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Infestation — Wild About Chickens
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Infestation

by Gerald Janauer on January 9, 2009

in Funny Animal Stories

One of the many things that my wife and I have in common is our love of the outdoors.  We love scenery, plants, and animals of all kinds.  Sometimes even ones that might be considered pests.  Just yesterday, I almost stepped on a cute little deer mouse that was scurrying across the carpet.  “Mouse!”, you shout “those are pests! Set a trap!  Put out the poison!”  Not so fast, mice are living things as well.  Living in the country where we do these little visitors are not all that infrequent, even in the house.  Get rid of one, and there will be more where that on came from.  It’s mostly a losing battle.  Fortunately they’re not THAT objectionable to us, and as I said, they’re even a little cute.

We’ve had some experience with mice in the house.  I have seen them in apartments (had one leap out of a silverware drawer at my first wife in my first apartment), in most houses I’ve lived in, and of course in the woods.

Deer mouse picture from wikipedia

Deer mouse picture from wikipedia

Now, I like squirrels, but these are not as fun a visitor when they are in the house.  When we lived in the New York’s Scenic Hudson Valley, we lived in a town called Malden on Hudson.  Since our house had woods behind it, squirrels were not infrequent visitors, and when they found their way into the attic, we were none too pleased.  They were noisy guests, and they made short work of the insulation near the opening that they created for themselves right where the wiring entered the house.  It took a bit more work and a few trips to the woods with a “havaheart” trap to get rid of those.  I do have to admit, though that our dog, Liza, also helped by committing squirrelicide on two or three of the babies along the way. 

Eastern gray squirrel

Eastern gray squirrel

This brings us to an encounter with some “house guests” that we had about a year ago.  My wife, as you may know, is an avid gardener.  To that end, she keeps various gardening paraphernalia and various types of soil, growing mix, etc. in the garage.  Some of this mix was stored in bags, some in buckets in the garage.  We were both a bit surprised that now and then some of the dirt from the bags and containers ended up on the floor.  We didn’t think much of it.  Mice, maybe.  It’s the garage, no big deal.

After some time, we did see that there were more massive earth movements in the containers, with digging of tunnels, emptying of bags, and other signs that there might be inhabitants out there.  Oh well, “I guess we really do have guests!”, I thought.  Again, I figured it was no big deal and went about my business.

A few days later, I found myself rummaging in the garage, once again.  Our garage is not very well lit, so I could not see into the corners of the room very well.  There was a slight sound over by the dirt of my wife’s.  O.K., I figured.  There REALLY is a critter in there.  No big deal.  I went about my business for a few more minutes, working on the garden tractor to get it ready for plowing snow.

As I was working, I was some movement out of the corner of my eye.  All right, now “I can’t ignore this anymore.” I said to myself.  I’ll just go over and check it out. 

I  went over to an old dog crate that had a not quite as old Christmas wreath in it and looked.  Nothing.  I poked at the wreath.  Nothing.  I kicked the box, figuring the mouse might come scurrying right out.  But, nothing.  Finally, I got a transfer shovel and used the handle to poke around in the box.  Whoooop! And out scurried a VERY LARGE BROWN animal.  “Hey!  That’s not a mouse!”  It was not a squirrel either.   “Annie!!! I yelled.  ANNIE!!!  WE HAVE RATS IN THE HOUSE!!!” 

Annie came down from upstairs and just caught the “tail end” of the rat as it scurried into a hole in the wall.  We looked at each other.  What do we do now?  We talked calmly, and discussed the situation.  We were sure there could only be ONE rat in the house.  After all, we had never seen RATS before.  This must be a RARE occurrence.  After all, we had a CLEAN house.  How could WE have rats? 

While we were talking, I again saw something moving out of the corner of my eye.  “There it is!  I screamed!”  And after it I went, instinctively.  Like a Star Trek Klingon swinging his Batliff, I twirled the shovel so the flat end was facing the rat, and I stabbed toward the rat with a smooth, calculated, well timed, and of course well coordinated motion.  Whack!  I got the little b*****d!!!  I had pinned the sucker right to the wall with the flat, sharp, unyielding end of the transfer shovel.  That little pest was a goner.  Annie and I looked at each other with a sigh of relief.  I gave the shovel one more firm shove, right straight toward the wall where I had the rat pinned.  The think looked like it had been cut right in half by the shovel.  That’s it.  Problem solved.  I pulled the shovel away.

The rat scurried off, up the wall, along a heating duct, and into a hole in the ceiling. 

