Keeping Rats Out Of Your Yard
The first series of rodent control will be about rats.
Rats are far more destructive than any other rodent species. This is because of the amount of human deaths that have occurred do to their presence. Bubonic plague or “Black Death,” a bacteria is vectored to human from fleas which had bitten infected rats. This pathogen has decimated Europeans in a number of plagues, causing millions of deaths. Today the rat’s chewing of power wires cause hundreds of structure fires which kill people and cause millions of dollars worth in property damage around the globe.
The eradication of an established population of rats within a neighborhood is a daunting task. far better and easier to prevent them than to get rid of them. Eradication involves trapping as many rats as possible, plugging up their entrance holes in buildings and altering their habitat to deny them food, water and cover and to expose them when foraging so barn owls can pounce on them.
Installing owl boxes is the best way to kill rats, the numbers never lie. Of course one would expect me to say this as I install barn owl nesting boxes for a living. But no other method kills more rodents than barn owls do. One would have to employ a dozen barn cats to effect a rat population as much as one pair of barn owls do. Government studies have proved one pair of breeding barn owls can consume as many as 3,000 gophers, rats, mice and voles per year, plus insects.
Installing Owl Boxes
So the first order of business is to install two owl boxes, his and hers, within a hundred yards of each other. People often ask me “What is the best time of year to install owl boxes?” What time of year the box is put up matters not, as this is a long term solution. The answer I give them is “at least one year before you see the first evidence of rodents”. If you don’t have them up already, then have it done asap.
Once the nest boxes are professionally installed, there needs to be a trapping regimen. Ordinary “Victor” rat traps work but need to be enhanced. How to enhance Victor traps will be discussed in a future blog.The County of San Diego used to give out black boxes that look like bait stations but had a rat trap inside, no poison. This is an excellent design as rats are uneasy about being exposed when foraging and will scurry away before they have a chance to settle down and be trapped. When using the traps inside the black plastic boxes, they seek cover inside the box, relax and linger longer, getting trapped more effectively. One must do more than just set a trap however. The trapper must envision the behavior of the rats actions after the person goes to sleep. This is called “getting inside their head,”or “thinking like a rat.” I have known quite a few people that I would expect this type of thinking would be a natural—
I had tame rats as pets when I was adolescent. Decades later, I had wild rats living in my crawl space. I set an ordinary “Victor” rat trap. I caught four 3/4 grown juveniles. I knew from my experience at raising tame rats that I had at least one female, the mother (already on a new litter by now) and a dominant male I called a “bull” lurking somewhere on the property. Time and again I would set the trap, only to find it sprung in the morning, no rats trapped and no bait left. So I must have caught all the young in that litter, so it must one or both the adults parents that are now spooked as the trap snapping shut scares them, making them wary.
This was bad news as now the mother rat had an education. One they know they are being set up, it becomes orders of magnitude harder to catch them.If they are not caught, they will breed and educate their young in behavior. The trapper has to get a head of their learning curve, so the next attempt to trap them is critical or, they will learn a second lesson and will never be trapped.
To learn what I did to catch the mother and ultimately the male “bull” rat, please visit my website and blog to be posted soon.