pass away before Will arrived home for the holiday weekend. The suggestion was made that we should tuck him into a little hollow in a log and leave him be, but I kept remembering my boy’s concerned gaze….and, yes, I have grown attached to this tiny creature. I soldier on and so does the wee mouse, Miny Mo.
Friday morning, day 6, the tiny mouse seems much stronger. By evening he is very active, and delights us by venturing out to blindly chew with great vigor on a slice of apple. Saturday morning, Miny, grasps the tip of the eye-dropper with tiny hands, greedily sucking down his morning milk. We smile, knowing he is going to make it.
The little mouse is doing very well. Sunday, he opened his eyes, first the right…then the left. During his awake time he is now very busy. He investigates his “house” (a clear plastic file box) with bright eyes, fluffs his nest, and clearly enjoys sampling “real” foods such as tiny seeds, oatmeal flakes, and small pieces of crisp bread. It is amusing to watch him nibble Cheerios. They are held like doughnuts, and turned and nibbled all around the edge. He still takes formula, climbing up my finger to sit on my hand and sip with gusto from the eyedropper, but time between feedings is lengthening and my life is no longer dictated by a wee rodent. Another 10 days or so, and we’ll release him. He’ll need to be able to eat seeds of all sorts, and be able to catch a bug before he’s ready to go.
I am so grateful one has survived. This has been a satisfying project, and thankfully small in nature…pun intended. But, I told William, no more orphans! I’ve got to get some work done!
(I have fostered a number of small wild things over the years. I caution you to think twice, and twice again, before following in my footsteps. The survival rate of fragile little things is sadly quite low. Call your local vet, wildlife rehab, or pet center for advice. If you do decide to give it a go, good luck! Successfully releasing wildlings back into nature is a very heartwarming experience. ~D.)