Crushed by my silence

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The woodland jumping mouse has a hard life. Wikipedia (the ever-reliable source) says about 90 percent of them are eaten as young. Only a third of mice survive hibernation in any given year. They face predation on several fronts. On top of that, female mice are left to raise their young alone.

The mice are by no means endangered—but they do face many dangers. They’re also really astounding animals. They can jump 1.8 meters. Their body temperature drops to 2 degrees celsius during hibernation. They love to eat fungus and they mature rapidly.

My wife and I were admiring one of these creatures at a nearby park on July 2. As both of us have come from away, we had never seen one before. “Look at his hind legs,” she said. “They’re enormous. He’s beautiful.” We stood for a few seconds, looking at this perfect, tiny ball of fur on the side of a trail leading to the beach, when a ranger rounded the corner on a wide-wheeled utility cart.

“I’m worried the ranger might hit him,” she said. I reassured her, for some reason, that the ranger would not. We moved as far to the other side of the trail as we could, but not towards the mouse. And nor did we say anything as the ranger nodded at us — and duly steered away from us to give us space. Thus ended the tiny mouse, crushed by our silence. “I thought he would get out of the way,” my wife said.

Our evening at the beach was pretty well ruined, though we certainly had a better evening than the mouse—not to mention those poor people involved in the horrifying car accident that we passed during our escape to the beach.

Why do we tolerate such unnecessary violence in our lives? Why does a small park that demands dog poop to be cleared in the name of natural preservation allow its rangers to ride around on militarized golf carts? Why is this normal to us? How many mice—and people—are crushed because we don’t question our own excesses? And why do we expect nature, other people, and the world to anticipate danger as it comes?

Woodland jumping mice may have a leg up on this one, at least. Apparently, they are notoriously difficult to observe in captivity, as female mice will kill their offspring under such conditions.
—A quiet bystander

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