27 May 2007

African Rat Trap

Tempted to title this post "Oh Rats!" or "Getting Ratted"...

A Rat Plague of Near Biblical Proportion has descended upon us.  It happens most years around this time; I guess that all the Rat babies born in Spring or Summer are now fully-grown, leaving their parents burrow to set up home for themselves for the first time.  And, of course, the Veggie Garden is the local Rat Supermarket.

I have heard it said that, "Where a Human Being is, there is a Rat within 20ft."  I believe it.  Certainly the first thing I saw upon landing in Boston was a Rat.  And likewise for Johannesburg, London or pretty-much anywhere else I've been (except Switzerland1) just so you know I'm not picking on anybody.

The first few years I tried conventional Rat traps -- the kind that go SNAP -- but freely confess that they scare me shitless.  For days after setting one of those things I harbour nightmares of my fingers getting SNAPped, worry about The Dog getting her pretty (though excessively long) snout SNAPped.  They're humane, though, the SNAP traps.  The real downside is that they get at most one Rat and then need resetting and re-baiting.  Quite often, too, the Rats would make a Clean Getaway with The Cheese.

I once tried poison -- the kind that comes in waxy blocks -- well tucked away from Dogs and Small Children in a scrap of irrigation pipe.  The label claimed that it was "safe" in not causing secondary poisoning of any unsuspecting creature that might eat a Rat carcass. I have my doubts.  Anyway, the stuff disappeared within a couple of days and didn't seem to have any effect.

Hole in the ground

Bucket in hole, trap baited and ready for action.
Then I read how to construct an African Rat Trap.

Read and Learn:

First dig a hole in the ground, of a size and shape to bury a large-ish bucket to its brim.  Place said bucket in the hole, and fill the bucket a quarter or a third full with water.  Place a piece of wire across the centre of the bucket, suitably baited with something Yummy To Rats.  I believe that people in Zimbabwe use Peanut Butter.  It certainly worked well for me, but I seem to have Vegan Rats who far prefer a chunk of Carrot.  Empty the bucket periodically of drowned Rats.

See, the Rats stretch along the wire, trying to get the food, but not being trained for the High Wire, they lose their balance and fall into the water.  Frequently they actually do get a nibble, so at least they don't die hungry!  I've had such a trap deal with as many as eight Rats in one night.

Seems a tad cruel, yes, but very effective. And we're talking about Bubonic Plague and stuff, so Rats are the one thing I won't abide.  Then, too, the presence of a plentiful Rat supply will inevitably be followed by a Plague of Snakes, and pretty dangerous ones, too.  The Rats also eat the bark off numerous trees, including our fruit trees.  We've already lost a 2-year-old Avocado tree this year.  Not to mention that they're playing merry hell with my Nantes Carrots that I'm supposedly growing up for seed (barely visible in the pics due to having had their tops eaten off.)

Cue Monty Python: Has it got any Rat in it?

[1]  I believe that Rats are strictly Verboten in Switzerland unless properly Licenced and Taxes Paid, and that they get a severe Talking To and Finger-Wagging if they wiggle their snouts inappropriately.  Local Canton rules may apply, though.

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