Sic semper evello mortem rattus norvegicus

California's heavy rains led to a bounty for wildlife in the woods where I live. The local rat population has soared, due to a lack of predators, and apparently they have declared my woodshed home.

I would have thought rats would steer a clear path around a home with several cats and dogs. My Great Pyrenees spreads gallons of dog urine over the yard to warn invading animals to steer clear. My Maine Coon cat, Heart, constantly patrols the inside of the home, and I sometimes leave bags of his spent litter outside the back door to allow their scent to permeate the area. None of this has deterred the Norwegian Tree Rat from establishing a base of operations in my woodshed.

Simply clearing the Spring and Summer's over-grown vegetation back from around my house was a cultural misstep and I have unintentionally offended the rodent kingdom. Not happy to stay in their thinned back ivy and cypress hedges, rats have set up a refugee colony in my woodshed, or greatly expanded a long minor outpost. I'm not excited to move a cord of wood just to displace this rodent insurrection. Luckily I do not see any signs of them inside my home, where canine and feline alike patrol constantly. Their presence, however, is easily detectable around the foundation of my home. Yuck! I can also hear them in the shed and bushes when I step outside to smoke weed at night. Do not fuck with my rituals, rats. Do not.

I decided it was time to take action before things got more serious. I had a few traps around from the last time I saw rat-sign, several years ago. I would set them.

I use old fashioned wood and metal spring rat-sized snap traps. You can get them for less than $2 each via Amazon in packs of 12. You may not need 12. I think I may be needing several dozen. When I first moved into my home, 10 years ago, the prior owners had left a lot of those city-park style "pet and kid safe" black boxes full of warfarin based rat poison all over the property. I thought the potential for local rat predators to suffer out-of-bounds for I who chooses to live near lots of wildlife. It was years before I saw evidence of any rodentia, so when they did appear I used the tried and true method of snap traps.

I'm typing this with a gouge in one of my thumbs from setting the traps, so I do need to exercise more care. I caught myself on a sharp bit, rather than breaking fingers in the trap but BE CAREFUL! This trap will cause immense pain to humans and pets. You can bend the bait/release platform a bit to increase or decrease trap sensitivity. I tend to find the traps come too sensitive out of the package, but are easy to get set right. Spend some time before baiting the trap making sure you can set it and then place it where you want it without it going off. This will be much cleaner in the long run.

In the world of baits there appears to be only one that works reliably, and it works so well I do not know why anyone hunting Norwegian Tree Rats would bother with anything but smooth Skippy peanut butter. School children, dogs and those awful vermin all love the stuff. I use the peanut butter for getting the dogs to take pills, and getting rats to die. A teaspoon scoop covers the bait-plate and is sticky enough the rats set off the trap and meet their doom.

Another reason I prefer the all wood/metal traps is that I can just throw them away with the dead rodent. There have been local reports of rabid bats that give me pause. I don't need to muck around with bloody, ant covered rat carcasses to save a $2 trap that may now smell like death and not work anyways. I have read that the yellow plastic bait-plate traps are "better" because they have pre-set sensitivity spots and the surface of the plate is larger for easier set-it-off-leverage. I just think the plastic gets in the way of recycling the nasty trap, and costs a bit more.

I also stuffed steel wool into every hole I saw in the exterior of my home that may admit vermin, I hear the vermin do not like that.

I have been setting two traps a night for the last 2 nights. 4 rats are dead. I am going to set two traps a night for the next week. I realize I can never and will never eradicate them, but I'd like to push the population back to where they stay out of sight, again.

I will let you know how the battle progresses.