Bye, Bye, Rats!

Monday, May 04, 2009
It's time for an update on the rat situation. If the title is any indication, it's true--they're gone. It seems we had one colony, from what I can tell. Most likely, it started out as a pair, but they had a litter, and were expecting another. Within three days, I snap-trapped ten rats: one very large male rat, then a largely pregnant female rat, then 8 teenage rats. It's now been three days since a trap has snapped, and I haven't seen any rats. Our Metro compost bins have been sealed off with Metro's bottom attachment, making them rodent-proof, and the chicken feeder is put into a sealed bucket at night. Rats are mainly nocturnal, so removing any food sources, especially at night, will greatly reduce the attraction to other rats setting up camp in our backyard.

In the end, I bagged ten rats, a population which was on the verge of doubling in a matter of days. Female rats can produce litters every two months, and usually give birth to 7 baby rats, although they can have up to 14. This means that a few rats can become a hundred rats in a short amount of time, especially if conditions are favorable, such as a constant source of food in your yard. In the beginning, I thought simply removing their food source was good enough. This is not the case. You must remove the rats from your property, or they will only fight harder to find more food, which usually means burrowing in under your house. Rats make their homes near people, especially where food is readily available. Common food sources are hanging bird feeders (they feed on the seeds the birds drop on the ground), scraps people throw out for the birds, chicken feeders, and compost bins. Make sure your compost bins are sealed, chicken feeders are put away at night, and be careful with bird feeders. Don't put excess food in them and hang away from your house. Only throw out minimal amounts of food that wild birds can eat within an hour or two. Watch for signs of burrows, which usually appears as one hole with no soil around it. Gophers leave mounds of soil, rats do not. Beware of rats! They live all around us, averaging about 7 to every 1 person living in Portland. You can't control that they are everywhere, but you can control whether or not they take up residence on your property.

For more information about rats and other vectors, call Multnomah County Health Department Vector Control (503) 988-3464

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