Monday, March 05, 2012

Rats in Paradise

Or: Raining for Weeks Straight Induce Rats to Take Shelter in Houses and Cause the People Inside Much Trouble.

Hawaii did not always have rats. Hawaii did not always have anything that is here, but rats are certainly more recent than many things we think of as Hawaiian. They came via ships just as mosquitoes did, but they climbed down ropes, or even swam from ships. Hard to keep track of, mosquitoes were just dumped into fresh water as larva as someone refilled their water barrels, which could have been prevented. The rats would have made it here one way or another. Of course they started wiping out endemic bird populations, so some smart person brought in mongeese to hunt and eat them, not realizing that mongeese are diurnal and rats are nocturnal. And the mongeese eat birds and bird-eggs too.

But the reason I am relating this is because we had the opportunity to meet one of these interlopers this weekend. I would love to say that I didn't have to kill it, but then I would be as bad as PETA in lying about their treatment of much more acceptable animals for pets. I also don't enjoy killing animals, I have gone hunting but have never been able to pull the trigger, make fun of me as you will. But dispatching a rat in protecting Jessie and our household definitely gives me satisfaction, though it is definitely on my mind, unlike all the cockroaches that I have dispatch with nary a second thought.

A warning to those who are squeamish or who will want to argue with me: I will write in detail about what I did, and I may sound triumphant, because I won over a disgusting, disease-ridden, though weirdly cute, mammal. But it was also the first mammal that I have ever killed, and although there are less traumatic ways of dispatching those infernal, furry, rope-tailed beasts, it was efficient and done quickly. Also as a disclaimer: I do not support the torture of animals, though I support hunting, fishing, and pest control with decent means. So if you are going to stop, you should stop now.

Saturday night Jessie and I were up late playing Boggle and Uno with some of our friends. It was about midnight when we finished and I soon went to bed. Jessie was up reading when she saw the rat come out of our bathroom. She didn't scream but what followed was enough to rouse me. I came out and blearily watched her hunt for it.

She didn't find it but it scampered around the corner and into the bedroom. Of course this made Jessie very upset, and I was a bit more awake now. She saw it climb the bed and then dive into a hole by an outlet, about a foot away from where she usually sleeps. This made her even more upset, and my brain was just starting to get engaged.

We removed the nightstand from in front of the outlet and stared at the hole for a while. Jessie was all for getting a few blankets and sleeping out in the car as it is most certainly rat free and recently roach free. I removed the plugs from the outlet to give the rat less things to climb and taped a black trash-bag between the wall and the side of the bed. This was supposedly going to at least temporarily detain the rat and make the process much less messy. I also stuck a sticky roach trap in the bottom to delay the rat a bit so that I would have time to come up with a solution. It certainly wouldn't hold or kill the rat, but it might slow it down some.

We went to sleep out on the futon when Jessie decided it would be quite a bit better than the cold car. The next morning I awoke at 6:30, lying there trying to parse the noises. I noticed a definite scratching noise, so I got up and looked into the bedroom. The bag was stuffed into the hole, so I wondered when Jessie had gotten up and done such a thing, but she didn't. I approached cautiously and pulled on the bag, thinking that it would just fall out and we would have to keep vigilant for a long while. But then it pulled itself back into the hole.

I pulled it out and saw something that initially registered as a cord of some sort, but then I realized it was a tail. Somehow the rat had fallen in the trash bag, got the tail stuck and then chewed its way out. It climbed back in the hole but was still stuck to the bag. I woke Jessie up and then went back in. I put gloves on and took a pair of needle-nose pliers. I pulled on the bag and then caught its tail with the pliers. It poked its nose out, but much too quickly for me to do anything, but then the flight response of the rat kicked in.

When rats' tails are caught, they can shed the skin, leaving whatever predator with just a bit of skin rather than a full rat meal. I don't know how the tail recovers later but for some reason our rat did not run despite being free of the sticky and the pliers. So I quickly clamped some vice-grips on the exposed tail, just thinking about that makes me shudder, but I didn't want it to escape, because it would come back again. This time the fight response was there so it poked its nose out, but I was ready this time. I grabbed its nose with the pliers, and through much squeaking, drew it out of the hole far enough to dispatch it with a hammer.

The clean-up was simple with the black trash-bag and a few other bags. No mess other than wiping down the tools. I am glad it was over quickly.

Unfortunately there might be another. I would rather not poison it, as it may go outside and die within reach of the neighbor's dog and poison the dog. I might try to find the entry spot and just stuff gravel there until it fills up, or small rocks, basically something tough to dig through and pretty discouraging. And maybe a sticky-trap, one for rats. Not as quick and efficient but also less worrisome about having to be vigilant.

Or, we could move back to Wyoming and maybe have to deal with mice, if anything at all. Some people say Hawaii is paradise, some days that is pretty believable, but with the rain and the imported pests I think I will just say that it is Hawaii and it is nice sometimes.

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