Part of our job at Scotty’s Castle is checking the trap lines. When I first heard this phrase I thought of the fur trappers that were often the first explorers into a wilderness. But what this means at Scotty’s Castle is checking the mouse and rat traps for little furry things that might have gotten caught in the traps overnight. Because I open the Castle every morning and Tom opens the Underground, we are on the front line of defense.
Mice are a problem in Death Valley wherever there are people. It is almost impossible to keep mice completely out of places. When we find a mouse in the traps, we have a detailed SOP (standard operating procedure) for getting rid of it. 1. Spray it with Lysol disinfectant until it is soaked. 2. Wait 15 minutes for the disinfectant to work. 3. Put on a respirator, disposable gloves, and arm yourself with two plastic bags and a replacement trap. 4. Pick up the mouse in the trap, put it in one bag. Tie the bag, then put it in the other bag and tie it. 5. Set the replacement trap. 6. Immediately take the mouse disposal bag to the dumpster outside the grounds.
The mice in Death Valley carry Hantavirus which is a serious virus which is fatal 40% of the time. No one has caught it yet in Death Valley, but there several people died last year in Yosemite from Hantavirus. Symptoms of Hantavirus are a high fever and difficulty breathing. The inability to breathe and doctor’s unfamiliarity with Hantavirus are the reason it is so deadly. Tom and I take the threat of catching the disease very seriously.
So we were a bit disconcerted when we discovered mouse droppings in the RV. We keep the RV clean and have stuff that is recommended by the National Park Service to repel mice around the RV. We put steel wool in all the openings and sprayed another repellent around the outside of the RV. Despite all our precautions, there were unmistakable signs that a mouse had been visiting. Suddenly our plans for the day changed from a long hike to a serious deep-clean and search for the mouse.
We turned over the furniture and vacuumed everywhere. We wiped all the solid surfaces with bleach. We took everything out of cupboards, drawers, and the pantry. Although there were several places where there were mouse droppings, we couldn’t find a nest or any other evidence that a mouse had visited. So we put everything away and set out six traps. Now we check the trap lines in our own house as well at the ones at Scotty’s Castle. We also do the dishes every night, keep all food in Ziploc storage bags, and take out the garbage every day.
We are hoping that a mouse inadvertently got caught inside the RV and escaped as fast as his little legs could go after leaving us the mousy presents. So far we have not seen any more signs of mouse occupancy. But I’m not holding my breath. Mice seem to be a part of living in Death Valley and we will do the best we can to keep them out of Scotty’s Castle and out of our home.