by Charlene Burgi
Has your drip system become a chew toy for some critter? Or has the large tomato you prized vanished just before it turned the perfect shade of ripeness? This scenario has all the earmarks of fur-driven trouble—but which furry critter?
My neighbor lamented that their first tomato of the season disappeared. Broccoli next departed from the scene. The hunt was on. Large snap traps were set out in the vegetable garden, and the culprit(s) were soon found. It was neither squirrel nor rabbit, but rats! Four of them were trapped within two days, but not before the row of lettuce disappeared along with more tomatoes and broccoli.
| Rat damage
Rats. It appears to be a very bad year for these varmints. They have chewed the rubber seal on the bottom of our garage door to gain entry. My daughter shared they found a wood rat with a broken leg on their front sidewalk in Petaluma. And MMWD received a report about a drip system no longer applying water to the intended plants, after rats chewed random holes to access the water within the tubing. The stories keep coming in, which leads me to believe these mild winters have played an important role in the population surge. And as these rodents search for food and water during the drought, more and more seem to be finding their way into our gardens and homes.
There are three type of rats typically found in California. Norway rats, roof rats, and wood rats all play a role in setting our nerves on edge. They are big, move fast, and carry diseases we don't want to hear about. Rat eradication is a challenge. Unchecked (and who would be checking) rats can have up to six litters a year with more than eight babies per litter. Even the controversial Common Core math will spell out that equals a lot of rats!
Knowing the habits of these rats can help you dispose of them. Roof rats prefer the higher elevations in your home. They can also live in your trees and the tall shrubs of the garden. On the other hand, Norway rats burrow and stay at lower elevations around the home. Wood rats, also known as pack rats, are equally destructive and manage to steal shiny things such as small tools, coins, etc., for their nests. All rats have the ability to chew through wood, wire, pipe, and plastic. Additionally, they are attracted to any food source available; therefore, it is imperative that all food stuffs be secured in metal containers and dog and cat food meals get picked up soon after pets leave their feed stations.
Diligence is the key for eliminating these critters. I prefer using snap traps. Poisons are too risky for me to trust that one of our domestic animals or birds of prey won't be subject to undigested poisons. Live traps also carry a gruesome job. If you trap it, you are responsible for humanely killing it. This means you cannot let it go or drown it. If you are good at playing Whack -A -Mole, this might be an avenue for you to try. No matter the method used, repeating the process over and again is required until all evidence of their presence is gone.
With the bit of research shared here, I leave you with the hope you do not need to deal with such a dilemma. We can only hope this El Niño will help limit population growth in the future! Meanwhile, remain vigilant and watch for the telltale signs these night marauders leave behind.