Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Monday, July 05, 2010

rodent attack

rats are quite the common presence in our habitat.
as as human activity grows, they move into the human spaces.
not only are they attracted to the human-activity-led food wastes, they also partake of the harvest directly from the fields.

we have comfortably shared the pavilion space with care that we stay off each others routes and avoid contact. this philosophy has worked very well with the toads and frogs.

over the last 2 weeks, they have become really brazen.
the lamp shade has been chewed up, boundaries are becoming blurred and toe nibbling has increased, much to our chagrin.
so i immediately consulted ratbehavior.org (really, not kidding).
but nothing really to explain why they would choose our toes over the tons of vegetables that are growing in the fields (maybe there are predators outside).

so we took the 'necessary' step of extermination via rat poison. this was 2 nights ago.
and as the nibbling continued over last night, the most amazing sight greeted us when we awoke with a start in the middle of a nibble.
a flutter of wings and lo, behold - we spotted an owl (a baby one most likely). inside the pavilion.
and owl sighting itself is rare, and inside a house is rarer still.
inside the pavilion is not the best hunting ground - too many corners and easy, fast hiding spaces which a bird will find difficult to maneuver. cats will have much better success.
it was most likely a spotted owlet. so we spotted a spotted owlet.
owls love rats (as food, of course) and owl populations are facilitated as a measure towards rat control in open fields.

this is another superb lesson in how nature sets the predator-prey chain in action.
hope the poison does not kill off the owl also :-(
that will be a sad outcome of our unnatural attempt....

my earlier brush with rats also ended up in their misery and my attempted penitence.

7 comments:

Vanessa said...

Setting a trap could have been good, before the rat-poison?
The 'toe-nibbling' is kind of freaky for sure.

kbpm said...

let me know if the poison works at all on the rats. i have known them to circle the poisoned food several nights, and out of worry that a bird will eat it (they dont either, of course), thrown it away. they are all too smart, really, we can invent poison but we cannot make them eat it, this was my conclusion from that exercise! maybe you have another experience, i will look forward to hearing about it!

sujatha said...

how abt getting some cats?

csm said...

v - trap is being procured. but then what do we do post trapping is a Q that is tough to answer.
it tickles more than anything. and it of course keeps you up most of the night:-)

kenny - the rats gobbled up the poison (mortein rat kill) and were almost licking the package for more.
there are some local powder poison varieties which need to be mixed with food. for these to work, you need to give them proper food (vada types) for a few days and then slip this powder in.

sujata - cats are the most obvious solution, but in the process of sharpening their claws, they will bring down the pavilion (it is only tied down with coir rope).

Anonymous said...

Instead of "containment" methods, how about some kind of "distraction" method? Say, food provided consistently every night at a safe distance from the pavillion, kinda like a "lightning conductor" model? That way, the natural predators (like owls and snakes) would have a better chance as well, and they will start settling down in the property.

csm said...

anon - good suggestion. we had left a plate of beans (by oversight) out last night and they were unmolested. in many earlier instances, they would make us pay for such an oversight.
so would not be too keen on this approach.

i apologise for throwing cold water on the good suggestions coming in this post :-)

for the record, rats' incisors grow all the time to keep up-to-date with their constant gnawing. this means that they do have to nibble away continuously at something or the other to avoid looking like bugs bunny.

Vancouver Island Lass said...

You wondered why the rats nibbled your toes.
Like many animals, they are seeking the salt on your skin. In hot climates salt reserves flush out quickly through sweat in humans, metabolism ( urine and stool) in animals with no sweat glands.
Your feet are handy salt licks or junks as far as rats are concerned.
If you have cats there, they will lick your skin for salt... not cleaning you as some people think:)
You can have cats there and build them a scratching post.. mark up the outside to make it slightly rougher, rub mint/ catnip on it to get them started. They will rub against it with cheeks (scent glands there) thier bodies, maybe spray if a boy cat to mark post as theirs and happily scratch away...it will become a community kitty sign post where they sniff, rub mark thier presenc3 after smelling other previous kitty scents.
You should have a few around, somewhere nearby but not newr loud sudden sounds or movements...theyll avoid that, somewhere they can easily see and run up to and away from on at least 3 sides.., they are predators and prey too so cats like fast get aways and clear sights.
put a few together, 3 say, dug in 1 foot and 3 feet above ground, at least 8 inches wide, round better, for good width to stretch up high and claw comfortably.
Think like a cat and provide for thier preference, not yours, and those rats wont stand a chance.
ps feed cats a little every day, they like melon, cantelope, nut pastes, bananas, coconut milk...broths..., they may kill but not eat rats often so supplementing diet is a helpful thing and keeps them tame, l8yal, easier to handle or train away from areas they are unwanted but be kind...cats reject ppl who yell, swat or otherwise terrorise them and then you have wild, willful mean kitties that are a pest themselves at this point.
Good luck...ps, any poisoned rat that is not dead , still moving an owl may hear, heat find, and eat. A dead rat doesnt move or eend off heat but snakes may 'taste' it in the air, eat it and die.
if you have thick bamboo, make sure the length has 2 solid segments in it, drill small hoole into one segment, like an entrace into hollow area between segments wnd toss rat poison in it. This way only rats, mice will eat it, cats etc will not be able to nibble...they might...leave these baits near a flat wide board(s) that are laying on rocks or small branches... only a few inches spaced between ground and board. If rats eat poison, they will hide to eat or if feeling ill in a 'safe place'. This way, every few days, lift up and collect dead rats who saught safety under there.

Hope this helps!