The Southern Home Bestuary: Living with our critter friends and enimies.

Wood Rats and the Southern Home Bestuary
May 23, 2009, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Wood Rats  – Remove – Trap and relocate

Wood rats are large enough to cause serious damage to house wiring and vehicles.

Wood rats are large enough to cause serious damage to house wiring and vehicles.

Being an outdoor writer and living in a 1790’s home located in thick woods, sometimes puts me in closer contact with the outdoors than I would like – like when the outdoors moves indoors with me. My most recent conflict with the “natural world” has been with wood rats.

Wood rats are hamster-size creatures and have many characteristics in common with all rodents. They prefer to move about at night and as their numbers increased they frequently woke me up at all hours in the process.  Typically they came down the walls behind my bed after dark and made their return trip at about daylight. Their running up and down the rope to a window’s sash weights sounded like a gong going off just behind my head. They also apparently delighted in scampering on top of the panels in my dropped ceiling which added to the general racket.

I sometimes had mice in the house, but these most often moved downstairs into the rooms of the house where I could easily trap them. The rats were about 10-inches long and weighed about a pound compared to the 1-inch and 1-ounce size of the mice. Needless to say they created quite a bit of noise. They also had the potential to do serious damage to things like insulation and electrical wiring. Many house fires of unknown origin are caused by rats chewing through the insulation of electrical wires and starting fires. 

I took a two week trip and returned to find that a rat  had gathered sufficient dog food and torn sufficient insulation from underneath the hood of my truck to set up housekeeping over the engine block of my ’85 Nissan. In the process he/she also chewed up a bunch of the wiring in the truck.

I did not want to poison them for feat that my dogs would eat any dead rats that they found. It took two tries to discover the correct size of Haveaheart trap to catch them. It has a toggle board in the middle of the trap that closes the door and holds the animal until I retrieve it. I set the trap under the house where I found tracks in the dusty soil. The first night I caught one. I moved the trap in the house upstairs into an opening under the first-floor lean-to portion of the house. One of the rodents ate the food in the first half of the trap and then started filling it with bits of broken plaster, insulation and whatever as if it planned to make a home. Somehow it sprung the trap and escaped.

Again relocating the trap beneath the house again, I caught two more rats on subsequent nights.  The final tally was three adults and two juvenils.  I am baited them with bits of homemade nut bread and they seem to be eager to take that.

As I have a blog about backyard deer hunting, readers might suspect that I generally eat what I kill or catch. This is true. I often talk to my Vietnamese barber Leon about eating our local “tree rats” (squirrels) and he tells me of eating rice rats back home. My wood rats however, get thrown away with the kitchen garbage. Decades ago I did put out rat poison between the floors,  and for all I know these rats have also been feeding on it. So I am not about to eat, or recommend, eating fresh-caught wood rats that live in old houses for fear of taking a little arsenic along with the meat.

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