Friday, March 26, 2010

Not a Mouse, nor a Rat, but a Brown Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii )

We knew straight away we'd been invaded by critters once more when our blind guinea pig, Boofhead started making his weird gumping sound again.

We suspected more mice in the house, but we couldn't find any. Then, one night, I came home to find what I though was a rat on my kitchen floor. It looked at me, then bolted up the bench and scampered behind the microwave.

Right, I though. I'll set the safe trap and evict it back to the bush. I positioned the two-dollar plastic safe-trap in the kitchen, but I couldn't sleep, so I went to my office to do some editing of my latest manuscript instead. Five minutes later, the furry brown critter joined me. It just sat there in the middle of the room, staring at me. I froze, but stared back at it, then it scurried behind the couch. I jumped up, grabbed the trap from the kitchen, and brought it back to my office. I closed the door and placed the trap in the corner.

I carried on with my writing until I heard a scratching noise behind me. I turned around to see this cheeky little critter, boldly scratching at the door. It was bigger than a mouse, but smaller than a rat. Its head went flat as it tried to squeeze under the door, but it couldn't seem to flatten it enough to get under. I've never seen a mouse or rat with a flat head. (Was it an alien?) Its nose was pointed and it had bulbous brown eyes. Suddenly, it leaped onto the wall and peered over the corner of a bookcase.  Ah, I though. You're a little Antechinus.

If you look closely, you'll see his feet stuck to the brick wall. One way to find out if it was an Antechinus was to to check the big toes on its hind feet. Sure enough, this little creature had five toes on his back feet, but the big toe was shorter with no nail. Also, they have no musty odour like mice. In fact they don't seem to smell at all. Their diet consists of insects, small lizards and berries. They have teeth like a canine, not like a rodent and their ears look kind off frilly. Their poop is long, skinny and black. I think these little critters are Brown Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii.)

So how did he get into our home? We didn't have a clue. We have a full brick house, built by my husband and myself. We thought we'd made it mouse proof. Well, I caught the tiny fellow and took it into the woods, not too far from our house. I wanted to keep it in its own territory. Trouble was, I took my three-year-old grandson too, and when I set the critter free under a bush, it darted out and ran straight up my grandson's leg. He screamed as it bounced of his tummy and leaped onto the trunk of a tree. After calming the toddler, I photographed the animal, and explained to my grandson that it was only a tiny animal and it was scared, just like him. He understood, but then wanted to catch the little fellow, but it ran to the top of the tree.

Since that day, a week ago, I've captured three more antechinus in our house. How they got in, I don't know, but suspect the mother was pregnant. And, from what I've read, the females mate with many males, producing as many as ten babies in one pregnancy. Yipes! And from different fathers too. The babies are carried in an open like pouch, and they cling to their mother's nipples for about eight weeks. Woa!  I caught another one this morning and I'm wondering how long they've been sneaking around our house. Maybe it was an antichinus that cleaned up the spiders from the ceiling, and not my husband after all. Okay, I'm a slack housekeeper, I do write, you know.

It looks like I'll be going on another walk to the big old dam to set the fourth antichinus free in the bush. I hope they don't find their way back to our house. They have flat heads and can squeeze into small gaps.

Please be careful when poisoning mice, you may be accidently poisoning these beautiful, Australian native creatures. They seem so friendly and will come up to your feet and stare at you, as if begging for food. They hated being trapped in a box and seemed so happy when release back to the wild. I feel privileged to have met them. I hope you enjoy the photos on videos.

Looks like I have another Molly Gumnut book to write.

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