Brisbane Local Food

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I found an old story that I wrote a few years ago.

Currently I have the stench of dead rat wafting over the garden and into the house..
Yes we got rats, we do not have any other problems with, possums, bush turkeys or even birds, but it seems to be rats. We always have had them and always will in the city. Even before I started raising poultry, and growing my veges organically they were common around our home and neighbourhood. One of the neighbors always uses rat sac. He has a dog, we have a dog and our other neighbor has one as well. One day we will loose one of them from eating the remains of a dead rat or even the rat sac poison.The use of rat sac is not only rather cruel, but could be dangerous to wildife and pets. I have said to our neighbour try to avoid rat sack and use traps. The reply is “they are too smart for traps to work and the cheese always get stolen.” I see him glance over and cringe at my place with its mulch beds, vegetable gardens and chooks . Rats do worry me,especially when you see them at dusk, scurrying along the fencelines. When this happens I know that its time to get the traps out again to control there numbers.
I would be the first to acknowledge that rat populations are seasonal and currently are of concern. Our garden has inadvertently given extra cover and food to these rats by developing the type of habitat suitable for there needs .Infact all suburban city gardens will have rats. I am not dissimilar to other organic gardeners with my mulched beds and mosaic of garden edges; I even have some retaining wall systems “Link wall” and some hollow lizard logs for hidey-holes. Our problem is really that we currently lack the predators of snake; owl and even cats here. These are excluded from the site because of our dogs. I keep a very high degree of sanitation and clean out the garden beds regularly.Our chook food is removed by dusk as well. An inconvenience I do have is that vegetables that are left for seed saving as well as my bean crops of shell beans always get raided by the rats. Again I loose a small amount of seed to these rogues of the night but in the frame of it all it is not significant. I certainly feel that I have actually enhanced the rat haven by having chickens. Suprisingly the main rat trails come from further afield in the neighbouring gardens that are older and more established. You can see little game trails runing along and under fences that lead towards our chicken coop. Clearly it is the imbalance of predators that has caused the rise in the rat populations in our neighbourhood..

I use to share a communal barrack in my early days in the forestry service. It was here that I ran into the “Russian Rat Trapper”. This man had a highly refined and almost assassin like rat trapping abilities, skills that were obviously honed over many years of living in less than satisfactory living standards back in the old country. Once you had earnt his trust and got to know him he was a very interesting man. One evening I was setting the rat trap and the Russian gave me a few pointers, who would have thought that something as simple as setting a rat trap could be so interesting?
Let’s start with the trap. A typical wood and wire trap was the tool of the trade. It had to have a strong snapper spring and not too old. Old traps loose there spring over time these may not be as lethal. Ensure that the food clasp rocks well in its hinge this must be as smooth as possible. The teeth on the food clasp must work and hold the bait. The tripping bar that runs from the food clasp over the tightened snapper spring is straight and not bent. Always set up the actual tripper bar to be like a hair trigger. We do this by filing down the end that clips under the food clasp. Be careful not to file off to much. A well honed trap is more likely to have a successful kill.
The bait I was shown by the Russian was made from old soft leather. This was stitched onto the food clasp and then drizzled in linseed oil. This bait would never be pulled off from the food clasp.
The sighting of the trap was important and this is where you got to think like a rat.The Russian words resonate here in my mind as he would explain how rats do the rat thing. “Skulking in corner and sticking to edge of room.” They are creatures of habit” and will use a regular “Rat Run”, they will follow this run most times. Find the Run and place your trap a few feet from its direct path. Face the trap into the direction of the run so the rat does not come over the trap from the wrong direction. You do not want the rat to set it off from the wrong approach angle. The Russian said “Rats are smart yes,” “but are creatures of habit which is there Achilles heel.”
He told me, Rats run as either large sedentary males looking for a good time, or rat families of mothers and young held up in small groups. It is s always the hungry eager young rats that get trapped first. Old smart rats are even more cunning and often survive the trapping experience. To get the old rats you need luck, or a nifty trick to lure them into to the trap. The Russian said you must get the biggest freshest rat scats (poo) from another rats range and bring them back into your local rat’s area . Use these foreign scats as a lure near your trap. Remember scats are only found in small numbers you only need two or three placed in a little cluster to do the job. If the scats are from a big male rat the better as both the male and female rats will investigate who is on there turf. When they check this out they see the bait and may greedily grab at it.
After every rat you must wash and clean and deodorize the trap again. This simply washes the smell of the dead rat as well of that of a human touch away. Sometimes you can mask this smell with the linseed oil.
I managed to cull out three rats in three days, with only one getting the best of me. What would the Russian say if he new I let one get away?.

Mark

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Comment by Lissa on April 28, 2010 at 6:28
Hey Mark. I have rats and mice. I have an aviary and the neighbours chook pen is just on the other side of the fence from this, so the rodents have a good old time! I have two great little ratters (Miniature Pinschers) and a cat who will sit patiently waiting for mice to come out, but they are way to savvy to get caught by these very often. They just duck under the fence to enjoy the neighbours chook food until we have all gone away.

I looked out of the kitchen window the other day and there was a rat (pretty little thing actually, shame they're a pest) in broad daylight hanging off the side of the aviary eating the bird block. The moment I had the dogs outside it hard scarpered to safety.

I have been using Ratsack as the rats are in our ceiling and bang around all night and chew on things. I mix it with peanut butter and put it into an old bird box on top of the aviary. I read your warning about using poisons. Is there a particular trap that you find works best? I sure don't want to poison any of the other animals.

Thanks
Lissa
Comment by Scarlett on February 9, 2010 at 17:09
actually this big fat large-pawed cat is a ratter, he doesn't manage to catch birds - unlike the small lithe cats (burmese etc) that my mum keeps, who are terror on birds
Comment by Scarlett on February 9, 2010 at 17:08
My dad reckons peanut butter is good as the bait because they can't make off with it - they have to nibble at it. It worked - we had a rat move in under our fridge (!? bizarre - it must have snuck up the back stairs whilst we were home) in a rental house and it worked first night. I agree about the think like a rat thing - they won't go out in the open for a bait, you need to put them in their traffic areas.
Last night our neighbourhood cat caught a small rodent of some sort again (I didn't look too closely). He's the best rat cat I've never had. He brought it to our back door and yowled impressively about it for some time :) I never see them anymore - I think he gets the credit. I haven't used the traps for years. (Also the one that got caught in the kitchen banged around a good deal before it died and it was quite traumatic to listen to - just after we went to bed, and we could hear it). So unless it was already brain dead I'm not sure that they're more humane - it's all bad really :( We have an occasional owl who visits, but I don't want any snakes. I think the farmyard cat is a sensible solution - very anthropological for cities. Pity about the birds though...
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 8, 2010 at 21:56
Never underestimate the cunning of an experienced ratter! Good advice about placing traps around edges, rats like cockroaches never walk across an open space.

When living in Fairfield years ago, my almost-mature cabbages were being raided by something. My Border Collie presented me with ... yecch - two beady rat eyes staring at me from a Meg-gullet-sized parcel of chomped rat. Border Collies can be darned good at mousing but ratting? Anyway - she dealt with the rat and let me know who had done what to the rat. Heckuva dog! My Labradors would not stir themselves to do anything useful like that. Meg wouldn't bring in the paper, the Labradors wouldn't kill rats.

The lure the Russian used sounds good. Sewing it to the bait clasp is a neat trick. It has to be really tightly fixed. A useful bait is bacon rind or a pumpkin seed but the bacon is hard for the rats/mice to pass up.

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