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when wildlife gardening goes bad

So, I didn't go to MOCCA (much to the relief of my bank balance) or build my greenhouse, because when I got home on Friday night I found a rat dragging a piece of rubbish into the ivy leaves behind the herb pots. A little poking with a broom handle revealed a rat-hole into next door's micro-patio (where the last set of ne-er-do-wells were inclined to keep heaps of barbecue rubbish). Oh frabjous joy. By the time damiancugley got home and timscience came round I was deep in dark thoughts about the warfarin and blocking holes with slate and dispatching poisoned rats with a shovel and other delightful memories of the year of rats on my parents' farm. Tim hugged me and explained that people who live in towns can call the council, he's good like that.

But I'm still feeling disheartened. I've not smelt the dog fox that was visiting the garden (and digging up grubs in the wildflower zone, but we'll let that pass) in weeks, and the hedgehogs have been conspicuous by their absence. The most exciting bit of wildlife I've seen since the sparrows fledged (out of the roof that I need to get fixed) has been a frog eating a slug bigger than itself. Which is sort of interesting but in a "dear god mother nature why!!!" sort of way.

Actually there were the bats. And the kestrel. But I digress. I'm on a wildlife corridoor, which I've been trying to preserve. Well, what a good idea that turned out to be! I'm trying not to use the more unpleasant chemicals in the garden -- why did I bother?

Also, how the hell do you exclude pets from a garden? I have at least five cats wandering through on an average night -- including a huge smokey grey tom, a recent arrival who is probably there because he heard about the rats. Any tips? I can tell my neighbours that there's likely to be poisoned rats about, obviously, but I've no idea where most of the cats are coming from.

The way the back gardens work round here, they may even be independent operators.


( 19 worms — Feed the birds )
25th Jun, 2007 14:42 (UTC)
Also, how the hell do you exclude pets from a garden?

Lion dung.

At least that's the recieved wisdom. I dunno how the hedgepigs, foxes and other visitors would feel about it though!

Water pistols are the other recommended method. Doesn't hurt the cat but might put them off making a return visit.
25th Jun, 2007 15:09 (UTC)
there's a lion in the wildflower meadow
Hmmm, but given that the problem will be unsupervised night-time feline visitors, I'd have to rig up a water pistol with some sort of motion sensor, heath robinson styleee ...

25th Jun, 2007 15:19 (UTC)
Re: there's a lion in the wildflower meadow
If you do that, you have to attach a web cam to the whole shebang.
25th Jun, 2007 15:27 (UTC)
Re: there's a lion in the wildflower meadow
Such things do in fact exist, but would catch foxes as well, if you'd object to that.

Orange peel is worth a try around favourite plants, on the grounds that it's free and has no downside (and cats do hate citrus for some reason, so it's not a completely rnadom suggestion).
25th Jun, 2007 15:33 (UTC)
If cats dislike citrus so much, how come Teazel is always all over my lemon yoghurt?

Meh, the damage to plants is negligible, anyway. What I'm worried about is them "catching" a poisoned rat and poisoning themselves. Rat poison is horrible stuff.
25th Jun, 2007 15:43 (UTC)
I've just had rat poison put down, and had no warnings about indirect poisoning to our cats - it would take a really butch cat to catch and eat a rat anyway.
25th Jun, 2007 15:58 (UTC)
you have a point
I can't see Keith Chegwin or Mariella Frostrup getting up enough speed, and they don't come up to the patio anyway. Ant and Dec do, but they're much smaller. The new grey cat is too new to have a name yet, and my biggest worry, as he clearly is a big tough hunter type.

Steve Irwin? No, too ominous.
25th Jun, 2007 16:15 (UTC)
Don't put rat poison down - it does kill other animals. The RSPCA around here will trap and humanely kill the rats.
25th Jun, 2007 16:28 (UTC)
Too late - I'm not worried about the cats (or foxes) eating the actual poison, because a) they can't get into the bait pods and b) they don't eat cereals.
Other rodents would eat it, but that narrows it down to house mice or grey squirrels (which I'm unconcerned to see dead) and, er, the occasional escaped hamster.

Slightly concerned about the local sparrows though - I need to make sure that none of it escapes from the pod.
25th Jun, 2007 15:49 (UTC)
Except cats can vomit, and rats can't, which is one of the reasons rat poisons work...
25th Jun, 2007 15:53 (UTC)
!!! That's true! (as Tim's bed can attest -- cheers, Teazel) Well, that's a weight off my mind.
25th Jun, 2007 14:54 (UTC)
We don't have a lion, we have two greyhounds though, who could probably be persuaded to pee on things.
25th Jun, 2007 15:04 (UTC)
That was the sound of my tea going all over the keyboard. Unfortunately, it survived ...

Um, I think I'll pass. But thanks! I think.
25th Jun, 2007 15:37 (UTC)
Re: pfaaaagh!
They seem to deter the cats - our garden is a cat free environment which, I think, explains the periodic rodent (small rather than large fortunately) visitations which we have dealt with in animal and environment unfriendly ways.
Well, since the whippet died. She dealt with the rodents in an environmentally friendly and semi-animal friendly way (that it to say friendly to the whippet, unfriendly to the rodents).
25th Jun, 2007 15:41 (UTC)
a whippet? now you're talking!
Or a jack russell. Maybe a dachshund. Alas, the greyhounds are a little too big to beard the rats in their lair.
25th Jun, 2007 17:47 (UTC)
Re: a whippet? now you're talking!
A little too big, and way too stupid, lazy, timid, and downright gormless.

I don't know if all whippets are good mousers - ours came with a rep (she'd been used for clearing out mouse nests on allotments) but we gave no thought to it... or to what she was doing pottering insouciantly round the utility room... until she went to the Great Duvet In The Sky and shortly afterwards the Vermin Invasion arrived!

Sadly I don't think it's the "done thing" to ask round rescue organisations for a "good ratter" (!). (Otherwise we might have done :D )
You do see larger dogs - g/hs and lurchers - noted as "has been worked" (i.e. used for hunting and coursing etc) but they note that for a reason - it means the buggers are "keen" and never mind rats, they'll take on cats and the local Yorkies too! (Yikes).

OTOH whippets are probably too small to take on the rats I've seen around.

Let us know what the council do anyway (do they send round men with two-by-fours?).
25th Jun, 2007 18:56 (UTC)
they "bait the area"
I believe this means rat-sized plastic pipe type thingies with yummy poison bait within. I'll let you know. Also, if it is effective. I hear rats are developing stronger stomachs all the time ...

25th Jun, 2007 15:17 (UTC)
Jam steel wool into the rathole. It being made of fine fibers of steel, they can't chew through it.
25th Jun, 2007 15:40 (UTC)
Rathole being soil and wood based, enlarging the hole and popping out the steel wool is all too easy, so you still have to combine it with poison. The slate method works on a similar principle (you put the poison in the hole, then you block up the hole, the rat eats the poison while clearing its way out of the nest) but it still potentially leaves a poisoned rat wandering woozily out into the night, to be caught by some overachieving feline eager to impress its owners.
( 19 worms — Feed the birds )