Rats & Big Cats

photo courtesy of NPS

Photo courtesy of National Park Service

What would the Santa Monica Mountains be without its majestic predators like mountain lions, bobcats, owl, and hawks? Rodent poisons are killing local wildlife with second-hand poisoning – the rodents eat the poison, then the predator eats the poisoned prey. Pets are also at risk if they come in contact with the poisoned critters. Many landscaping and property management firms use these poisons excessively. Find out what the rodent management practices are where you live and work and explore alternate rodent management solutions that do not include chemicals. Learn more about safe rodent control, and take action.


Anticoagulant Rodenticides – Rat Poisons
Anti-coagulant poisons cause intense internal bleeding which kills the rodent. When predators eat these poisoned animals, the toxins become part of the predator. Smaller animals such as snakes may die quickly. However, larger predators like owls, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions are harmed when these toxins build up in their bodies by consuming poisoned prey (a condition called bioaccumulation), often leading to suffering from conditions such as extreme mange, and ultimately their death.

The State and many cities have adopted bans on the sale of specific rodenticides and their non-professional use by businesses and homeowners, or policies for their own practices. But the challenge remains that exterminators and pest control companies are allowed and continue to use rodenticides that contain anti-coagulants as if this were the only solution to rodent management, when other more robust solutions are available.


Prevention
Both indoors and outdoors, prevention is the best solution to controlling rodents. Exclusion and sanitation are the safest and most cost effective tactics.

  • Keep garbage in enclosed/covered leak-proof containers
  • Clean up any littered trash
  • Keep floors and counters clean
  • Block points of entry by sealing up holes in foundations
  • Keep food in a refrigerator or in enclosed containers
  • Feed pets indoors, or at least bring the food in right after feeding Fido
  • Thin out dense vegetation to reduce where rodents can breed
  • Remove piles of yard debris or construction waste where rodents hide
  • Remove mice/rodent nests

Oh, Rats.
You have a rodent problem. What do you now?

Domestic Help
In a household setting, get a cat. However, always keep your cat indoors. While they are useful predators against rodents, they are a major cause of  songbird loss. Keeping them inside will also keep kitties from becoming prey to coyotes and other wild animals, or getting other injuries and illnesses to which indoor cats are not exposed.

Promote Natural Control
Natural predators such as snakes, hawks and owls can help control populations of rats and mice without fully eradicating them. If your property is appropriate and no rodent poisons are used in your area, install owl nesting boxes or raptor (hawk) poles that provide a perch for these hunters to be effective.

Trapping
Old-fashioned snap traps remain the gold standard; and the best, never-fail rodent enticement is…peanut butter.

While Have-a-Heart traps work, releasing urban rats (usually Norwegian rats) in a natural landscape will have disastrous impacts on native bird and native rodent populations such as dusky footed woodrats.

Professional Help
In the case of an urban rat infestation, we recommend extermination. Instead of a conventional poison-supplying pest control company, consider hiring a rodent exclusion/proofing company. They solve the problem by removing the causes and blocking access points to rodents.

Avoid using pesticides, which are non-discriminate and may end up harming children, pets, wildlife, and plants in creeks. Visit the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains for answers to common critter questions.