Oh, boy, we have  a problem.

That night, in the bathroom, I was very aware that Annie and I were not alone in the house.  I’m not sure if the critters reproduced overnight, or, perhaps, we were just more aware than before. 

There was lots of scurrying and scraping, and even squealing under the floor of our upstairs bathroom.  I would say, it was a veritable CHORUS of squealing.  We were in trouble.

Annie and I looked up what we thought was our problem.  We had Norway Rats, rattus norvegicus.  Also referred to as brown rats, or wharf rats, or common rats.  They are the largest of the rats, the most aggressive, and also very prolific.  Like I said, we were in trouble. 

Picture of Norway Rat from Wikipedia

Picture of Norway Rat from Wikipedia

My wife and I went to the local Agway, and we looked at products that might eliminate our problem.  We came home with an arm full of glue traps of several varieties, snap traps of three varieties, and four different kinds of rat poison.  No more mister nice land lord for these guys!

We got home and we carefully planned our rat elimination campaign.  We figured that rats were probably large enough to smell when dead in the walls, so we’d save the poison for last.  Perhaps we could get them all using the snap and glue traps?

To facilitate setting up the traps we thoroughly cleaned out the garage. As we cleaned, threw out, and rearranged, we removed several bags of sand that were piled in the front of the garage.  We carried out the first, then the second.  Oh, no!

Underneath the bags of sand, where we expected TWO MORE bags of sand, based on the height of the pile, were TWO EMPTY bags.   These two EMPTY bags turned out to NOT be bags of sand, but EMPTY 50lb bags of pig feed, from one of our other ventures (see “This Little Piggy Finally Came Home” blog entry).

Now we knew the cause of our problem.  The rats had been lured by the pig feed, right into our garage, and then our house.  They had consumed nearly 100 lbs of pig feed over the time they were residents in our house.  For some reason, Annie and I were no longer surprised about our little infestation problem!

Annie went ahead and put out our snap and glue traps.  We decided to save the poison for later.  Maybe we could get by without using that method.  In this way, maybe we could prevent ourselves from ending up with dead rats inside our walls.

The next morning we eagerly went to check our traps.  We did it, I thought!  THREE dead rats!  That HAD to be all of them!  Two were on glue, one was snapped.  Yeah!  We’re done!

Just to be on the safe side, we reset the traps, and put out fresh glue traps the next day.  There was nothing the following morning.  I left the traps out just in case.

The next night it had snowed again.  I was once again in the garage with the tractor, as I was getting ready to start it; I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  I called Annie.  “We’re still not done!”  My wife came down and we waited.   Sure enough, after a few minutes the rat came out and hopped RIGHT OVER one of the glue traps and ran straight for my wife!  My wife dove on top of the tractor.  Looking down from up there she said:  “This is it!  We are going to poison them!”

That night, we gave them all we had.   We moved and reset the glue traps, the snap traps, and we put out our final weapon, the poison.  We sighted at least a rat a day for the next three or four days.  All in all, we ended up counting a total of eight dead rats.  We kept the traps set and the deadly meals out, hoping that was it.  We did not see another rat, live or dead during the next two weeks.

We were done.

Or so, we thought.  As the weather warmed, as spring approached, I noticed a slight odor in the house.  A slight dead critter odor.

Apparently one or more of those nasty little buggers had died in our walls.  Being A LOT larger than a mouse, their smell was noticeable for more than a month, especially on warm days. 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy 01.24.09 at 2:31 pm

Annie & Gerald,

I love your animal stories - Having pets and wildlife about certainly makes for some unexpected adventures. My mother has a funny animal story on her blog (pensive ponderings)- not sure if it is accessible to the public. The story involves a mouse, a cat, my mother, a bath and a bath scrungie. You could probably fill in the blanks. I will copy the story if you like. Sometimes a sense of humor turns a “catastrophe” into a “funny animal story!” I like that.

Beth Donovan 01.25.09 at 7:04 pm

What, no cats? We have a lovely huge cat who keeps the barn free of all rodents. He is quite handsome, and showed up one day last winter, still a kitten and full of ticks and burrs. We took him in, got him neutered and cleaned up and got his rabies shots, and since then, he has repaid us unknown numbers of times by keeping field mice out of the barn.

In the house, we have another 6 kitties (yes, six - all of them dumped out here in the country by evil people who don’t care for their pets) who keep not only rodents out of the house, but insects, too!

I think I may have completely lost it, though, had a big old rat come running at me!!

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