Dealing With Rats - Introduce an Enemy

David Trammel's picture

As more people garden and store their harvests for Winter months, there will be a rise in the rat and rodent population in urban and suburban settings.

"Got Rats? Join The Club"

East coast residents are seeing rats in new places. On Cape Cod in Massachusetts, rats have moved from dumpster denizens to household pests. For people like Mike Travers, an exterminator with EcoGeek pest control, this means that business is booming. While no one's counting the rats up and down the east coast, Travers says he's seen a definite uptick in the Cape's population over the past five years. These days, he says his company goes out multiple times a day to address rat problems at peoples' homes. "This is something that's new," he said, checking traps at a home at the home of Janice and Tim Schofield in Barnstable. "I would say probably 80 percent of my rat calls are for residential homes."

While traps and poison bait is an option, one solution may be to reintroduce a real predator to the mix.

Terriers were breed for hunting rats. These small dogs have the speed and the size to go where the rat goes. Here is a link to a group of people who train modern dogs to do what their ancestors did.

Jreed and his Mongrol Hoard

David Trammel's picture

Another reason to own cats, lol.

"Facing A Growing Rat Problem, A Neighborhood Sets Off The Cat Patrol"

""No one used the yard one summer because every time you'd go out, they'd like run across your feet," she says. "Once it got dark, you would hear them, 'tch, tch, tch, tch, tch, tch, tch tch,' back and forth on the deck. ... We'd all lift our feet up because they're underneath the table."

The rats came over from the yard of apartment building next door, where they feasted on restaurant garbage and dog feces. Thomas says she tried everything from trenching and underground fencing to poison traps, but nothing worked. Until she got some cats. "Oh my God, that one, that's my killer out of the three," says Thomas, pointing to one of her cats as it runs across the backyard. "That one loves to hunt."

Cats do more than just kill, they act as a natural repellent too.

"The cats will kill off a great deal of the initial population of the rats," says Paul Nickerson, who manages the Cats at Work program for the Tree House Humane Society. "But through spreading their pheromones, they will keep other rats from filling their vacuum." Nickerson says that's what makes the feral cat program so successful in keeping the rats away long term. "Before the cats showed up, there were no predator pheromones in the area," Nickerson says. "Now that cats are here, there's predator pheromones and the rats aren't stupid. They smell the predator pheromones and so they'll stay out of the cats' territory."

ClareBroommaker's picture

The years when cats hang out in our garden, we do not get mice in our house come autumn. Coyotes started coming into the neighborhood about 25 years ago, then in recent years when there has been stream flooding in nearby suburbs, we've noticed foxes made their way here. I assume they catch some rodents. A few years ago, hawks showed up in our inner city neighborhood. Everyone who noticed seemed thrilled at the change. I thought maybe it meant that the effects of DDT were finally fading. In the last two years, owls are in the neighborhood! Barred owls and great horned owls have been seen. One night a great horned owl was sitting atop a trellis in my garden. I was so amazed at its size. I watched until it flew away. What a wingspread! No doubt these predator birds will get some of the rodents, but also some of the cats that tend to roam the neighborhood.

All these changes seem good to me.

I store beans and cornmeal in large metal cans. They are not airtight, nor will they keep out insects, but they will keep out mice and rats. They'd be good for other dry foods as well. They can be made more insect proof by sealing the rims with wax if you are storing for longer term. Ideally, you'd want to seal side seam, bottom seam, and lid. The wax can be saved and reused. All the cans I have will rust, so they have to be kept in a fairly dry place.

David Trammel's picture

The last two years, there has been a pair of owls nesting in a tree in my sister's back yard. She can hear them talking when she goes to sleep and often when she wakes.

The animal shelter I work with has a small outside dog house (straw filled for insulation) that a small group of foxes resides in during the Winter. We leave food out for them too.

Its almost a daily occurrence that you see hawks and falcons sitting on street signs and lamp posts here in St Louis. I put out a decent amount of bird seed and critter food on my driveway during the chilly months and one day a few months back, when I got home and was still in my car, a hawk swooped past my windshield trying to land itself dinner from the birds eating my offering.

I imagine they all snack on the occasional rodent, lol.

Serinde's picture

It came sauntering up the path as if it owned the place. I was fair affronted, I can tell ye. Poison did for it (them). One thing I've definitely noticed: if we have mice around, there are no rats. And (that once) vice versa, too. As we have field mice, living as we do in a farming community, I rarely see a rat on my property. The field mice try to come in over the winter, but we do discourage it, and they usually take up residence in the garage but the pickings are slim, as everything is in sealed buckets and barrels. Used to have both a cat and a dog, and saw little in the way of rodents. The best vermin hunter I ever had was an old-fashioned Siamese tom (not these effete skinny things; he weighed about 25lbs, all muscle).

We have tawny owls (and I would guess barn owls, too) plus common buzzards, fox, stoats and (allegedly) a pine marten all of which will love a mousey snack.

I agree about terriers. Not only are they full of character, they are fast! A friend's Border terrier saw the rat before any of us did and she was off!

High-cat diet: urban coyotes feast on pets, study finds

A study of coyote scat in LA found the animals are attracted to fruit in gardens, where they are also finding cats and dogs

"It’s a common story in southern California, and one now backed up by research: a new study by the National Park Service has found that 20% of urban coyotes’ diets is made up of cats.

"Once restricted to the western plains, coyote populations are surging in cities across the US. They are master adapters who have learned to survive in urban environments – a recent study found coyotes present in 96 out of 105 cities surveyed. But many communities are struggling to figure out new ways to deal with predators in their neighborhoods."

Serinde's picture

In the UK, it has been estimated that there might be as many as 150,000 urban foxes in England and Wales (research doesn't include rest of UK), more than in the wild. All that opportunity for snacking, I guess.

What was sweating sickness – the mysterious Tudor plague of Wolf Hall?

"A minor academic industry has developed speculating on what sweating sickness could have been.

"Given that it had few symptoms other than a violent fatal fever, medical historians have had little to go on. But suggestions that have been made over the years include influenza, scarlet fever, anthrax, typhus or some SARS-like pulmonary enterovirus. All, however, have had some clinical or epidemiological aspect that meant they didn’t quite fit the description on the “most wanted” poster for sweating sickness.

"Then in 1993, an outbreak of a remarkably similar syndrome occurred among the Navajo people in the region of Gallup, New Mexico. This episode, known as the Four Corners outbreak after the region of south-western USA in which it was located, turned the attention of sweating sickness investigators towards its causative agent: Sin Nombre virus. Sin Nombre is a hantavirus, a member of a group of viruses that were mostly previously known in Europe for causing a kidney failure syndrome, and a cousin of several tropical fever viruses transmitted by biting insects. The new disease was given the name hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)."

Blueberry's picture

Great for pest control have them living in 2 different out buildings.

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