October 24, 2007

Our old house was in a semi-wooded area. The yard itself had only a few trees, but we backed up to a pretty wooded area and were blessed with all manner of wildlife in our suburban environs. Birds, for the most part, but also the occasional snake and the usual assortment of small mammals. Voles, chipmunks and squirrels. All and sundry were welcome in the yard. Well, almost everyone was welcome.The rats were not welcome.

Not a bit welcome, not even in my most tolerant of moods. Believe it or not, this is not because of any particular squeamishness I have about rats. I didn’t want them in the yard because they were simply not content to stay in the yard. Not at all. As soon as the temperature began to drop even the smallest bit, there they were, probing every crevice of the house looking for a way in. Garage. Attic. External wall. We were subjected to a near-constant (and usually successful) assault on our house. The bird-feeder out back contributed, as did the apple tree in the corner of the yard. There was a constant supply of food, plenty of places to hide – who could blame the little marauders?

The first sign of ingress was the tell-tale scratching sounds in the ceiling after hours. Right around our bedtime, we’d hear them. scratch-scratch-scratch. I’d get out of bed and tap the ceiling, then hear it dashing along a roof joist. Out with the snap traps, poison, and occasionally, the air rifle.

Let me save you, the would-be rat killer, some time. Skip the poison and put away the arms. The trap is the only way to go. Not only is it quick and effective, you will – nearly – always be able to collect the remains right where Little Ricky gave up the ghost. If you place the trap correctly in the attic, which is to say, directly on the joist, you may actually hear the KA-WHACK reverberating through the entire house.

In the second or third season of the campaign, I added a Hav-A-Hart humane box trap to the arsenal. Having spotted them on the deck – parading around in broad daylight, mind you – I decided to take the battle to the enemy. As I was unwilling to place poison or lethal traps outside, I compromised with the box trap. If I caught them outside, I’d relocate them down the road. If I caught them inside, well, it sucks to be you, Mickey.

The box trap was a qualified success. Over the years, I baited the thing with crunchy peanut butter and a couple of dog kibbles and caught a dozen or so. Presumably, these adjusted to their new lives down the street. Or maybe I kept catching the same ones over and over. At the least, they weren’t getting into the attic as much, so a state of detente was reached.

Ah, but the best laid plans, right? One morning, before heading to work, I peeked out onto the deck and found that the rat I’d caught overnight had made an unsuccessful attempt to escape. And when I say ‘unsuccessful’, I don’t mean like putting Steve McQueen back in the box with his baseball. This thing was stuck, halfway out of the mesh of the box. Couldn’t get out. I poked it with a stick, but it couldn’t go back in. And now it was really, really annoyed. I don’t speak rat, but I assume that what it was saying was pretty profane.

Now what? Nothing to it but deliver the coup-de-grace. Unfortunately, the air rifle was with my father as he waged his own war on Rattus rattus. I got the axe out of the garage and carried it, the trap and the furious rat out towards the shed. I made a few half-hearted whacks with the axe, but it wouldn’t sit still and frankly, I didn’t have the stones to do it. Now panic started to set in. I considered gassing it with the car exhaust, but my eyes fell onto a bucket. I promptly filled it with water, looked him the eye and dropped the whole assembly in. Sorry. It didn’t have to be this way.

Post mortem, I still had to deal with getting a dead rat out of the mesh. Co-workers offered various un-helpful suggestions, and I ended up cutting the mesh to free the rat, which was now as stiff as a carp. And over the fence he goes. There was only one more incident to speak of, and then we moved.So it’s cooling off here, in our new home, and I’ve got a weather eye on the back yard. Small noises in the house wake me up from sleep, but so far, no signs of any movement within the perimeter. But if they come, I’ll be ready. Oh yes. Ready.

Incidentally, it was this youtube video that put me in mind of this essay. I should warn the weak-kneed among us to skip it if mice give you even the slightest case of the heebie-jeebies.


2 Responses to “Rodentia”

  1. ezmerelda Says:


  2. josephmcbee Says:

    That video…AGHHHHHH!

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