Thursday, June 24, 2010

Critters and the War on Mice

I've been in Iraq nearly two months now, long enough to have some critter encounters that I think I should share. Iraq certainly has plenty of wildlife to be found if you look hard enough. I'm still trying to get my hands on a field guide to middle eastern birds, so if anybody knows where I can get one, let me know.

Camel Spiders

Camel spiders are a relative of the Arachnid family, and they belong to the order of Solifugds. And no, I can't pronounce that. There are a number of rumors about their size, speed, and habits that circulate around here.

The rumor is that they got their names by their nasty habit of burrowing into a camels viscera in order to lay eggs, which later hatch, and devour the camel. Research, of course, shows this to be false, but it still makes for a formidable reputation.

I was under the impression that they could get to be very large, upwards of frisbee sized, but most of the ones that I've encountered have been no larger than a tarantula spider. They are, however, extremely quick, and very aggressive, especially when cornered. They also do, in fact, jump quite high. I've witnessed it, despite what the Wikipedia article will tell you.

My first encounter with a camel spider was on a job site. A couple of guys chased it down to get a better look at it. They poured cold water on the creature, which causes them to freeze up-most likely because it can no longer breathe. We got a good, close look at four fang-like things at it's mouth, and talked at length about the extraordinary things that we'd heard they could do. Then one of the guys released it from the empty bottle and we moved on.

I sat down later and realized that the camel spider was still in the same spot we let it go at, unmoving, and I assumed that we'd killed it. It seemed like a safe conclusion at the time, so I poked it with a short twig, thinking that if it were dead I could examine it a bit more, for curiousity's sake. This was a mistake. I very nearly had a chunk taken out of my finger. The spider jumped up that stick faster than I could blink, but I dropped it in time. He jumped up the wall of the bunker and holed up somewhere, while I sat a little shaken. I later found out, that although the bite can be painful and prone to infection, it is not actually venomous. Small comfort.

I've also got a mouse problem. It started in the old platoon room. I saw the little guy, about half the size of the field mice back home. He was darting around the edges of the wall, around where I kept my spare medical gear. I was going to set out traps, because I saw the droppings on the floor, and realized he was making quite a mess, but we were switching rooms the next day. Let the new guys deal with it.

Since the re-organization of the company, myself and Sgt. McCarty have taken on the task of combining our respective medical equipment in an unoccupied trailer in the camp, and for the past few days have been doing inventory on what we have, and prepping for upcoming missions.

While going through the foot locker from the old room, I noticed that many of my bandages were chewed, had yellow stains, or mouse pellets on them. These were, of course, discarded. I was very surprised to find my mouse still inside the foot locker though, and very much alive. I emptied most of the stuff out, then tipped the foot locker over, and he ran free. I didn't think I needed to kill him at the time.

When I returned from lunch though, he'd returned to the new room. I caught a glimpse of him darting behind the vehicle first aid kits. I wasn't able to dislodge him without making a horrible mess, but in a few minutes I began to hear chewing again. So no more Mr. Nice Medic.

The house back home is over 100 years old, so I'm no stranger to war with mice. Ive probably been at war with mice for about 13 years longer than this one has been alive. I bought some traps, and they are set. If the viper that lurks underneath the shed doesn't get him, I will.


  1. Jimmy, this entry is really great! I was laughing and quite taken by your descriptions. I felt like I was right there. Good luck with your mouse problem. As you already know, they can be pretty persistant.

  2. like you rmother said it is very well written and well detailed, i have have had my fair share of mice up in RI and i learned that peanut butter espeecially one that has chocolate flavoring to it works wonders

  3. Hey Jimmy,

    Keep up the good work. We're all proud of you and we look to your mom or nana to fill us in on how you are doing.
    Let us know if you need anything.
    Stay cool. We love ya.
    Uncle Tom and Aunt donna

  4. Glad to see I've got readers!

    Sinead, peanut butter does work well-I baited the traps with the stuff that comes in the center of a nutter butter cookie. We'll see what happens. I saw/heard no signs all day so I'm beginning to think he sensed what was coming or got snapped up. This mouse was obvious.

    Uncle Tom, I have a letter to send out to you and Aunt Donna. Thanks to you and everyone else, I have enough snacky stuff and entertainment to last for quite some time!

  5. Sorry we are so late in posting. . .always enjoy your writings, Jimmy. We just returned from Toy Story 3 with Michael and Robbie (Robert's new chosen name). I cried a few times especially at the ending. It was sweet and corny but I could see you in the character of Andy, a really generous good guy.
    Please stay away from the mice and spiders. Both scare me.