Roof Rats, a renewable resource

by Jack Perkins

Every day at exactly the same time, just before dusk, I see my squirrels vacating my trees and commuting home along the telephone wire. Their home is my Palm Tree. Then, just as it starts getting dark I see the tree branches near my roof start to shake and a moment later a rat jumps onto the same telephone wire and makes its nightly commute to the very same trees my squirrels were in.  In the dark I can barely see the rats on the branches, dining on the same seed pods the squirrels were eating. A rodent changing of the guard – completely silent.
Rats live in my attic, and my wife hears them gnawing in the night. It is nearly impossible to keep them out. So I’ve taken to hunting them.

Two years ago I spent 15 hours in my attic with a shop vac vacuuming up buckets of their droppings. So I started a campaign of rat hunting to keep their numbers down. They used to have parties up there, but now there are only a few, and I plan to get them too.
They are smart, and you have to be clever to bag a roof rat. They avoid strange new objects in their environment and after they see their brothers and sisters dead in a trap, it puts them off their vittles.

My secret is to chum for rats. Chumming is a fishing term where you throw a lot of bait in the water to attract fish and then start lowering your baited hooks. I pop up into my attic and spread some cheese chunks or peanut butter here and there to get them feeding. Then I’ll put my rat traps out without setting them and get Ratty used to seeing them. Then I’ll put bait on the un-set traps to get them feeding off the traps. The final solution is to bait and set the traps and get a bag of rats in one fell swoop!

If you let your rat problem go for even a short time they will breed so quickly that you will have to resort to using poison. I don’t like the idea of poison because I think it causes a lot of suffering on the rats’ part. So I trap frequently. I am an urban hunter.

At first we didn’t want to hurt the “poor things” so we used live traps. It wasn’t effective. Take my advice and skip the live traps. Just man-up and go to Minton’s Hardware and buy a bunch of rat traps.

Sometimes when you see a rat it looks rather small and you may think it is a mouse. We don’t have a mouse problem in our neighborhood, and odds are it is a rat. One way to tell the difference is a mouse will run away from you but a rat will advance towards you. I know this first hand.

Rattus Rattus (Latin for Roof Rat) is an incredible climber, and I’ve seen them crawl straight up a stucco wall, like a gecko. They can even show up in your toilet bowl because they come down the 3” vent pipes on your roof.

If you feel guilty about killing them don’t worry, it will pass. Somehow our primitive hunting instincts kick in and it is very satisfying to see your rat traps filled with your bald-tailed quarry. Incidentally, their eyes stay open when dead, which can be a little disturbing.  When I get an extra large one I brag about it.

They breed incredibly fast and a pair can produce 6 litters of 8 rats per year, and the young reach sexual maturity in three months. They love our attics, garages,  and our dense shrubs and fruit trees. They love to eat our citrus, tomatoes, and all other fruit and vegetables in our gardens. If you keep bird feeders I guarantee that you will soon have a rat problem.

Important: Only put your traps in-doors, otherwise you’ll be trapping birds by mistake.

If we could band together and set up Barn Owl nest boxes throughout our neighborhood we could reduce our rat population naturally. Barn Owl nest boxes are excellent substitutes for the hollows in trees or barns these owls nest in. Barn Owl nest boxes are easy to build, and we have plenty of tall trees in OMVN to put them in. Barn Owls eat their weight in rats every night and they breed fast. The local Audubon Society office will be delighted to help. If anybody is interested then let’s get together and put forth a plan. It would be a great neighborhood project.
There’s plenty more to say about Rattus Rattus but its all on the internet, including some tasty recipes!

Good hunting!

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