Mouse Attack
The Orlando rodent emergency

We all suspected that Walt Disney was a devious man. We just never truly understood the depths of his depravity.

See also...
... by Larry Getlen
... in the Whoa! section
... from November 30, 1999

Disney, who created the world's most lovable cartoon characters, is also rumored to have admired the Nazis. And before his death, he engineered a plague that would combine his dual interests in cutesy critters and cuddly brownshirts. Disney trained a team of jack-booted, thug-like mice to descend goose-stepping on Orlando, The House The Mouse Built, to plunder its citizens -- raping its women, beheading the menfolk, and brainwashing the children to obey the evil master's every word and whim.

Well, ok, that might be an exaggeration, but the Orlando area is infested with Disney's favorite species of rodent.

The towns of Zellwood, Plymouth, and Apopka -- a mere 30 miles from The Happiest Place On Earth, the Disney World theme park and merchandise outlet -- have been overrun by mice, with some homes and businesses catching over 100 mice PER DAY. All in all, an estimated half a million mice have colonized an area of about 50 square miles. Local and state governments are responding to the problem with no less urgency than if the invaders were agents of Satan, or Donald Trump.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, over 16,000 traps and 19,000 packets of mouse bait have been distributed to residents, and over 430 acres were mowed to destroy mouse habitats. As of October 31, over $600,000 has been devoted to killing the critters. In addition to conventional methods, some unique and bizarre tactics have also been applied to the problem.

The latest effort saw volunteers, including firefighters and church groups, setting up hundreds of boxes that allow barn owls to take up residence in area barns, stables, and trees. A family of six barn owls can eat up to 3,000 mice in a season. The adult owls regurgitate the mouse corpses, and later use the corpses as blankets in which to lay eggs. Ah, the wonders of nature. Barf.

To secure help for his constituents, on October 1 Orange County Chairman Mel Martinez wrote a letter to Florida Governor Jeb Bush requesting financial aid. Bush responded by pledging $200,000 in state funds to match $200,000 pledged by the county. Considering the speed at which a bunch of frisky mice can reproduce, there was no word on how much quicker this whole problem might have been solved if Martinez had just picked up the damn phone instead of waiting a week for an answer by mail. (There was also no word on why Floridians elected a man named Jeb.)

All these efforts have begun to pay off. Terence McElroy, spokesperson for Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told GettingIt that many businesses went from catching 100 mice per day at the height of the problem to catching just three or four, thus leaving area business owners plenty of time for sweeping up puke-covered mouse corpses.

Despite these successes, solutions to the mouse problem are wrecking havoc on the environment. Area birds have had to be euthanized after getting caught in glue traps for mice. Even the corpse-barfing owls are meeting an ugly fate, as eating poisoned mice breaks down their livers and sends them into deadly convulsions.

Also, as with any infestation, fear of disease looms large: leptospirosis has been identified in 15 mice. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can infect humans who come into contact with water or food contaminated by urine from infected animals. While no leptospirosis cases have been reported in Florida for the past two years, the early '90s saw several cases caused by farmers getting a little too creative with their recipes when they ran out of Grey Poupon.

While no one knows what inspired the mouse invasion, many believe it might have begun when the state decided to flood 14,000 acres of farmland in an environmental restoration project. This could have sent the mice flocking toward civilization. Others maintain that ecological imbalance caused by development has created the problem. After all, mice have many natural enemies, including hawks, snakes and foxes, but many of these have been driven out of the area by the mushrooming suburbs. Some developers even hire trappers to get rid of foxes.

But what of the Disney theory? Invading mice? So close to Disney World? A Disney spokesperson insisted there was no connection (although she did find it "clever"). But can this really just be a coincidence? After all, the corporate Disney machine has long infested our planet with a variety of cultural vermin and economic plagues. They've propagated watered-down versions of history, robbing various ethnicities of their dignity and heritage. By merchandising children's toys designed to create life-long Disney addicts, Walt's toadies hope to influence kids before they're old enough to exercise judgment. Meanwhile, Mouse corporate executives have taken home as much as $565 million per year while employees parade around their parks in barely-ventilated Goofy suits for not much more than minimum wage. With all this behind them, is world domination through psychotic Nazi rodents really such a stretch?

With any luck, all these eco-destroying developers and greed-mongering Disney capitalists are standing on a table somewhere in Orange County, surrounded by hordes of angry, jack-booted mice who are searching for creatures to devour. Michael Eisner seems perfectly suited to the role of barfed-up mouse corpse.

Larry Getlen is a freelance writer in Florida, and is also the Larry behind Larry's Look at Life, a weekly news parody.