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Rat Tales
Gnawing Concerns

Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

We know celebrities Minnie and Mickey Mouse. We have read about Templeton, the rat buddy of Charlotte the spider, as a character in Charlotte’s Web. We have watched Remy the rat who can cook in the film “Ratatouille.” None of the above are our neighbors.

Our rats, our nearest neighbors, don’t have round black ears, adorn watch faces, tap dance or otherwise entertain. Our rats, whose front teeth never stop growing, like to chew whatever is convenient including wires and wood—often to widen holes for access. They don’t have to work too hard at making any hole larger because they can and do slip head first into spaces as small as the size of a quarter, maybe even smaller.

That space can be the attic, the kitchen, wherever they land and, when they get there, they eat anything. Still, they know a good meal when they find one and Del Mar offers an enticing menu inside houses and out. In addition to house food and the juicy dishwasher wires there are local pine nuts, tree fruits—they are especially fond of avocados and citrus—, garden fruits and vegetables, pets’ food and plenty of water in bird baths, swimming pools, run off.

Del Mar hosts a couple of kinds of rats. Our most common are roof rats, gray or brown, who live above ground. Good athletes, agile climbers, they nest indoors or out. To keep up their troops, females produce as many as 40 young a year. Norway rats are here too, preferring to burrow outside. Norway rats are larger than roof rats and come in many colors. Their diet includes copper, lead, plastic as well as wood, insulation, and food snacks.

Rats do leave clues to their whereabouts: droppings, tracks, burrows, and gnawed holes in areas under your home. They are adept at setting up residence in areas you might think are impossible to enter. They like heating vents, or water pipes, ventilation screens, crawl spaces, broken window screens, chimneys, exterior doors that are not tight fitting. Or, any tiny opening.

Good riddance? Stores offer shelves and even whole sections of defenses against rats: the original wood trap, spring traps, glue traps, electrocuting traps, catch and release traps (for rats?), poisons, sprays.

San Diego County offers Rat Control Tips, detailing just how to best go about getting rid of the rodents. The County also offers a service of visiting homes and diagnosing the problem areas and offering solutions. sandiegocounty.gov Home. Another solution might be a cat.



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