Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Honor Among Thieves

When my dogs are antsy and I don't have time for a real walk, I'll let them run in the pasture.  Usually there is much running and wrestling and sniffing.  One day last week, all that came to a halt and massive digging began.  
They were on the septic field, where the grasses were calf high and thick.  
Upon closer inspection, I discovered that I had a major rat problem!  The trails you see in the first picture were buried beneath the grass.  They had their own little highways from nest to nest.  They were 4 inches across and at least 2 inches deep.  
The two major nest sites were both around the water controls for the septic field.  
This time of year, when snakes are cold and the grasses are too tall for birds of prey, the rats flourish.  I decided to even the odds a bit by mowing the area of their little town.  What I discovered was that many paths led right up to the chicken run. They were thieving chicken food in the middle of the night!

I wanted badly to just toss a couple rat poison blocks down their holes, but discussed the matter with my vet first.  It seems that secondary poisoning of animals that ingest the poisoned rats, is a reality.  My cat and the birds of prey in my area (Red tailed, Cooper's and Sharp Shinned hawks, Great Horned and Screech owls) were definitely at risk for illness or death. Great, now what?  Short of buying a mongoose, I felt out of luck.  

Then I remembered I'd had a rat problem years ago when I worked for Wildlife Rescue, rehabbing squirrels.  I just went at it, one rat at a time with an old fashioned snap trap.  It took me about a month, but I got rid of them.

Last night I snapped my first rat.  The reason you don't see a lovely picture of said rat, is that his brother thieves decided if he was already dead, why not make a snack of him.  They also chewed on the trap a bit, but discovered it didn't taste as good at their poor buddy.

I'll be buying a couple more traps on my next trip to the store.  I think one trap is going to take too long. Too bad they don't make snap traps for English House sparrows.  I'd be all good then.


  1. Well, rats!

    They can sure be a nusisance. It's especially annoying if you're feeding them and didn't even know it. Godd luck with depopulating their town.

  2. Ewww! They ate him?? That's just wrong.

  3. I can't stand mice and rats. OK proof rats are gross...they eat their buddies. Yuk.

  4. WOW! Love your new banner photo - he is one bee-yoo-ti-ful boy!
    And rats...ewwww!!! I've been wondering how long it will be before they show up here. I am not very careful about spilling scratch and food and it just seems a matter of time before they find it. Jim's gotten pretty good with the (smaller) mice traps, so I guess we'll deal with the rats when the time comes.
    I noticed you mentioned sharp-shinned and cooper's hawks. I had one of them in my yard the other day and I'm going around and around on the sites and books trying to ID him/her accurately. Any tips? I've got photos...

  5. Ewww, rats! I hate any critter with a pointy nose and long hairless tail! We are plagued by voles here. They burrow just like your rats, however there is no way to ever get rid of them. They totally destroy your lawn with there trenches and no amount of trapping will ever rid your yard of them. Good luck in your extermination process.

  6. So far I've caught 3 in one day. All three are young males. I think I'll move the trap to another burrow. It may be (just me guessing) that the youngsters are hanging out together and the ones with babies are elsewhere???

    Danni, I think if you have feed available, you can have rats/mice. Let Roxy know you'll be needing a barn cat and that chasing it is out of the question. :)

    As for the hawks. My book (Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds), tells me two important factors in telling the two hawks apart.
    Coopers: Deciduous forests, Rounded tail.
    Sharpshinned: Coniferous forests only, Square tail.
    The tail is really the quickly deciding factor.

    I guess I've been misidentifying the Sharp Shinned---we are in a deciduous forest. So my hawks must be Coopers. The Red Tail pair we have rule the neighborhood though. The others just sneak in for snacks.

  7. Have your dogs caught any yet? Our pup gets possesed if there is any animal in the yard that he knows shouldn't be there.
    I have heard of sparrow traps, the live kind. Good luck on your hunt.

  8. Yuck! I just took my last mouth full of my lunch when I read this and had to quickly make a cup of coffee to wash it down :)

    Your know what they say patience is a virtue...even if it is one rat at a time.

  9. Yuk! I had no idea that rats were cannibals!

    Last winter we had a terrible mouse infestation in our garage. We were literally tripping over mice when we walked out there.

    I set out 4 traps alongside the walls, and within 3 days caught 15 mice! I can't tell you the glee I felt with every capture! lol!

    Good luck with ending the rat parties.


  10. I should send you my little female cat, Daisy! She'll catch them all! She cleaned out ALL the rats and mice from our garage!