Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mice, Rats & a Related Fiasco

Somewhere around 1965, a comedian named Jim Stafford had a modest hit song titled, “Spiders and Snakes”, which indicated that trying to use these to attract girls wasn’t working very well.  In my wife, Mary’s case, she handles spiders very well, only insisting they should move themselves outside as soon as they have eaten all the bugs in our house.  Snakes? Not so much, but then she doesn’t travel the paths that California rattlers do.

What she doesn’t tolerate well are mice and related rodents, which explains why there was a startled shriek from the top of the garage steps recently and then a strong suggestion that we make a call to Orkin in the near future.  Luckily, Orkin is on my speed dial list.

That’s mostly because we had a rat problem.  Well, really two very different rat problems, over the last couple of years.

The first started innocently enough.  We began to notice that the insulation around the vent pipes in the garage was disappearing.  There were also some droppings, which I thought indicated we had mice.  So I bought and set some mouse traps which, in spite of the fact that everyone is supposedly trying to build a better one, seem to be the same as ones I set as a kid.  Turns out I was in the nostalgic aisle of Home Depot, since I now know they are practically as obsolete as a VHS machine.

After a few days when I had no activity in my traps, I called Orkin, and they were very pleased to address my problem…for about three hundred dollars.  Worth every penny though, since they recognized that the droppings were not mice, but rats.  They set rat traps, baited with Juicy Fruit gum (lasts forever and rats love it).  Within two days we caught two rats.  While we didn’t sex them, the Orkin man was pretty sure they were a pair and were gathering the insulation material to make a nest.

Two and no more.  So, for about a hundred bucks apiece, I solved my rat problem…for a year or two.

And then I had a mouse problem.  I have been feeding birds from my backyard or deck for decades and truly enjoy bird watching; one of three things a man can do where doing nothing isn’t considered being lazy. The other two are watching waves and watching fires.  One of my feeders is a classic glass enclosed box, hanging from a pole, which provides black oil sunflower seeds to, primarily house finches.

I began to question the quality of my seeds as there seemed to be many that were empty, even while in the feeder.  It turns out, I had a mouse that had figured out how to get into and out of the feeder.  My Home Depot expert had me grease the pole with graphite and that seemed to discourage the mouse for a while, but he seemed to return. So I asked my Wild Bird man what to do and he sold me my fiasco, a $55 Rat Zapper, which supposedly kills in a humane manner by electrocuting the animal.  I had one replaced because it stopped working and now a year and a half later; the second flashes a red light, which indicates it has caught something, but either the raccoons in my neighborhood have disarmed it, or water damage has rendered it inoperable.  The Rat Zapper people are not returning my calls, so I am recycling the machine.  I never caught an animal in the trap and suspect that the mouse, who I have watched eat his lunch while I ate mine on the deck, uses the machine to vault unto the pole.

While sharing my mouse experience with my neighbor, he commented that he had seen a rat climbing into my chimney.  There did seem to be a hole in the stucco near the chimney top and my son, who sits near the fireplace in my easy chair to watch TV when he comes over, said he was hearing noises in the chimney.  Mary listened and confirmed that she heard them too.  So I called Orkin, only to find that they had liability issues that prevented them climbing on my roof and baiting traps outside where domestic animals and children may be injured.  The Vector man came out and advised me to set a series of traps leading to my chimney, which I did, with the assistance of my two grown sons.

Within a couple of days we caught a roof rat, seemingly endemic to the woods in which we live.  Shortly thereafter Mary heard a terrible ruckus in the chimney and afterwards we heard no more rats.  I had the chimney repaired and seemingly solved that problem.  My theory is that the mother rat insisted on a larger home now that they had children.

So, at this time I have about a dozen mouse glue traps and rat traps in my garage and loft.  I have caught one mouse in the glue trap and one rat in the rat trap and have had a possible entry way closed with copper wire.  We are now on week two with no kills and no droppings.  We did catch a sizeable lizard in the glue rap, which PETA will probably find out about and demand retribution.

My next post will deal with how renewed interest in Hockey made me a new friend.

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