ALTERNATIVES TO POISON
Raptors are the solution but… they can’t be the entire solution. We recommend taking an “integrated pest management” approach to rodents.
Start by finding their source of food, shelter, and water and exclude them from it, or hire a company to help you. Remove invasive ivy (it’s a luxury hotel for rats). If those actions do not work, consider some of the alternatives below. And read Marin County’s very informative poison-free rat management plan.
A few warnings:
Any time you see a “bait box” with an exit hole—beware. If the box contains poison, it should be labeled as such. If it contains a trap instead, it must be labeled–otherwise, the box likely includes poison.
Rats and mice can “check in,” eat poison, and then check out, easily becoming food for a hawk, an owl, other wildlife, or your pet cat or dog. Bait boxes are NOT safe for wildlife unless you get them from a company that uses snap traps inside them—most do not. Glue traps are inhumane and have also been known to kill or seriously injure birds, including small owls, and other animals.
Most large pest control companies still use poison in their bait boxes. If you hire a pest control company, insist that they not use poison. Demanding poison-free solutions helps reduce the market for poison. And a WORD OF CAUTION: Please do *not* use glue or sticky traps. They are very inhumane and also catch birds and other small animals in them who often have to be euthanized as a result.
Try hiring a rat terrier company. This method is quick and poison free. One in the Bay Area is JR Reed.
These pest control companies claim they do not use poison:
The Hit Men (SF Bay Area)
Pestec (SF Bay Area)
Biopest (SF Bay Area)
Outside the Bay Area, try googling “integrated pest management.” While we do not “endorse” products, some products used to deter rodents include:
Cayenne pepper. Rats hate it and you can sprinkle it in their pathways or known nest sites. You can use it in compost bins, bird feeders, and chicken coops; it will not harm birds or chickens or deter them. Mothballs are another deterrent but they are not safe for use around any other animals.
Fresh Cab – a botanical repellent
If you are using a traditional pest control company, tell them you do not want any poison used. If there is a big enough market for exclusion and humane solutions, the poison will eventually stop. Currently, the poison cycle equals profits for pest control.
As a last resort, use snap traps inside a bait box and only in locations where no other animals can get into them (birds have been caught in snap traps, and skunks and other animals that help control rodents have been seriously injured by them). A piece of PVC tubing added to the opening of the box will act as a rodent-only entrance and keep skunks and other animals that help control rodents from getting harmed by the traps. Be sure to check the traps regularly and empty them. There are many brands of inexpensive, reusable snap traps. Here is just one example: http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3132844
The Raticator is an electronic trap that can also be used inside a bait box.
Other tips on discouraging rats:
- Pick up bird seed waste in your yard—feed birds with seed blocks or cakes instead of bulk seed—those products leave less seed on the ground.
- Backyard chicken coops also attract rats. Consider putting rat-proof flooring in your coop.
- Remove ivy—rats thrive in it—and replace it with native plants that offer wildlife habitat. Do not leave pet foot out and make sure garbage bags are tied tightly and secured. If you live in or manage an apartment building, make sure dumpsters are kept closed at all times and preferably locked.
- Consider installing a barn owl box—but ONLY if everyone in your neighborhood commits to not using poison. See also the Hungry Owl Project for more information and tips.
Also, check out this excellent new web site about safer rodent control.
For information about GOPHER problems, check out Gophers Limited.