• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

snakes v rats

 
dianne Wheaton
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am the caretaker of a major urban park that has been seriously neglected.

Part of my task is to address the rats. Tons of rats. The Dept. of Rats in this city responds that they will need 40 K to treat for rats/ one year. Don't think anyone wants to spend 40K on rat poison.

So- observed an homeless guest and his dog in the park. The dog was having a blast catching rats in the beds. Got to thinking- they have no preditors. These rats are making an unnatural good living here.

So discovered that black garden snakes eat rats. Am thinking about buying a case of live snakes, placing them in the beds and letting them have at it.

Any thoughts... Where to buy common black garden snakes. Whats the best time/way to introduce them to the environment.

 
paul wheaton
steward
Pie
Posts: 19444
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
(hmmm ...  a little surprised by the last name ...)

If you have a lot of rats, I have heard about some solutions involving 55 gallon barrels with a little water in the bottom.  A wooden plank on a hinge with a little bait hanging out over the barrel ...  I've heard of these barrels filling fast and eliminating the problem in a week or so. 

Snakes are an excellent idea, although I think that snakes probably don't mix well with people going to the park.  I think the dog is good.  There are lots of breeds that are anxious to catch rats.  Some breed have even been bred for that sort of thing.
 
dianne Wheaton
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the barrel idea. I have had to release trapped rats from trash cans, so your idea has precedent...

The last name thing gets weirder.. my late husbands first name was Paul.

Others have also cautioned that snakes take the sun on the hard scapes during the day- and will frighten the guests. There is also a low profile fountain feature that may also attract snakes to swim.  A potential for syncronized snake ballet. I want to learn more about black garden snakes, and calculate the installation. Perhaps after all the benefits and risks are weighed, the best tact may be to hide them in plain sight. A feature story in the paper about the benefits..." come and view the rat attack army on the plaza."

How quickly will 10 grow to a hundred... how long till they grow enormous on the rat population?  If you know of any black garden snake resources... please forward.

 
paul wheaton
steward
Pie
Posts: 19444
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the snake idea is fantastic.  I had a vole problem in an orchard and checked into garter snakes and red racers.  I never bought any though.

I think a good PR thing might be to ask folks to bring their rat catching dogs down to the park one saturday.  Have a bit of a potluck perhaps. 

Another good solution I have heard of but have not tried:  cheap sponges soaked in bacon grease, cooled and smashed flat.  The rats eat them, the sponges grow and then the rats cannot eat anymore and they die. 

Do a bit of a google for the rat barrels.  It's a popular idea and lots of folks have had great success - plus there are quite a few different/interesting designs.
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you're willing to go a bit more to the woo woo side you could look into biodynamic (peppering) or radionics (energetic broadcasts) solutions.

Whatever you decide I'd suggest trying a multi-pronged approach. Your chance of success will be much higher if you try a dozen things than if you just try one.

Dave
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
WELL?

So what happened

Sue
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I guess I'll just chime in and mention that small snakes like the garter snake make a sizable portion of the rat diet. Also Rats are primarily nocturnal (hence a party is unlikely to work, and PETA/SPCA would have called the cops and pressed animal cruelty charges on everyone who attended) so that is something to consider. Rats are also very cautious about new things, like a barrel in a city park. If the park is in the north some large owl boxes could have been constructed.
 
                  
Posts: 23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You raise a valid point regarding PETA, SPCA, and the AHS.

I'm surprised there was no mention rat poisons could pose a serious threat to our higher order predators and domestic animals such as a dog that might ingest a poisoned rat.
 
                        
Posts: 175
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interesting thread.  I agree with Paul and Emerson.  I have rats and mice.  I guess most people know that poison is not a good idea:  dead smelly rats that are not disposed of, dogs eating poison and a big fat vet bill to try to save them.

One thing I have learned is that rats and mice are an on-going problem.  Dogs are a great solution because eventually they will find the baby rodents and have a feast on them.  I wonder how many rats an  owl would eat?  Does your homeless guy have friends who have dogs?

I also have snakes going after my rats.  They shed their skins in my attic (3d floor) so they can climb  -- these are Alabama black snakes--they get quite big and can be awesome if you encounter one.  It definitely is a thrilling experience!  I bet your local one's do as well at catching rats.

I would try to find a source to determine a number of predators who would not be too incompatble with each other.  The dogs may go after the snakes for example.  The snakes here are quite aggressive and will fight a dog.  [They are not poisonous so it is just entertainment for both of them].

As for people, what is a park for if its not to introduce people to wildlife?  They should know that the snakes are there,  that the snakes are not poisonous and what kinds of snake behavior they are likely to encounter.

If you can't buy snakes, you might get some help from the boy scouts or similar groups who can collect some for you.  I was manager of a 16 acre historic site here.  We had poisonous snakes in the basement of an 1830s kitchen.  A very old guy told me how they used to do 'snake hunts'.  They get a lawnmower started and run it down in the building.  The snakes do not like the vibrations.  Then several men surround the building with croaker sacks (burlap bags). 
They have sticks to direct the snakes into the sacks.  Then you would have sacks full of rat eating snakes.  Just take the snake catchers to the park for a picnic and give them a lifetime pass!

