Miss Willie Whitefoot has been with me for 14 days, now. All functions and facilities are operating well. Her bowels are no longer difficult or loose, but well formed and of 'adult' colour. If I give her something to eat, she looks for a place where she has cover, to dine, rather than eat it in an open and thus exposed spot (like the open palm of my hand).
Willie is a friendly little thing, but (happily) is learning to be instinctively cautious. I now rarely carry her around in my shirt pocket, and yesterday was her last day of formula from a pipette. I'd already begun several days ago to water the formula down, and she has also had a cap full of water available to her, in her bath tub habitat, since her first night 'alone'. Now, the tub habitat also has a shallow but wide lid from a tin of Pirouline cookies (hazelnut, of course ...) with her - a bit like having a 18' diameter pool, from a 'comparison perspective'. Willie eagerly grabs a half of walnut - usually as big as her own head! - and drags it under cover, to gnaw. Willie has a dried branch from a swamp maple in her tub with her, and a split section of hollowed log to explore.
In the above photo, Willie is at just about the center of the photo, hiding under the curve of the log section. You can just see her white right forefoot, and the right side of her head, peering out from under the log's cover, to see who has come to visit.
Yesterday, I saw Miss Willie jump from the edge of the curved hollowed log to the branch, with ease and grace (of course, the leap is only about 3", but still!). Willie can travel quickly along the branch. Watching her last night, it was clear that Willie recognises that the tub habitat is 'limiting' - she made several attempts to 'scale' the walls of the tub - interestingly, not on the 'back' side, but on the bathroom side. That suggests to me that she is ready for release into whitefoot territory, to find members of her own species - perhaps even her own family. I will release her in the brier and bramble that grows just to the east of the tractor's parking area, where her true momma had created a litter nest in the padded seat of my tractor.
I will admit the urge to keep Willie as a companion critter is fairly strong - it's amazing how affectionate she has been and remains - but what sort of life is it, for a white footed mouse, to be confined? She is a seeker of knowledge; a very innately curious creature. No habitat that I could offer her can compare with the fullness of life - short 'tho it may be - in the woods of the Elk River Ranch and Raccoon Refuge. I may release her today, if we get some rain, as predicted. It's been a bit dry, these past few days, and I'd like there to be a good source of moisture, for Willie, as she first begins to seek a comfortable existence and quarters of her own, here in the woodlands.
As it has been with all the creatures I've known, Willie's companionship has been a privilege and pleasure. I can only hope she thinks the same of her experience, here at the Elk River Ranch and Raccoon Refuge.