Do I Have a Rat Problem – Part 2

How serious is having a few mice or a rat under your house? The damages to your home can happen quickly. The largest rodent caused repair bills are usually for replacing the ruined insulation in your attic and crawl space. Chewed water lines and electrical wiring come next. Then there is the actual cleanup costs including disinfecting deodorizing and feces removal. Of course, the first and most important step to take is to totally deny entry to any of these rodents or other animals. Nature First Pest Control of Portland Oregon specializes in totally and permanently excluding rats and mice before we begin the repair and cleanup process.

What kind of bait should You use? Please don’t use any! Poison baits are very dangerous to our pets and wildlife. As an example, there are organizations that take in and rehabilitate hawks, eagles and other birds of prey. Years ago folks would catch mice and rats to take them to the raptor shelter to feed the birds. These facilities used to be glad to accept them, but will not accept these captured gifts anymore. This is because of  the possibility that the rodent was easy to capture because it had been poisoned. All birds are extra sensitive to rodenticides.

Over twenty years ago my technicians and I at Nature First went to a seminar that is required to have a pest control license in Oregon., I was told at this seminar that there was a new rat poison that would not cause any secondary poisoning if some other animal consumed the dead rat or mouse. One of our clients was a  wonderful lady in S.E. Portland that raised exotic chickens. She was having a terrible time with rats chewing right through the coop walls and roof to get at the chickens. She claimed that her chickens would sleep very deeply on their perches and the rats would bite their legs and lick the blood while the chickens slept. Now, I don’t know about the vampire bites, but her chickens did have obvious leg injuries. These rats were trap shy and very well fed. I suggested we try this new super safe bait. We did and the next day her prize rooster was dead. It looked like a large rat had been weakened and confused by the poison. This rodent had entered the roost and the ruling rooster had attacked it and pecked out its eyes. The rooster only got a very small amount of blood on its beak but that was enough to kill him. So, don’t take chances with our pets and urban wildlife by allowing poison to be put out on your property.

If you call ten pest control companies in Portland and ask them about how they control rats, nine will say that they put out bait boxes around your house to kill the rats you have been seeing. Then they say something really stupid like the poisoned rodents will go outside to find water and not die inside your home. Most of them will make a half hearted attempt at blocking the rodent entry points on your house, but they will not guarantee that rodents will not get in anyway. In fact, the rats and mice will go where they feel safest when they start getting sick from the poison bait. Rodents will go to the warmest and most comfortable place they can find and that is very often in your crawlspace or attic where they can tunnel into the insulation. Of course, they die there and start to smell..The smell often attracts filth flies that lay eggs and produce hundreds of flies that can get into the living areas of the house to spread the diseases to you that the the rats may be carrying. Nature First will not use any baits to exterminate your rats and mice. We do a thorough pest inspection first to asses the reasons the rats are there in your environment. We will make written recommendations along with photographs of anything that may be contributing to the rodent populations as well as documenting the damage that we can see. Our technicians will exterminate the rats by modifying their environment and travel patterns, and use snap traps to quickly kill them.

Nature First will live trap rodents but we do not recommend this practice. Rats and most mice are dependent upon living along side us. They live where we live and eat what we eat. If you release them in a field or woods far away they will not survive over one day. It is better to kill them quickly in a snap trap than to poison them or release them in a strange environment. Do not use glue boards for rats or mice. A large rat has enough oil on its fur to make the glue less effective and usually escapes. However their frantic actions during their escape often stick the glue boards to unintended places. A younger rat may chew off its foot to escape and will suffer until it is killed by another rat.

In many ways Rats are similar to their close cousins  the Bears. If you ignore the long tail, he similarities are striking. The body shape, tooth setup and physical abilities are similar. They are both opportunistic omnivorous. Like bears, a male rat will hunt and eat any young rat it can catch. When Nature First removes food sources and alters the environment to eliminate rat habitat, the rats are scattered by the older aggressive males who want to protect what is left for themselves. The habitat alterations we do make it much easier to trap and kill the remaining rats.

Having dogs and cats are not much of a deterrent to Portland rodents. Dogs that are small and bred to hunt rodents are high energy and high maintenance creatures. These little hunters often do more damage to your lawn than they do to the local rat population. Most rat and mouse movement occurs after dark and the smaller dogs should not be left outside. These hunters are often in turn,  hunted by coyotes in many Portland neighborhoods. If the dog does catch a rat, the rat was probably sick, perhaps from poison bait, and diseased. The vet bills can mount up quickly. And, I don’t want to handle a dog that just got intimate with a rat. I have watched rats time the movements of larger dogs on chains. When the dog runs to the end of its chain, the rat comes out from hiding nearby and grabs food from the dogs food bowl, and runs back to safety. This makes for a loud and irritated dog, and very fat, well fed rat populations. Cats can be good hunters and mousers. I know of farms where the cats are never fed and are semi wild. They are tolerated and encouraged by farmers because they really do keep the rodent populations in check when the access to grains and other rodent foods is well controlled. But even these natural rodent exterminators can not keep a rodent population in check if the farmer isn’t doing his part to limit rodent nesting areas and access to rat and mouse foods. Domestic cats with a steady food supply will seldom interfere with a rat even if the rat is feeding from the cats dish. Diseases can easily transmitted to humans from rodents by way of our cats.

What does not work for rat control? Noise and vibration makers are expensive and useless. Rodents will soon get used to anything in their environment. Spray repellents fall into the same category as sonic noise makers.  Rats get used to them quickly. Moth balls and other stinky chemicals  also are useless as repellents.

Trapping is the best method to reduce or exterminate rodent populations in Portland. Live traps can sometimes catch young rats. You have to be sure that the trap is the right size and uses small enough wire mesh on it’s sides. Electronic traps that electrocute the rodents usually only get a couple and then stop killing any more. Perhaps the smells associated with electrocution and death keep new rats away. Jaw traps work in some situations where other types have failed due to trap shyness.

Where you locate any trap is critical. Rats use their special hairs along their sides and backs to help them locate and memorize the exact locations of objects in their territory and along their travel routes. This is how they navigate in total darkness. Rats and mice both use these special hairs to maintain contact with walls and other objects so that they can always be looking away from a wall while running along side of it. This edge traveling behavior should be taken into consideration when placing any snap trap or live trap. Traps that are placed away from walls or large objects rarely catch anything. A rat or mouse running along a wall, where it feels safe, does not want to go out into a more open area to investigate anything. Placing a rat trap away from a wall or at the wrong angle to the rats travel will prove useless on all but the youngest rodents. Nature First Pest Control Portland will often place set traps that are not baited along the travel paths of roof rats and invading squirrels. We actually attach traps onto a wall or horizontal post with screws where we can see their travel marks. This is very effective when you have found all of the entry points and block them all but the one you set the traps on. We use one way doors, in certain situations, on the one hole we leave open during our extermination program. Rats and all other furry animals leave greasy dirt marks where they rub against a surface. These ‘rubs’ are the best indicators of a rat’s travel route.

What is the best bait attractant for Rat and Mouse trapping? What ever they are used to.

Do I have a rat problem part 1