Take this guy, for instance.
|Immature Cooper's hawk.|
Sorry about the poor pic quality - he didn't see fit to hang around long enough for me to do good portraiture.
No, right in the middle of the neighborhood, between two VERY closely-spaced houses.
And why was he brave enough to be perched there on the fence between two yards? Obviously there were humans in the immediate area, one of whom had a camera.
He was there because, seconds before, he had just killed a large Norway rat in one of these two adjacent back yards. On the close-in photo, you can see that his visible leg is coated in blood.
Normally, a Cooper's hawk would not sit on a suburban fence in close proximity to human beings, but an accipiter such as this is only a medium-sized bird of prey and that was a huge rat he had (I got a good view of it as he flew away). He had to rest and regain his strength before he could remove it to a more private dining location.
And what was a Cooper's hawk doing killing a rat in a Centerpointe back yard on a Sunday morning?
I like to joke that there are only two kinds of homeowners in greater Houston:
- Those who KNOW they have rats.
- Those who DON'T YET KNOW they have rats.
- There are A LOT of rats in the area, perhaps competing amongst themselves for food such that some of them are forced to forage at risky times, and
- There's probably an inadvertent food source quite close to where this rat was killed.
- Bird food in an outdoor feeder (even if none spills on the ground, rats can climb trees and poles and get into any feeder).
- Dog food left outdoors by homeowners, particularly those who work during weekdays and are afraid that their dogs will get hungry during the long hours they're away from home, so they leave both dogs and food in their yards.
|Your happy blogger several years back,|
with non-friend recently deceased at my experienced hand.
And each and every time I found them, the inspiration for the infestation was either nearby bird seed or dog food. Leave either of those substances outside your house, and the chances of both you and your neighbors having rats are close to 100%. Supply food, and they will come.
It wouldn't be so bad if they remained confined to back yards, but their ultimate goal is to set up housekeeping in your attic. They are very, very good at finding ways of getting into it: they can climb brick facades and squeeze into gaps in the roof deck. They can chew through roofing shingles. Their absolute favorite thing to do is to chew the insulation off your a/c lines and climb up into the attic that way.
|Check under the foam insulation for tell-tale gaps.|
Really, these things should not be sealed with foam. They require tight-fitting chew-proof metal plates applied to the side of the house with tough mastic.
And they breed, well, like rats.
So, my advice is this, especially now that we're into autumn weather and rodents (both mice and rats) are particularly enthusiastic about penetrating your house:
First and foremost, check your premises and your neighbors' premises for food sources (that's what I'll be doing!). If you find food sources, remove them. Explain to your neighbors that Fido is perfectly capable of making it through business hours without a heaping bowl of kibble to keep him company. Your neighbors simply might not know about the dangers of this practice of leaving food out. They also might not know that a dog's physiology is different than a human's, and that dogs can go for much longer periods of time without feeling discomfort from hunger. Your neighbors might also be assuming that because they keep dogs in their yard, they can't possibly have rodents because the dogs will guard against them. Wrong. Rats will march right in while dogs are sleeping and the dogs will be none the wiser for it.
Second, check your attic for signs of rats or mice. Maybe lay down a few glue traps prophylactically. If you don't catch anything, no harm done. If you DO catch something, then it's an early warning to you to take further extermination action before the problem gets out of hand and you end up with damage to your home.
But make sure you check for food sources first. If the food is not removed, you'll never get rid of rodents.
Welcome to the reality of life in the subtropical southeast, and good luck with it.