We live in a residential area of a Dallas suburb that used to be a large cattle ranch with a couple of mills for grinding grain along a winding tributary of the Trinity River. Our house sits next to a greenbelt park that is the creek where the mill once sat to service the Josey Ranch. We are located on a small hill that would’ve been the bank of the mill pond back then. Hence the swamp fauna that live in our immediate environment.
We are visited yearly by mallard ducks, and sometimes Canadian geese on winter holiday. There are squadrons after squadrons of dragonflies, and the many small insects they search for and prey upon. We have the occasional coyote and families of raccoons residing under the Josey Lane bridge. Frogs and toads and seasonal mayflies… and more than our fair share of mosquitoes.
But by far, the biggest pain in the tuchus are the rats. Especially in the cold of the winter, the heat of the Texas summer, and whenever we get enough rain to wash them out of their nests in the storm drains when the rats move indoors to have sex parties in the attic, squaredances in the walls, and raids on the kitchen, especially the dog’s bowl, for extra snacking and pooping on the floor.
We are not talking about cute rats here. The mice in the Paffooney that leads off this essay are definitely not the ones that caused me to write this anti-rodentia-disgusticas rant. Those mice are actually me and my family portrayed in cartoon form. We are talking about more than fifteen roof rats and one big Norway rat, numbers that reflect only the ones we have slain so far in this pitched battle.
The fight started a couple of years ago when they first moved into the house through a hole in the roof and another one that opened when bricks fell out of the wall above the back patio door, allowing rat access to the insulation and the spaces behind the interior drywall panels. Once they were already inside, I tried to stop them first with rat poison. I had three confirmed kills that way, But then it began to seem that no matter how much poison I set out in poison traps in the attic, their numbers only increased, never diminished. In fact, I discovered they were eating the poison and enjoying it as much as they did the bait. We had created at least two generations of poison-resistant rats. They broke into a sack of poison I had on the patio and ate every morsel of it. Rats started sending me thank-you notes in the mail. (Wait a minute. That sentence may have been an exaggeration for comic effect. The thank-you turds were left in the kitchen, not the mailbox.)
We really didn’t start making headway until we discovered the right kind of trap. Snap-traps didn’t work. Every rat seems to know how to eat the bait on a snap trap without setting off the snapper. Electrocution box traps didn’t work. They simply ignored the peanut butter bait. We never caught a single rat in those traps.
But sticky traps… like flypaper for rats,,, didn’t work either… until we started placing them in the escape routes the rats used to flee from the family dog. Suddenly the traps began to fill up as Jade, our half-corgi half-rat-terrier, learned to chase them towards the traps. In the last three months, twelve more roof rats, and today’s amazingly large, eighteen-inch-from-nose-to-tail Norway rat makes thirteen caught by sticky trap. Ha-ha, Mortimer! Your days are numbered now. Don’t look at me with those skeptical black rat-eyes. I am winning the Rat War. At least for now.