Many new things have arrived in my hometown over the years. Mosquitoes. Traffic jams. Urban sprawl. Most recently, roof rats.
I was surprised to learn that roof rats have been here since 1990. I remember reading about the rodents' arrival in Spanish Trail, but I can't say I've given the creatures much thought since then. From the information on the Southern Nevada Health District's website, I should have been thinking about rat prevention long ago. My older neighborhood has everything a rat could want: water, yummy food, and plenty of mature landscaping in which to hide.
After my brother-in-law found two rats in our barbeque, we've been on high alert. My dogs go into rat hunting mode as soon as they hit the backyard. My husband and son look for evidence of rats every day. Until a few nights ago, I was unconcerned. Well, I was unconcerned after I had my husband construct a rat barrier on our dryer vent. Rats in the backyard are one thing. Rats in my home are another.
We were outside a few evenings ago, sitting at our patio table, playing Monopoly, when our dogs started barking and attacking one of the shrubs. If you have dogs, you know there's a difference between the bark that says, "Look, there's a person walking by the yard" and the bark announcing, "Holy Chihuahua, there's a rat in this bush!" Mr. Rat knew the difference. He burst from the shrub. He quickly made it to the top of the fence and scurried away from the dogs. "It's a rat! It's a rat!" I yelled. Mr. Rat paused briefly behind another shrub, hopefully to make a note not to hang out in the yard with the vicious dogs and excited humans, then he ran into our neighbor's backyard, the rat's long, thin tail visible as he dropped into the safety of an empty yard.
"We have to get rat traps," my husband informed me.
"Can't we just catch them and keep them as pets? Can we do catch and release?" I asked. I once caught a mouse in my desk at City Hall and kept her for three years before she passed away. I really don't like killing things. Besides, since I have a child, won't I just be buying a rodent at PetSmart sometime soon? Why pay for one when I can just capture one for free? I mean, heck, look at the rat in this picture. He's adorable.
"No." My husband was firm. "They're not native. They carry disease. We need to get rat traps."
So far, we haven't picked up any traps. I'm relying on the Dog Patrol to scare away marauding rats. But I have a sinking feeling that I'll hear snapping traps sometime soon.
Picture courtesy of Jans Canon at flickr: