For Zelda: A heartwarming tale of rodent infanticide

So as I mentioned yesterday I’ve been cutting up lumber for winter firewood. This pile has been undisturbed since May, so of course it was infested with packrats. Packrats like piles of things.

Pulling nails, unscrewing screws and then biting off 16″ chunks with the chop saw, I methodically worked my way to near the bottom of the pile when I encountered a rat, which at first uncharacteristically refused to move.

“Hello! Large predator here. Kindly flee in terror while I continue my work here at the top of the food chain.”

At first nothing happened, but with just a little more persuasion the rat abandoned what it had been doing and ran off for the brush. And that’s when I learned what it was doing, which was sheltering a single offspring. Said offspring stayed where it was, on top of the two or three chunks of weathered 2X6 left on the former pile.

Huh. Well, that probably wouldn’t earn me any points with St Peter. Unlike certain people I have no particular hatred for packrats as long as they stay out of my stuff…which they rarely do. I have no special love for them, either, and they’re not precisely an endangered species. My former neighbor J, who did have a special hate for them, would have stomped on this furred-but-eyeless demirat and thought no more of it. Zelda would have tortured it for battle plans and troop concentrations. Me, I compromised by doing nothing.

A few minutes later I went back to the much-truncated pile, and the baby rat was no longer visible. So I figured Mama had come back and grabbed it. I continued in this misconception until I picked up the last piece…

And there it was, all my sins remembered. That was one lonely little creature, right there. I guess Dame Rat figured she’d given this motherhood thing a fair shot and it just hadn’t worked out well for anybody under the circumstances.

I figured it was none of my business. But the blind little wiggler wasn’t done yet. It couldn’t see or walk, but it could hear and sort of drag itself along, and it was determined to find warmth and a teat and it didn’t care from whom. It crawled toward the noise.

Yes, it started following me around.

A truly newborn rat is a naked, revolting little slug, about as cuddly as a grub. I feed them to my chickens. I’d guess this one was a day or less from opening its eyes and planning to steal my stuff. But it wasn’t going to get that day without its mama, who clearly wasn’t coming back. I’ve seen baby kittens who were no less cute than this little thing, but there was nothing I could do for it and nothing I should do. It was a rat. We were enemies.

But that didn’t mean I wanted to watch. So I picked it up, cupped it in my hands briefly…then carried it to the 15′ drop to the wash and let it go.

Life sucks, kid, and you learned the lesson early.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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5 Responses to For Zelda: A heartwarming tale of rodent infanticide

  1. MamaLiberty says:

    A real dilemma at times. I suspect you did the best you could, however it turned out.

    Yesterday AM, a half grown kitten turned up on my back deck. Laddie was tearing at the storm door screen trying to get at it. It was crying piteously, and I knew it was very hungry, but I wasn’t about to feed it. I’m allergic to cats, and don’t care much for them in any case, so I took a spray bottle of water and chased it away. Of course, it was back again in no time, so I sprayed it as often as I could and hoped it would be gone this morning. Nope. I called my next door neighbor, who does have cats, in hopes it belonged to her. (No idea why this didn’t occur to me yesterday…) It wasn’t hers, but she said she’d come over and get it anyway.

    Sometimes, no matter how sorry you feel for something or even someone, there isn’t much you can do about it without screwing up your own life… and quite often theirs as well! Without its mother, the little rat would probably have died no matter what you did. Life is not fair, not even for rats.

  2. Robert says:

    Being more-or-less at the top of the food chain is difficult sometimes. “All life is sacred. On the other hand, you are vermin. Sigh.”

  3. ZtZ says:

    Hope you had gloves on or washed your hands after you picked it up. You are a good and kindhearted person. I would have whacked the mother with a shovel while she was covering her baby and then taken both to the wash because that would prevent her from contributing another 10 or 12 babies to the population. From what I’ve read on your blog I do believe that you would never, ever – even if you were mellowed out by one or more glasses of the finest adult beverage – tolerate from one or more uninvited humans and their children – the intrusion and destruction you cheerfully accept, tolerate and indulge from the rats. You know they have cost you many many hundreds of dollars in vehicle and house repairs and traps and exposed you to diseases I can’t pronounce, many of which are either incurable, inconvenient or deadly. Their constant destruction of parts of the Jeep have left you without transportation and money. They have invaded every part of your life in an out of control, destructive takeover that would invite mass retaliation if done by humans. They don’t provide companionship, or an attentive audience, can’t open a beer can, cook, clean or wash the dishes, or help with maintenance and improvements, and so far haven’t been able to accept hints and training to go away and leave your Stuff alone. Infanticide. Hmmmmmm… The mother rat didn’t value her baby enough to rear up on her hind legs and attempt to fight you off. The mother rat ran off and left her baby to die. She left you to clean up the mess and take care of the problem while she mates again and will be back with another batch of baby rats, all of whom will destroy something and eat your food and leave a mess. Gosh.

  4. Joel says:

    😀 Rats. The original welfare queens.

  5. abnormalist says:

    cats v rats, I would save a baby kitten (and have before)
    the rat I would either feed to the chickens or step on. to hell with the rat

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