Thursday, April 10, 2008

Uh, Rats

[Vermin News] We have a rat invasion. In our yard.

I invited it. I hung bird feeders over the winter and filled them with black-oil sunflower seed. I would occasionally see a rat running out from a snowbank, grabbing a seed, then disappear. Of course I knew there is no such thing as just one rat.

But I had no idea. With the snow melt, the rats are having their own karaoke party in and around our driveway.

Maxine, our 80-year-old neighbor, called last night to tell us she sees the rats--six or more at a time--feasting on seeds the birds drop from the feeder.

I saw a pack of them for the first time this morning, when I drove in to the driveway. I would have taken their picture to share on the blog, but these are urban rats. They move fast. They ran under the shed beside the garage. Maxine thinks they are nesting there.

We really don't despise the rats. I rather like our yard feeling like a Beatrix Potter book. Surely the rats have a purpose. The circle of life, you know? But I sense the neighbors are gathering momentum and will soon, um, rat us out to the health department for creating a nuisance.

Also, the neighbors are a fountain of extermination advice. One says we should put out traps near the shed. Oh, and there's poison...mix it into dog food, they say, and slide it under the shed.

None sound like good options. Anyone? [Holly Mullen]


    Here is information on common diseases caused by rats, as gathered from the Center For Disease Control & Prevention

    Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS): Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. Humans can contract the disease when they breathe in aerosolized virus. HPS was first recognized in 1993 and has since been identified throughout the United States. Although rare, HPS is potentially deadly. Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection.

    Murine Typhus: Murine typhus (caused by infection with R. typhi) occurs worldwide and is transmitted to humans by rat fleas. Flea-infested rats can be found throughout the year in humid tropical environments, but in temperate regions are most common during the warm summer months. Travelers who visit in rat-infested buildings and homes, especially in harbor or riverine environments, can be at risk for exposure to the agent of murine typhus.

    Rat-bite fever (RBF): Rat-bite fever (RBF) is a systemic bacterial illness caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis that can be acquired through the bite or scratch of a rodent or the ingestion of food or water contaminated with rat feces.

    Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium: As its name suggests, it causes a typhoid-like disease in mice. In humans S. Typhimurium does not cause as severe disease as S. Typhi, and is not normally fatal. The disease is characterized by diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and nausea, and generally lasts up to 7 days. Unfortunately, in immunocompromized people, that is the elderly, young, or people with depressed immune systems, Salmonella infections are often fatal if they are not treated with antibiotics.

    Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans it causes a wide range of symptoms, and some infected persons may have no symptoms at all. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting, and may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, and respiratory distress. In rare cases death occurs.

    Eosinophilic Meningitis: Eosinophilic meningitis is an infection of the brain occurring in association with an increase in the number of eosinophils, white blood cells that are associated with infection with worms that penetrate into the body. The organism most commonly causing eosinophilic meningitis is a rat lung worm called angiostrongylus cantonensis.

  2. Yeek!!! OK, OK, I'll buy the poison!

  3. I thought you might :-)

  4. Sounds much like our neighborhood and situation except that our neighbor Maxine is 90+ and can't see the rats (still drives of course.) Anyway... we spotted 6 cute baby rats eating our bird food. My wife insisted I promise not to kill them as they were so cute. I did not respond and started the war soon thereafter. Over the next week or so, I killed 2 by trap and the dog nailed one so I was thinking major progress had been made until my wife reported seeing all 6 rats "playing" in the yard. I fessed up that there should only be 3 left and realized our problem was bigger than we thought. I resorted to poison (placed carefully to avoid the dog and squirrels.) It seemed to do the trick, for now anyway. If you need more motivation, check on their reproduction rate.

  5. Holly, have been in the area since 1990. We live just around the corner. I have been baiting the rats since our first year here. Buy or make a bait box. It will have a hole big enough for the rat but, will prevent accidental poisonings. You do know that streams are like the interstate freeway system for these vermin? I also enjoy the avian life. I grow plants to attract them. This makes it more difficult for the rodents to take advantage. Having fresh water available year round will attract more birds than the food ever will. Place it so it is easily available to the birds, not the rodents.

    Cat food, dog food, and water left outdoors for pets is really the bigger problem.

    Be patient, eventually the rodent population will decline. Especially if the other neighbors follow similar control measures.

  6. Get a ferret or two. Ferrets eat rodents like cats on Jenny Craig.

    You will not see a mouse, rat, rabbit or groundhog near your house again.

  7. They have humane rat catchers at Peta's website..they can be released into the wild

  8. Kids and rats..they both spread diseases..


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