It was requested that this article be repeated as a reminder not to use rat poison. If your neighbor has rats you have rats. Rats and their fleas are capable of transmitting a variety of human diseases. 

Rat survival and prosperity is dependent upon the existence of three basic environmental conditions: abundance of food, available water source and access to suitable harborage.

Ways to control the rat population include:

  1. Harvest fruit as soon as it ripens.
  2. Pick up fallen fruit.
  3. Keep compost piles covered.
  4. Do not leave uneaten pet food out.
  5. Trim back ivy, oleander, bouga invillea, honeysuckle, jasmine.
  6. Store wood and lumber on racks18 inches above ground.
  7. Repair leaky faucets and elimi- nate standing water. 
  8. Repair damaged ventilation screens. Seal openings around pipes that enter walls. 
  9. Restrict bird feeders to a clean- able area.
  10. Weatherstrip garage door so that it closes tightly.
  11. Pick up dog droppings.
  12. Do not accumulate trash. 
  13. Openings larger than 1/4 inch around pipes can be sealed with steel wool, concrete fill or sheet metal. 

Since the installation of owl boxes in strategic areas in the valley the rodent population has decreased considerably. It is important not to use rat poisons. If an owl eats a poisoned rat it will die. Likewise for foxes.

Recently a resident had a momma fox and two little ones living in their backyard. A neighbor reported that another mother fox had died from eating a poisoned rat.

Trapping rodents is also an effective method of control. Rodents "snap traps" are inexpensive and are available in two sizes. It is important to use the proper size trap. The smaller trap is designed for mice and the larger for rats. 

Place traps in areas frequented by rats. Rats establish runways along fence tops, and next to walls. Look for droppings or rub marks on wood, caused by rats oily fur, when placing traps. Two traps set side by side produce better results. Use peanut butter mixed with bird seed or oatmeal. Rats prefer peanut butter to cheese. Some residents have had good results with the "Rat Zapper". 

It is also a good idea to prebait, that is, use a baited but unset trap so that the rodent can become familiar with the baited trap. This only requires two or three days after which the traps can be set. 

To avoid possibility of disease transmission handle rodents with these precautions: 

  1. Ventilate the area before clean- up by opening doors and win dows. 
  2. Wear rubber gloves. 
  3. Do not vacuum the area.

For more information go to www.hungryowl.org.