In buildings I have an electric rat zapper.  It runs on batteries and catches just one at a time.  Then you have to dispose of the zapped rat and reset the trap.  You have to clean out the residue left by the dying rat periodically.  Recently I bought another rat zapper so I have two.  I am now catching mostly mice rather than rats.  I suspect some of your rats will leave on their own once there is more activity in the park.

Rat snakes:

http://www.outdooralabama.com/watchable-wildlife/what/reptiles/Snakes/ratsnake.cfm

Here is an article on predators (besides rat terriers) that feed on rats.  Owls are apparently a very good choice because they are nocturnal and feed when the rats are most active.

http://activism.suite101.com/article.cfm/animal_control_for_predators_but_not_for_pests
 
Emil Spoerri
pollinator
Posts: 420
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if there is lots of rodents and shelter, feral cats can help with control better than anything else i would figure.


Unfortunately moving snakes is usually not a good idea... snakes have to have a place to go and spend most of their time to digest a meal, plus a place to hibernate, they usually go back to the same place year after year. Most of the time transplanted snakes can't find a good place to go and end up being someone's lunch or under a car tire.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
asmileisthenewak47 wrote:
if there is lots of rodents and shelter, feral cats can help with control better than anything else i would figure.


I've actually done a lot of reading on rats in the environment and one of the things I read over and over and over again was that cats are ineffective at controlling rats, often to the point of becoming new rat food themselves. Dogs are a better choice. Cats are effective at driving local bird populations to extinction.
 
                  
Posts: 23
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Feral and stray cats aren't ratters however they are well documented wildlife killing machines. It's an old wives tale that's perpetuated I guess so we can rationalize letting our putty tats outside-
http://www.squirrelsanctuary.org/cats.htm

Most people I know switched over to using rat zappers instead of cats to kill rats. Rat zappers kill rats and they're less costly to operate than a "cat". We like to think cats kill rats because they kill anything they sink their teeth into but we'd be hard pressed to find a cat willing to take on an adult rat for reasons touched upon by Emerson White-
http://www.ratzapper.com/

 
                              
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
many years ago in New Zealand ,i worked for a pest destruction company.I remember the Maori foreman telling us about the way that he dealt with a problem of rats in a flour mill. Obviously it was not possible to use any kind of poison. his method:
        1) cut the top out of a 44 gallon drum
          2) caught 3 rats in live traps
          3)put all three together in the drum
          4) left them until there was only one rat  ( rats and mice will turn cannibal under food and space pressures)
          5) let the rat go ... once cannibal rats stay that way and will turn other rats

i have never had the situation to try this out, but have no reason to doubt the guy. 
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
keerti wrote:
many years ago in New Zealand ,i worked for a pest destruction company.I remember the Maori foreman telling us about the way that he dealt with a problem of rats in a flour mill. Obviously it was not possible to use any kind of poison. his method:
         1) cut the top out of a 44 gallon drum
          2) caught 3 rats in live traps
          3)put all three together in the drum
          4) left them until there was only one rat  ( rats and mice will turn cannibal under food and space pressures)
           5) let the rat go ... once cannibal rats stay that way and will turn other rats

i have never had the situation to try this out, but have no reason to doubt the guy. 


That sounds implausible.
 
                              
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
why exactly ... depends a little on what you know about the behaviour of rats ... having studied them in controlled situations previous to being told the method ,it didn't sound all that implausable to me ,and the guy had no reason to invent it .however would it take much work to try it  ( one drum three rats ,and a day or two? what if it solved your problem ? be fore columbus sailed across the atlantic ,the idea that the world was round was not only considered implausible it was downright heresy. where are you now? keerti
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Because Rats have complex social hierarchy, and evolutionarily that kind of behavior would be devastating, delivering a huge evolutionary advantage to any strain of rats that didn't possess the complicated psychological machinery for that sort of memetic transfer to happen.

If the rats had a supply of food any one rat that didn't go cannibal would be less likely to be killed by another in a fight to the death. Additionally the oldest, biggest, strongest rats are likely to have steady access to the reliable food supply and as a result less likely to learn new food seeking behaviors (like rat hunting) even if forced to cannibalism for a short period of time the previous feeding behavior would not be unlearned.

Additionally I've read several books on Rat behavior and never read anything remotely like that. Older rats will typically exhaust their current food supply before following young rats to a new food source. Widespread Cannibalism would disrupt social alliances needed for territorial protection.

Really it sounds very highly implausible.

Did this guy like to play practical jokes?

Perhaps if he trapped a bunch of rats in a repeating barrel trap he could count on them eating each other... but not teaching each other to be rat cannibals once they had flower to eat again.

Besides, if it were really that easy why wouldn't you do that every time on every jobsite? It would save boatloads of chemicals and time, simply livetrapping three rats and having one guy come in three times in a week.
 
paul wheaton
steward
Pie
Posts: 19444
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the idea sound plausible.  And I think it is possible that the other guy might have been messing with you. 

I do think it could be worth exploring. 

I would like to remind folks participating in this thread to never suggest that anyone on this site is anything less than perfect. 

Let's all take extra care to focus our opinions on the issues and not on the people using these forums. 

  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic