'Twas the season of Christmas, and all through the dorm,
Little creatures were stirring to keep themselves warm.
When midshipmen at the Naval Academy departed Dec. 18 for their holiday break, they began a temporary cease-fire in their battle against the co-inhabitants of their dormitory, Bancroft Hall.
Put another way, when the weather outside turns frightful, mice -- and sometimes rats, raccoons and squirrels -- find the warmth of Bancroft Hall delightful.
"I can hear them running around in the ceiling at night," said senior Kate Oliver.
But, being resourceful officers-to-be, midshipmen over time have learned to deal with their rodent visitors -- mainly by catching them. Mids call these efforts MCMs, "mice countermeasures."
The preferred MCM is the garbage can. A stealthy Mid can wait near a mouse opening and drop an upside-down trash can atop the critter. That assures that the mouse can be kept alive for a mission, such as being tossed out of a dorm window attached to a tiny parachute.
Mice caught with the traditional "snap" of a trap can end up tacked to a bulletin board.
One was recently tacked into the cockpit of an F-14 in a photograph.
Academy officials say their pest problem is no different from the problem of any other large institution, especially one with century-old, waterfront buildings.
"It's normal at this time of year, when the weather turns cold, for rodents who've been living outside to come inside," said Buck Long, supervisor of the academy's five-member environmental pest management department.
But a renovation of Bancroft Hall has contributed to the mouse problem. Doors have been left open. Holes have been knocked in walls. The noise of the workmen has pushed mice into wings of the huge building that had been rodent-free.
That's kept Long and his crew busy placing -- and emptying -- traps and glue boards, wielding bait guns that squirt sticky bait into nooks and crannies, patching window screens and caulking cracks and openings wider than a pencil.
"Anything over a quarter of an inch a mouse can squeeze through," said Long, who has fought rodents at the academy for 15 years.
Stewart Smith, a 1991 graduate who recently retired as a company officer in charge of a group of Mids in Bancroft Hall, recalls returning to his room one day during his first year to find a mouse had chewed its way into the care package of cookies his parents had sent. The mouse was still inside the box.
He and his roommates kept a tally of captured mice on their room door, which sometimes reached three or four a day.
"You could hear them scratching and scurrying around in the ceiling at night," he said.
In a book called "Brief Points," a guidebook to the academy for parents and friends of midshipmen, mice are listed in the glossary as "Bancroft's longest, most adaptable, most tenacious residents; catching them ranks among the midshipmen's most relentless pursuits; upon catching five, a midshipman becomes an 'ace.' "
An Army veterinarian from Fort Meade works at the academy Monday through Friday, looking for signs of rodent contamination in food delivered to the kitchen's loading docks. Still, the kitchen staff catches about a mouse a week, and occasionally has to toss out a bag of flour or other food tainted by a mouse.
Mice regularly help themselves to the snack racks at the nearby Midshipmen Store, sometimes nibbling holes through bags of corn chips or pretzels.
With 1,736 rooms, a 4,400-seat dining hall, a pistol range, post office, department store, barber shop, radio station, snack shop, tailor shop and cobbler shop to patrol, the pest control crew has turned to the Mids for assistance.
Through a "self-help" program, Mids can request traps or glue pads to help them do battle.
Last year, they went through four boxes of glue boards, containing 72 sticky boards apiece, and 144 traps, said Lt. Carolyn Francis, who helps manage Bancroft Hall.
Pub Date: 1/01/99