San Diego Rat Control
Oh no!! I’ve got rats in my backyard!!
Your mind immediately pictures the news report you heard on the radio in the car “Home condemned due to rat infestation. Animal Control estimates 250 rats in house”. As the panic sets in and your mind drifts to the worst-case scenario, please…take a deep breath. The rat running along your back fence is something that should trigger a reaction, but it need not be panic.
Rats are members of a family of rodents called “commensal rodents”. Derived from Latin origins, commensal means “eating at the same table”. In California, we have three commensal rodents. Roof rats (Rattus rattus), Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and the House Mouse (Mus musculus) round out the terrible trio. The most common problem rodent in an HOA and the likely suspect for the rat running along your back fence is the Roof Rat.
Roof Rats in San Diego
Roof rats are slender, long rats are the most common in southern California. We find them in our fruit and nut trees, in sheds, attics, sub-areas, garages, and under the hoods of our parked cars. They can cause extensive damage to our homes, crops, and vehicles and they leave behind odors and contamination. Roof rats are very agile climbers and can run up and down stucco walls, cross cable lines, and vines, and are also quite comfortable in sewer and storm drain lines as well.
Most people don’t realize that they are surrounded by rats. Roof rats live in green belts, common area slopes, under decks and Jacuzzis, in palm trees and large birds of paradise plants, and in any other cluttered or overgrown area. It is a simple reality that if you live in southern California, you are surrounded by rats. As these rats encroach on the HOA property, looking for food and harborage they can become visible and cause a stir. But, don’t fool yourself, they are there all the time. In a best-case scenario, a rodent program will mitigate and reduce a rat population without the homeowners even noticing the presence of rats. We frequently surprise our customers when we tell them the results of our rodent prevention service. At one association, I recently calculated that our rodent bait stations had killed 50-60 rats per month…every month…for nine years. The point is, a good program will help keep the population of rats down on the HOA property, but the rats will always keep coming. There is an endless supply of hungry rats out in the wild that are just waiting in line to “eat at the same table” as you.
Keeping rats out
So, how do you keep Roof Rats from causing trouble in your home? Rodent prevention requires a cooperative effort between management, homeowners, and your pest company. Here are my suggestions:
- Hire a competent, accountable pest company. A good pest program should consist of the well-thought-out installation of rodent prevention equipment as well as a map showing the equipment's location. The rodent stations should be monitored and refilled and their service documented at least monthly. Your pest company should be willing to provide a copy of the map to management and willing to meet with the board or management to discuss the effectiveness of the program and any adjustments that might need to be made to mitigate recent encroachments.
- Don’t put out rat feeders. Some people call them bird feeders, but in general, rats eat more of the bird seed than the birds do. In the wild, rats actively forage for seeds and nuts. Bird seed in a backyard for a rat is like a free seafood buffet at a fancy restaurant for me…everything I need to feed myself and keep me coming back every night. There are “rat-proof” bird feeders that keep rats from climbing on the feeder itself, but that is not the real problem. The bird seed that gets kicked or spilled on the ground by the birds during the day is an irresistible buffet for the rats at night. It is almost impossible to effectively control a rat population in a backyard that is feeding rats (I mean birds).=
- Keep your barbeque clean. The drippings and food debris in a barbeque provide a great attractant for rats. Then, the barbeque itself provides a great winter home. Every year we receive dozens of calls about the first barbeque of the spring that is ruined by a rat nest on the cooking surface.
- Don’t leave dog and cat food outside. We frequently use dog food as bait to catch rats, because we know that every night they are walking up to the dog bowl and helping themselves. If your dog or cat doesn’t finish its food, put it inside for the night.
- Keep clutter and debris cleaned up. Boards, stacks of firewood, and piles of just about anything can and are an attractive home for rats. If you minimize the clutter around your home, you will minimize the places rats can live.
- Keep your garage and other door seals in good shape. If you leave a hole the size of a quarter, a juvenile rat can make it inside. He may then chew the hole bigger, so his mom and dad can move in too. In the fall and winter, as the weather cools, rats will be more inclined to encroach on your house to make themselves comfortable in a nice warm garage.
- Keep trash cans and dumpster lids closed tightly. Reducing the amount of food made easily available, reduces the number of encroaching rodents.
- Be careful about doing your own pest control. Although there are products available over the counter, their correct use is very, very important. Studies have indicated that 96% of rodenticide poisonings are due to improper use of rodent poisons by homeowners. We recommend the use of snap traps and other non-poison options. If you do have to use rodenticide bait, make sure it is contained in a tamper-proof bait station and the instructions on the label are followed to the letter.
Hire a professional
Rat season is here. The rat population has been building all spring and summer. The cool fall weather is pushing cold, hungry rats toward warm, food-filled structures of your HOA. Make sure you get your rodent prevention program in place right away. You just might have a rat running through your backyard tonight. But, with a concentrated effort by your pest company and your homeowners, rats can be a rarely noticed reality of nature, instead of an ongoing problem that keeps homeowners panicked and keeps your phone ringing.