Sometimes clarity starts at home.
I’d read the , intertwined with rat rants, with somewhat detached amusement: Chickens and rats?! Humph! NOT in MY backyard!
Flash forward to two nights ago when the motion sensor overlooking our driveway kept flashing on.
At first I didn’t know what to expect when my husband turned from the window wearing an expression I’d expect if our ten-year old daughter asked for permission to date or if I’d barfed on his shoes, but when I scurried to his side in time to see a RAT scurrying along the side of our garbage canister bin I understood.
Nastiness and nausea go hand and hand with watching a big rodent bound about your property with brazen proprietorship. Throw in the fact that the rat is big enough to trigger motion sensors and you’re looking at dry heaves, too.
My husband and I both initially glanced at our miniature Schnauzer — a German breed initially bred to act as 'ratters' – but noting that she was reclining on the couch, lazily licking her nether regions with absent-minded abandon, we decided she’s better suited as rat food than rat patrol.
After a restless night of rodent-infested nightmares I made two calls: one to our town’s tirelessly informative and another to our town’s most terrific exterminator, Mr. .
When I connected with Mr. Roe, he quickly – and eloquently – put my mind at ease. “Yes, there are rats in town, some neighborhoods report sighting more regularly than others,” he said. “The type we have here are ‘Norway’ rats.” When I explained to Roe that that detail of Eurpoean cachet did make them sound less loathsome, he chuckled. “Yes, they have accents and everything,” he joked. “Good news is they’re really outdoor creatures and like to burrow, so chances are that, while they might venture into a garage or shed, for the most part they have no interest in entering your home.” (In a word, PHEW.)
After a quick pause to check what I gather must be his Maplewood ‘rat map’ he explained I have the dubious distinction of being the first on my block location to spot one of the creepy creatures. He also asked me to describe the thing, explaining that when people claim they’ve seen the “biggest, ugliest rat in the world, chances are they’ve actually seen a possum.”
Roe shared some indications of rat activity, including the presence of burrows and mouse-like droppings that are dark in color but about 5 times larger than their much cuter, compact cousins. (I also grew up in the country and know that while what I saw was big enough to set off our motion detector; it was definitely a big, fat rat, not a possum, though I’d still like to see it play dead…permanently.)
He then offered up the most effective way to tackle my pesty problem: “The most important thing in combating rats is to eliminate their food source,” he explained. “I cannot stress this enough: when it comes to ridding oneself of rats the top five approaches would be food, food, food, food and food – rats will do just about anything to get to it.”
In my case, the four-legged fiends were trying to get into our wooden trash can cover to get to the garbage goodies (as evidenced by their voracious attempts to gnaw through the wooden beams framing the bins).
As overall tips, Mr. Roe suggested vigilance in not leaving out pet food (including bird feeders) and making sure things like grass seed and anything else edible by rat standards was securely sealed in air-tight, tamper-proof containers.
“If you compost, you should also make sure it is air-tight and rodent resistant,” he added. Ditto for making sure garbage bins are securely covered and free of holes. “If not, you should replace them,” advised Mr. Roe.
Jerry Buckingham responded to my frantic call with a quick swing by and quickly confirmed the areas of attempted entry to my garbage, pointed out a hidden hole I’d missed along the bottom of the bin and also the proximity to my garden which he believes the gnarly things have been using as an ‘all you can eat’ raw foods buffet. (And to think I was just vilifying squirrels and rabbits!)
After discussing the fact that the amounts of toxin digested in the rat feces wouldn’t be a threat to my canine companion, I agreed to place poison inside the garbage area in a specially designed dispenser (for safety). Like Rob Roe, Jerry also reiterated the importance of keeping potential food sources from enticing an actual infestation as well as making sure suspected areas of activity are kept free of debris or other material that might make nesting attractive. He also promised to keep coming back to check on – and refill - the poison until sightings stopped.
My motion sensor went off again last night, and I watched a rotund rodent do what I hope will be one of its last waddles along my driveway. Inside I shuttered my window, shuddered and snuggled up against my Schnauzer. She may be a ratter by breed, but I’d really rather just buy her a stuffed toy one for play.
Sometimes reality bites, and I’m not taking any chances.