I like rats. I have always liked rats. I have kept rats as pets. Rattus norvegicus. Smart, affectionate even. But what to do when R. n. starts burrowing through your suburban neighbourhood, rough, feral customers, whose fossorial activities are undermining the retaining wall that keeps your house from sliding into the yard next door?
I’ve been surveying the adjoining neighbour’s properties, peering over the 5-ft cedar fences. No one else knows it yet, but during this dark, damp winter, rats have moved in, en masse (or maybe it was only a pregnant female, which over the course of a few months becomes a masse). The shocking reality is that the flower beds lining almost every fence contacting our fence are cratered by rat burrow openings, and the two compost bins visible to me in others’ yards are clearly rodent Grab-n-Goes.
You would think it would be easy to speak to your neighbours and formulate a plan of action. Perhaps it would be, if neighbours spoke to each other anymore. Here, there is also the problem of language barriers that result in inane semi-conversations standing on tiptoe, waving at someone over a cedar fence.
“Hello, Ah, I think that maybe you don’t know, but there are rats in your compost bin.”
“Hello! Yes! Thank you!” Like I’m just being randomly friendly.
“No, really. There are rats in your compost bin and they’re going in the ground and spreading all through the neighbourhood.”
“Thank you!” Back into the house she goes.
Poisons are out, so what to do?
Victor rat snap-traps. I bought four. They’ve caught three. Very effective, instant death. They require monitoring, removal at daybreak to spare towhees and other ground-foraging innocents, and inevitably involve minor mashings of a few of your digits until you get the hang of setting them, but really, there is nothing better.
Today I was called to the school to retrieve my son, who was feeling ill. I brought him home and gave him soup and set him up with the TV remote in his hand. He was well enough to become bored, and moped around after me as I was trying to work. He’s a nature boy, like me. I tried to remember if I would have wanted to see a dead rat when I was in grade 2. Stupid question.
“Would you like to see a dead rat?” I asked.
“Yeah!” he said.
So we put on our shoes and went into the yard where I had left the latest catch, from just last night.
“Wow, a real rat!” he said. His face lit up. A suburban child, thrilled at seeing a rat, even a dead one, and I totally understood.
It was because Rattus norvegicus is another species that lives on our planet, and being a nature boy-child-person, he wants to see and hear and smell and touch ---understand as best he can --- all of them.